"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Water rights

I had a light bulb moment the other morning whilst I was in the shower.

Everyone is concerned about water - or the lack thereof.  Many places in South Africa (and throughout the world) are experiencing semi-to-fully drought-like conditions.  Due to corruption, which leads to "lack" of funds for infrastructure - even the most basic infrastructure which is enshrined in our Constitution - namely, water - is not provided to too many homes in this country.

This results, in some cases, in the residents having to walk long distances in order to collect water in whatever containers they have, and carry those heavy water filled containers home again.  A cleansing, rejuvenating refreshing and soothing bath or shower - those are probably a luxury those residents have probably never known.

Can you imagine going without a bath or shower?  I can't.

Near us is a village called Suurbraak.  It is a small village with a long history which dates back to the time of the London Missionary Society and which has a population of roughly 2 500 inhabitants.

Suurbraak is situated in a valley on the windward (seaward) side of the Langeberg Mountains, meaning their rainfall is higher than that which falls on the leeward side (Barrydale) of the mountain.  They get roughly 450 - 500mm of rain a year - falling throughout the year.  Actually, they get more than we do - we often sit on our front veranda and watch much needed rain falling in Suurbraak and pray that it will come our way.  Which it often doesn't.
As you can see, since I started keeping a rainfall
 record we are averaging over 600mm of rain / year.
 And, it is, mostly, spread throughout the year.
Some (very few) of the residents properties back onto the Suurbraak River from which they can obtain lei water (a pumped water allowance for a stipulated number of hours of river water / week) which is used to water their crops / livestock.  Those residents are sitting in the pound seats as those properties are situated in the lowest part of the village and they also get municipal water provided to them - for household consumption.

Municipal water is also provided to roughly half way up the little valley slope.

But, those who live in the upper reaches of the valley have no municipal water.  I presume they have to fetch their own water from a central distribution point.

They have an ongoing battle with the authorities regarding the provision of water to their homes.  Apparently, it would require the provision and installation of a fairly substantial pump in order to get water up to the upper reaches of the village.  Which costs money, naturally.

Back to fraud and corruption... (sigh)

That is where my light bulb moment comes in to play.
Two of our 8 X 5 000lt tanks which catch,
 and store, rainwater from our roof area
Standing in the bathroom, hearing rainwater plinking into the rainwater tanks which are situated outside the window, the thought just seemed to come naturally.

If, instead of bemoaning the cost of installing a pump, why on earth don't the 'powers that be' provide those residents with 5 000lt rain water tanks, a downpipe and a section of guttering?  Everyone has a structure, no matter how basic, which has a roof which collects water when it rains.  This water falls pathetically from the roof, onto the ground, runs down the streets, and lands in the river.

What a bloody waste of precious water!!!

Every single mm of rain which falls equals 1 lt of water per square mtr of roof surface.  That means a roof area exposed, like Suurbraak, to 600ml rain / year - even a small one of say 48mtrs2 (6 X 8mtr) would collect 28 800 ltrs of rain water a year.

Providing every household with a rain water tank will ensure that at least 5 000 ltrs / household will be captured and can be used (after boiling) for household use.  Thus alleviating the necessity of mainly wives / mothers / children having to schlep heavy water filled containers, and giving those individual households some modicum of self-reliance.

That would also give those households a sense of achievement, pride and responsibility (keeping their gutters clean, ensuring they are in good working order).

It would give them some degree of water freedom.


At the moment, the tanks are selling (retail) for ZAR1.00 / lt, so a 5 000lt tank costs +/- ZAR5 000.  If the 'powers that be' had to place a (national) order for 1 000 000 tanks the cost would surely come down - even if only by 25% or ZAR3 750.00 / tank - if not more...?

Plus that kind of order would create jobs.  Win-win in my book.

Surely that would be cheaper than setting up a pumping station for 250 - 400 homes in Suurbraak?

And, for those really rural areas where municipal water will definitely never be a reality, that would be a Godsend!

Why don't people think laterally, instead of letting obstacles get in their way...?


Dawn McHugh said...

great idea I am surprised that the homes dont already collect rain water as the norm I collect rainwater and we re not even in a dry area it saves having to use the mains metered water, the collected water I use for livestock and garden which much prefer rainwater to the treated water. :-)

Dani said...

Dawn - So am I. It is such a basic idea - why hasn't the government provided tanks to all it's needy populace?

Shame on them!

I agree - rainwater is preferred for watering our veggies and fruit trees / bushes.

Sue said...

