WATER SHORTAGE: Everybody say hosepipe ban!

Things are starting to bloom in the garden, although planting has yet to start proper. The rhubarb, onions, garlic, broad beans and spring cabbage are growing fast, and it also turns out that with the cabbage last autumn I accidentally planted some calabrese, which has started to give those delicious little trees! All this time I thought it was more cabbage, luckily though, calabrese/broccoli leaves are edible too – though it’s usually best not to find out these things in retrospect. On that note, I’d like to mention that contrary to what many believe, rhubarb stalks are edible raw (and delicious if you don’t find them too tangy), just remember that the leaves are poisonous, both raw and cooked, causing nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and possibly death . . . best not chew on those then.

I’m having some more trouble with Jerry mouse, but more about that at a later time…

Today several water companies in the UK have imposed a hosepipe ban, due to the severe drought we’re going through. It’s no joke, either. As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve been doing a lot of commuting on foot in the past year, and that has in part been made possible by the fact that it has hardly rained at all. Sure, we’ve had the occasional heavy showers, but what we’ve lacked is a prolonged period of rain, long enough to make us Brits properly moan about the weather – an important part of what makes us British.

Ever since Dinwiddy House kindly installed a tap on the garden grounds I’ve been meaning to buy a new connector to attach the hose to it . . . but I won’t bother now, not for a time at least. I have ordered a second water butt to connect to our current water barrel collecting rain running off the shed roof. The ban will not be a huge problem for us, the garden is small enough to water with a watering can, and even if that proves slower and more laborious it only helps remind us that running water is a luxury we don’t half take for granted.

The ban has got lots of people talking and moaning about it, with particular ire directed toward the water companies. It’s with good reason too – some water companies lose up to a quarter of their water through leaking pipes, and yes, the filthy-rich bastards should be doing more (i.e.: spending more) to fix this problem. BUT, it’s just a guess, BUT I am willing to bet that another quarter of our water is easily lost through general misuse and wastage by us common folk (including me). There are people with the annoying habit of flushing the toilet both before and after using it. Then there’s those who use a full cycle on their washing machines to clean just one or two items of clothing. And ban or no ban, I’m sure there will still be some prized a-holes who will resolutely use thousands of litres of water to wash their ugly, over-priced cars, when a bucket and sponge would do just as well. These are extreme examples, if still common, but most of us have little bad habits when it comes to using tap water. We love blaming the people at the top, but the truth is we are all to blame. And then, of course, come the excuses: “Don’t you know how busy I am?!” “I have three kids!” “It’s my right!” etc.

The trouble is water is a finite resource, and when it starts running low Mother Nature doesn’t give a rat’s ass about people’s excuses, reasons or rights. The water just starts running low. That’s when we really start to learn. Yes there is still plenty of water around, but the real problem is treating it fast enough to meet demand. I’ve been in a few forays in the woods in the past year where I have had to drink stream water. To make the water safe to drink I had to boil it first, which takes a surprising amount of effort to make up the 2-3 litres needed on a daily basis. At times like these I learnt to appreciate the value of water and tried not to waste a single drop of anything I had already sterilised.

Fixing pipes and reducing wastage aside, several solutions are being suggested for dealing with growing water shortages: higher bills, water meters, transporting water via pipelines, desalinization plants, etc. All these would probably help, but with the global population continuing to grow, water wastage ever-increasing, and a weakening infrastructure of water distribution based on profit instead of efficiency, water shortages are probably only going to get worse over the next few decades.

So today is a very good day to start learning to do with less.

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