My uncle called me a week or so ago from the Bay area. After the usual mundane topics that we explored in our phone conversation, he steered the topic to the infamous California drought.
Most people in US must know, but for those of you peeps who don’t, the Governor has declared a drought State of Emergency in January and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. California is entering the fourth year of a record-breaking drought creating an extremely parched landscape.
As a result of this, counties, districts and cities have been given mandates by the state to find out ways in which water usage can be curtailed. Filtering down, all apartment complexes hotels, and private homes have been issued notifications on how much water they get to use and compulsory fines imposed for excess water usage.
In most cases, it meant that all those of us with plush lawns watched with chagrin as the grass turned brown and wilted away due to restrictions in watering more than twice a week. In case of my uncle, it was his beloved rose bushes that were parched and shriveled.
As I listened sympathetically as he bemoaned his former gorgeous blooms, my mind inevitably turned to the past when I first moved to Hyderabad. Coming from a fertile, humid region of East India that is virtually bathed by the Ganges river and moving to an arid, dry heat area in the south was itself a major change. What was most shocking was the water shortage that the city seemed to be perpetually in. Whether this was because of natural drought or water mismanagement, there was no water in the taps for the whole day in several neighborhoods, except early morning!
To emphasize this point, let me repeat: in several neighborhoods, the city rationed water so heavily that there was no running water for the whole day except in the early mornings. So, people would have to wake up before the appointed time when water was released by the city, line up their buckets and other large vessels next to their household taps (usually the kitchen and bathroom taps), and proceed to fill up one vessel at a time until the water ran out. This water would then be used throughout the day, for washing, cleaning, bathing, and filling the toilet cisterns.
Thankfully, my university had water storage provisions so that I was never had to do that but The Husband, who was a localite, told me about how his family had this daily routine.
Now, the situation is a lot better. The Husband’s parents and siblings live in high-rise condominium complexes, where the management that takes care of the water situation with automatic filling of overhead tanks for all the condos, and any deficit is made up for by buying extra water from the city. So, the days of standing bleary-eyed in front of a tap are probably over but the memories definitely remain with everyone!
At least, we were better off than those who live in desert areas and have to trudge several miles each day to find water and return the same long way, hauling as much as 40 pounds of water on the way back.
I don’t wish to belittle anyone who laments the state of one’s lawn or flowers or one’s monthly water bill. In developed world standards, that is a real hardship that you have to pay extra money or ration water by killing the plants you cultivated so lovingly.
On the other hand, we would never wish to be in a situation of not having water accessible to us throughout the day, week and year. I am grateful that I am privileged and I hope that I never abuse that privilege.
Hopefully, each of us tries their level best to save, salvage, and conserve as much as possible, even when we have more than our fair share. The life of our planet depends on that.