Thursday, March 21, 2013

Water wars

It seems like every Saturday my neighbour washes her car. Last Saturday i heard her with the car in the driveway. The hose went on for ages. i hung out the washing and picked up the dog poo. Still going. Sometimes the damn hose was on but idling, not even being used. Just hosing out water. i heard her turn off the hose and drive the car back into the garage. Then, on went the damn hose again. So much water! i wondered, should i leap over the fence and take her to task?  Probably not. Valerie is in her 80's and would probably say something like, oh, but i do like my car to look nice and clean. i took a shower. Turned off the shower. The hose was still going. Seemed like she was hosing random bits of house. Random hosing! Or watering the garden in the middle of the hot day! Good grief.

i was incensed. i flung myself  into the hallway and took my husband to task instead. Although i think he was less concerned about the hosing than he was startled by my sudden appearance in the hallway, wrapped only in a towel, pointing and jabbering.

Most of the country has been declared a drought area. Sun for months. In the North Island the land just looks parched, brown and cracked, farmers really suffering. Wellington has been a week away from waterless. Christchurch has had no real rain all year. There aren't watering restrictions here, but i can't understand why not.

i have been extra conscious of water since the earthquakes. Then, we had no water for a bit over a week. We were among the lucky ones in our area. i learned to use washing machine water for the garden, and for flushing the loo, once that started working again. i learned that the yellow is mellow and the brown goes down. i still collect the washing machine water in buckets, and put it on the garden. Not much at our place gets watered in Summer. Just the containers and the plants we eat, which are often the same thing. And hand washing takes place into a bucket, and then down the loo. i do this erratically, mind, because it is time consuming and awkward, and because i don't always live up to my values, but it does give me food for thought as i lug buckets around. There has got to be an easier way, some way of storing grey water and then putting it through an irrigation system. We need a rain barrel. It is good for me to be conscious of water.

So Valerie's random hosing drives me a bit nuts. But she has a back story. Valerie and Pete have lived behind us for years. Valerie loves her garden, and when they are away we mind their place and it is a pleasure to walk on their cute putter's lawn with the curved plantings and the ornaments, and the small careful fruit trees. One Winter Saturday night someone stole about half our front fence. They just tore it of, perhaps for firewood. The untidiness of it bothered Valerie. She would have a word with Pete, and Pete would have a word with me, and i would have a word with my husband, who would tell me he would see to it in his own good time. Eventually we got it done. Pete died quite suddenly ten months ago. Valerie still thinks he will just walk in the door any minute. i think that the charming, understated virtue of orderliness has become even more important for her now. After Pete's death, she never missed a beat. The garden still needs watering. The car still needs cleaning. Life goes on.

Perhaps if i want to go nuts at someone i should try the dairy farmers. Dairying is very intensive in Canterbury. It uses an insane amount of water and pollutes the waterways. i suspect the climate was always too dry for it. There is a tension between farmers and townspeople over water that has at times got really political. And most of Canterbury has been marked out for fracking, which will use as much water as the dairying and pollute even more.

i don't come from farming stock and although i was brought up to believe that farming was the economic backbone of the country i have little sense of country life. i met a farmer who had fallen on hard times, because of climate change and the economy. He was dangerously depressed. He feared he would have to relinquish his farm, the farm that had been in his family for generations. He couldn't begin to describe what that was like for him. He was very, very concerned that whoever bought his farm would not understand it, not just the economics of it, but something else, something he could not talk about, because the word was so painful it tore at his throat and he could not utter it. In the end his wife supplied the word. The word was beautiful. The farm was beautiful, and he loved it.

1 comment:

  1. Karen, this is Listener quality. I should be reading it on the toilet, not at my computer. It's that good.