People of my generation,especially those who grew up in Europe, had parents who lived through the Second World War. One feature of that period was the persistent shortages of many basics, either because production was diverted to ‘the war effort’, or were unavailable because of trade blockades. It was this situation that led many to learn to grow their own food, including on allotments in urban areas.  

 People were hardened by these experiences, and their children were constantly reminded with phrases like “During the war, your mother and I had to make one slice of bread last the whole week!” Life was tough and those who lived it loved to remind everyone of it. 

But, we are not in a war against another country, but fighting the struggle that is the rampant failure of public policy. One of its stellar examples in Jamaica is our annual water ‘crisis’. 

Forget about our being the land of wood and water. Drive around many areas and you’ll notice that river beds are bone dry. Those tales parents told of days bathing in the river and catching janga seem like fairy tales, when all you see are bare stones. Added to what nature has failed to provide, we have the inability of man to anticipate the problems that nature often poses to which his folly has added. Building new homes in areas without adequate water provisions is a good example. 

Drought is common and often recurs, so plan for it. If your dictionary, however, does not have the P section, then you are up the proverbial creek without a -addle. (Stay with me.)

Our Minister of Land, Water, Environment and Climate Change, having been one of those presiding over absent public action to thwart the near-inevitable, has now sought to abrogate responsibility for water woes over to the people. It sounds democratic? Dream on! He’s suggested that, as the National Water Commission has imposed restrictions on water availability in the Corporate Area, citizens need to “be creative” about water conservation.  

 What does that mean? The minister got the ball rolling by suggesting putting a container under a dripping AC unit. What? You don’t have AC? Well, child, mi sorry fi you! You could hunt around nearby areas to see if any leaky units are not already shedding drips into other people’s pails. Hopefully, the trek won’t be too far, and may remind you of the good old days when grandma used to send you to the (now dry) river to fetch water before school. I’m not sure how much water the average leaky unit sheds, but it could give a cup of soursop leaf tea. Calm those nerves.

A few other ideas came to mind, and I do my civic duty of sharing them. 

  • Save water to The Cloud. 😏 That seems like the modern way with everything. I’m sure the minister who seemed to have no time for Jamaica’s social media busy bodies, “the articulate minority”, would trash this idea. 
  • Bathe with a friend: this is better if you each live in different areas for water lock-off, as you won’t need to go completely filthy every other day. Equity suggests that, if it’s sharing at your home, you get first dibs of the dribble. Good friends don’t let each other stay stinky. Guys, it’s a matter of discretion if you go to your neighbour’s house, and ask if she’d mind sharing with you, and if you and your matey are cool with that, keep singing 😇
  • Squeeze sweat from your clothes, as you suffer the prolonged heat wave. It may not give drinking water, but could offer a lifeline to house plants. 
  • Mop dew from lawns as the cooler nights roll in. Alternatively, roll in it, like puppies do, and wipe off, instead of sharing showers. 
  • Grab a few bucketfuls from your neighbour’s pool. That’s theft, but these are hard times, man. 
  • Drain water from every cistern except one, if you have multiple toilets. They hold gallons of water and we use too much to flush. “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down,” my daughter chimed, last week. If you have to line up at home, take the time to speak to your family, instead of texting. Put up a schedule for use. Be creative!
  • Collect your tears from crying over the bills for nob-existent water supplies from NWC. I know some jumped for joy when they read the list of alternate day supplies and saw their area. At last, they were promised water, after actually not having any. Awkward! 

Some sensible ideas do exist.

If you live near a spring, digging to see if it runs under your yard may not be so crazy. It’s the school holidays, so keep the kids busy by getting them shovels and pick axes. No food till they hit water.  

I remember making water as a Boy Scout on a ‘outward bound’ course. That was before bottled water became fashionable and cost a fortune. 

I remember, during last year’s crisis, friends discussing diverting the waste water from washing machines to water their gardens. It wasn’t smile, not least because of incompetent workers, but it was forward-thinking. They now have gardens with more green than brown. 

Putting a bucket in the shower to catch water as it warms up is an idea I see is actually listed in Texas, USA. 

Whatever tickles your fancy, do something. Every drop saved helps. No drip is too little.