Every drop counts

Be praised, my Lord, throughSister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

St Francis of Assisi

Water is the topic of the moment, as we wait in this growing heatwave with increasing desperation for rain. For those of us living in the major cities the lack of water is an inconvenience, to put it mildly. For the rural community it is a disaster. Moreover, as crops fail and cattle die, it will increase food prices and raise food insecurity. This year we are faced with the reality that South Africa, despite the relatively heavy rains of the last decade, is a water scarce country. We need to be prepared for this.

For those of us old enough to remember the droughts of the 1980’s and 90’s phrases like ‘every drop counts’ have renewed meaning. However the relatively heavy rains of the last few years have lulled many of us into complacency about water issues.

As we face our first major drought in some years, we are about to test the water infrastructure of the country. Already some commentators are comparing our aging and not always well maintained water infrastructure to the Eskom crisis. For example, there are estimates that in some municipalities up to as much as 50% of the water that is distributed is lost through leaks.

It seems we are at the beginning of another major drought. South African Weather Services are predicting that there will not be heavy rains until March, and even then the rains may be insufficient to refill our dams and reservoirs. There is great need for government to implement the necessary disaster plans to cope with a drought. But saving water is going to require us all to participate!

What can we do? As individuals and households we need to seriously think about our water usage. Firstly, we need to obey the water restrictions already in place. In Johannesburg, that means not watering the garden except between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., not cleaning cars with hosepipes, and not refilling swimming pools. However, we need to think about our water usage in the home as well. Toilets classically use more water than needed, so a two-litre bottle of water placed inside the cistern can reduce the amount of water used. We should opt for shorter showers rather than baths. We need to teach our children to turn off dripping taps, and to brush their teeth without leaving the water running. Of course, we need to lead them by our own examples! Like elephants, we need to remember all those tricks our grandmothers taught us to survive a drought!

Water is fundamentally necessary for life. We cannot live without it. We have a responsibility to God, to each other and to future generations to protect and preserve water. Let each of us now, before it is too late, consider how we are going to change our behaviour and conserve water. Remember ‘every drop counts!’

Mrs Frances Correia

Frances Correia has worked as a spiritual director in the Ignatian tradition for the last 20 years. She is a lay Catholic, married with children.

f.correia@jesuitinstitute.org.za @francescorrreia
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