Whether you live in a remote village in Kenya, on a Pacific Island, or here in Aotearoa, water truly is life. World Water Day on March 22 is a reminder to all of us about how precious water is, how small changes to the way we use it can make a big difference, and that many communities around the world still struggle to access water. By Carolyn Brooke
Being born and raised in central Auckland, I really didn’t think much about water growing up. It always came out when the tap turned on or when the toilet flushed, and it didn't cost my family very much money.
When l became a homeowner and I started to receive monthly water invoices (and had to deal with an expensive pipe leak!) I began thinking about the financial cost of water. But it wasn’t until I began working at ChildFund in 2016 that I really understood how precious water truly is, and also how in Aotearoa New Zealand we so often take it for granted.
ChildFund is an international NGO delivering locally-led community development projects around the world. Water is a focus of ChildFund’s work, whether it be partnering with local organisations and community members to build a new borehole or lay water pipes in Kenya, or construct community handwashing stations in popular meeting spots in Kiribati.
Water-borne diseases are, sadly, still causing unnecessary deaths of babies and children in these communities. For example, a survey in Kiribati in 2017 showed 29% of children had experienced diarrhea in the previous two weeks.
More so, the communities that ChildFund is working in are often very remote, low-income areas that already face many daily challenges, including environmental issues like drought and floods. In Kiribati, where the highest peak is just four meters above sea level, they also face the frightening challenge of rising sea levels.
My family, my husband and my two sons aged 4 and 6, moved into a house with a small water tank a year ago in Northland, and the prospect of running out of water suddenly became very real. I had heard from the previous occupant of the house that her family of three had regularly run out of water. I knew that — with all of us loving long showers, a builder husband who works in dusty conditions and two boisterous sons who love getting dirty — I had a challenge on my hands.
I am happy to say that by making changes to the way we use water, we have made it through the year — including summer — without having to top up our water.
What we are doing is not rocket science, rather, it’s just been about making deliberate changes in some of our daily behaviors.
We have quick showers now, a couple of minutes or less, and our sons have bucket baths. In the shower we stand in a large bucket, and we use the water from this bucket on the garden, and to flush the toilet.
I estimate that along with the bucket water, our toilet flushing has also reduced by 70%, or up to 50 litres a day.
In our kitchen sink, we keep a large container and collect water as it accumulates throughout the day, and it accumulates quickly. Onto the garden that water goes too — our fruit trees and vegetables have benefited from this too!
I’m more mindful of what goes in the laundry basket, especially with my sons. While some clothes definitely need a wash after one wear, there are many clothes than can be worn for a second or third day. So, mostly we do just two loads of washing per week with an extra load every second week for linen.
We have become diligent about hanging bath towels and bath mats in the sunshine after use, as this helps to extend the time between washes.
We turn off the tap when brushing teeth, we fill up the kettle while waiting for the kitchen tap to warm up. I also mostly use the water out of the filter tap, rather than the cold tap, in the kitchen as the flow is much slower.
There are many other things that can be done to save water. For me, small water tank or not, I want to be active in conserving water going forward and to teach my sons this too.
We edged very close to an empty tank in early February but then, thankfully, a long period of rain kicked in. We were very lucky.
I feel so grateful knowing that even if our small supply did run out, I could either purchase more water locally or call on a neighbour who has a bore. Sadly, this is not the case for people living in communities where ChildFund works.
World Water Day is a reminder for us all that water truly is life and it’s not infinite— we can all play a part in conserving water. It’s also a reminder that there are many communities around the world, even here in Aotearoa, that sadly still struggle to access clean, safe water.
Learn more about ChildFund’s work with water here.
Read more stories about ChildFund's work with water here.
Help more children and families access water here.