Columns 27.12.2017 10:38 am

Thinking beyond dry Mother City

Cliff Buchler.

Cliff Buchler.

Spent a week with family in the Mother City over the festive season. And had to rough it with the mountain goats during arguably one of their worst droughts.

Rough it? For those used to the luxury of plentiful running water, that is. Those with proper bathrooms, kitchens and swimming pools, are the ones unfamiliar with the “new order” brought on by the lack of seasonal rains and a scorching sun that’s drying out strategic dams usually full to overflowing.

First greeting on arrival is usually, “Great to see you”, with bear hugs and kisses. Not this time. We had hardly entered the door when confronted with a rude reminder. “Just remember, we are in a drought, and need to conserve water”.

This was followed by a list of dos and don’ts. Showers? Only once a week and no longer than a minute and a half at a time. Preferably shower together. Toilets? Pull chain only once per day when doing number 1. In other words, let the yellows build up. Number 2? Share the load (five of us) before flushing. Quite a build-up over 24 hours. Kitchen duty also has its rules. Stack dirty dishes as long as possible before placing in automatic washer.

Limit the intake of liquid refreshment. Take it easy on tea and coffee, and use less water with sundowners. Swimming pools, especially for the bored kids? Sorry, no go, the pool is already low and topping up is prohibitive with heavy fines.

The third day showed tell-tail signs of having followed the rules. No amount of perfume, underarm and after-shave deodorants hid the body odours – and throw in recycled socks, and you have a plethora of pongs reminiscent of a lift-full of European tourists unaccustomed to baths and showers.

One morning I awoke at three am, and this thought hit me. What of those in informal settlements, or in rural places, who year in and year out survive without running water? In many cases they walk many kilometres to “watering holes”, carrying heavy containers.

Often taps run dry and water has to be transported in trucks, taking precious days to reach dehydrating users. Their lot can’t be compared to us “haves” who, for relatively short periods, experience the lack of the precious liquid. When it was my time to shower, I turned it down. Wonder why?


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