I think government is not used to thinking logically-LOL!
What a great idea. I know we have stock tanks set up everywhere here to capture rainwater for my extensive gardens. I never need to hook up a hose. It's so much better for the plants as well. And believe me--if I had to HAUL water by hand to have for household use, I would definitely use a system like what you have. Perhaps a letter to a paper could get the ball rolling..........

Harry Flashman said...

Water is an issue here as well. We are ok right now but we had a drought starting in 1987 that lasted two years and parched the mountains pretty well. Caused crop loss and forest fires, among other things like wells going dry. We are ok right now but of course California and the Southwestern U.S. are running out of water fast. The big lakes are drying up and the Colorado river is going dry, slowly but surely.

possumqueensa said...

Such a simple idea, but impossible for a bureaucracy. My big issue is sewage, all that great humanure washing down the road, I read of a wonderful idea in Japan, the farmers build rest stop/toilets on the highway and invite people to come in and do their business. They convert this to compost and use it on their farms. We, however, think of it as something to get rid of as soon as possible and apparently it is now being pumped into the sea off Cape Town. Save water and create compost all in one go. Ya think the gubmint can manage this?

Dani said...

Sue - We, too, depend on our rain water tanks very heavily. I cannot imagine attempting to do what we are doing without them!

That letter isn't a bad idea... :) Thanks.

Dani said...

Harry - I have read about the drought in California.

I know hat Africa seems "doomed" to suffer droughts, but anything that can assist the people to weather their lot should be considered, shouldn't it??

Dani said...

possumqueensa - Nope - much too much for the "gubmint" to handle. Or, given the simple solutions to problems such as what I propose above, so it would appear...

possumqueensa said...

I drove past hundreds of tiny bone-dry Karoo towns, and each small house had a solar geyser on the roof. Surely a water tank should be included in the deal. I've also seen "sleeves" that cover water tanks, in which you can grow veges and herbs vertically. It is possible, it just needs some political will.

Dani said...

Political will - that seems to be reserved for ensuring their permanent place on the gravy train...

You'd think that giving them a water tank with their solar geyser would be automatic, wouldn't you!?!

Rosemary said...

We stay in Rheenendal, in the Knysna area - we are not connected to municipal water either, so all our water is collected and stored. The water for our shop is also collected from the roof and stored in an 80 000L tank/reservoir. Scary at times, but it teaches us to respect and preserve this very precious resource so many take for granted.

Dani said...

Rosemary - Welcome, and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

What totally jerks my chain is that if one gives to those in need, you make them dependent on you for more. If you teach them to help (and provide for) themselves, you give them freedom, choice and independence.

80 000lt - that's a lovely quantity of water to have stored - well done :)

Simone Cronje said...

In some municipal areas, all new houses are required to have solar geysers and on many "eco" (Very loose term) golf estates all houses have to have water tanks as well. This should be a law for all new houses, esp RDP housing. Having to be responsible for one's own water instills great respect for this precious resource.

Dani said...

Simone - Couldn't agree with you more as it would teach EVERYONE how to "budget" instead of wasting water unnecessarily.

Can you also imagine the relief of those poor individuals who have to schelp their daily water from a distribution point to their homes...! The amount of water the average car owner uses on washing their vehicle probably equates to 3 - 4 days (if not more) worth of water schlep!

Belinda Milner said...

Hi Dani! I absolutely share your sentiments but the older the get the more I realise that we cannot count on our government and we cannot count on the man next door to do the right thing. INDIVIDUALS have to stand up and we have to educate our family and friends. Not all people are careless, but a great deal are uneducated... Just gimme a minute to step of my soap box :) And on the note of preserving water, may I please have your "recipe" for the water filter you constructed to re-use your washing machine water? And thank you for your blog. You are an inspiration!

Bill said...

Seems perfectly logical to me. Reminds me of a story, which may be myth. According to the story, our NASA spent millions of dollars to develop a pen that would write in zero gravity. The Russians just used a pencil.

I've been thinking about water lately. A precious resource that too many of us take for granted. I've seen some dire predictions that conflict in the future is much more likely to be over water than oil.

Dani said...

Belinda - Welcome - and thank you too for taking the time to leave a comment, and for your very kind words.

Yes, the more that people who are aware effectively spread the word, the sooner it will become the norm.

Belinda, I do not "clean" the washing machine water - that goes straight onto our three precious rose bushes. However, we do filter our kitchen grey water - the info can be found here : http://ecofootprintsa.blogspot.co.za/2012/11/grey-water-filter.html

Dani said...

Bill - LOL - that makes me think of someone taking coal to Newcastle (where coal is mined).

Yeah, water, or lack thereof, is definitely going to create friction in the future...