Where is our water?

Where is our water is a cry heard increasingly around South Africa.

Last week the people of Mpophomeni in their frustration marched on the relevant municipal offices in Howick. With large parts of the town already plumbed and being used to piped water they are rightly frustrated with Midmar Dam in sight and overflowing until recently. The taps in a local school and much of the town are bone dry.

The Irish wag, Oscar Wilde, once wrote that the only problem with progress is that it goes forwards instead of backwards. He has got a point though not many of us would give up on our new toys.

In similar vein to the cry for water, where is our electricity could be shouted from the rooftops, equally falling on deaf ears.

Fibreglass rainwater tank.

By Bernard Preston

The answer to these thorny questions, of course, is that the rain and sunshine are falling like manna from heaven; all we have to do is collect and store them. But instead we let the water run away into the ground, wasted. Eight percent would apparently reach some river and possibly eventually be dammed.

Enough water descends on every roof during the rainy season to last the whole year. A hundred cubes falls on a  small house and 500 on a large building; both would be ample for the poor and rich inhabitants. All that is needed is gutters, a couple of large tanks and more important a change of attitude.

The state must supply me with my needs must change to I will become resilient and provide for my own requirements. As far as water is concerned, the cost of collection and storage at home is not a massive investment.

Disturbingly, the memo given to the authorities contained an emphatic no to the use of Jojos. Perhaps what was meant was a denial of tanks filled by a tanker; that I can agree with.

Just as important as the water itself is, let us not forget to reflect on the quality; that has certainly regressed.

Really, I would like to rephrase the question. Where is our clean water?

Recent research indicates that we swallow about 5g of plastic per week, the size of a credit card, mainly from our municipal and bottled drinking water.

And secondly medication, researchers have found up to 300 times the safe amount, whatever that it, finding its way into our water, making the bugs resistant to antibiotics and killing hundreds of thousands of people.

Harvesting and storing the rain does have a few perils of its own, but nothing when compared to no water at all, or the plastic and antibiotic residues in the municipal and bottled stuff. Very toxic chlorine and fluoride also come into the equation.

An underground reservoir, properly built and plastered is both far cheaper than tanks and safer because to the water is kept extremely cold even in midsummer. I know for a fact that the people of Mpophomeni have the skills to dig a large hole and brick up a reservoir. Who will be the first?

Provision of quality water is failing world-wide and clearly our municipalities in South Africa simply do not have the wherewithal to provide new reticulation particularly to communities whom they suspect will not pay for it. Be glad if you have water at any pressure coming out of your tap but if you think it is pristine, think again.

Harvesting your own rainwater is a lot simpler than you may think and the cost will be recouped with a few short years; more important it will be far cleaner than what you are now drinking

Rainwater harvesting pipes.

You will need to have plans drawn up if you live in an urban area. This is my water innovation idea; what is yours?

Where is our water?

Where is our water really should be rephrased to where is the clean stuff, devoid not just of pathogens but also with no plastic particles and other chemicals.

Water scarcity in our world is just not going to be solved without our involvement.

The completed underground rainwater reservoir.
  1. Bernard Preston
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Hilton, KZN

South Africa