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Avoiding Water Waste in the Dry Season

Climates suggests avoiding water waste as one of the Actions people can take to help prevent climate change.  Here in Tobago it is also something we have to do to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Tobago is a Caribbean island not far north of the equator just 26 miles long by 7 miles wide.  It has the oldest protected rainforest in the western hemisphere covering the central ridge and much of the north east end of the island.  In the rainy season the whole island is green and lush with plants that grow big and healthy and produce an abundance of fruit and vegetables. Sometimes there is so much rain it teems off the roofs and the whole land becomes sodden.

But last year our rainy season was drier than normal.

Now, barely two months into the dry season we have a severe water shortage. The ground around the house is cracking, the rivers are running dry, our reservoirs are low (and silting up) and the water treatment plants are producing less than 40% of what they would normally.

The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) rations supply so each area only has water ‘on the line’ for a few hours a day. They truck supplies to homes and businesses that need it but there is a long waiting list. And now they only have one truck to serve the whole island, after the other truck crashed on the highway last week.

So, what to do? Like many homes, we have a couple of large water tanks to reduce the chance that we will run completely dry.  And we are very careful about the water we use.

We use a dishwasher as that uses less water than washing up by hand. And whenever we do use the sink we put the plug in and use the grey water from that to water the fruit trees and herbs in the garden, privileging those that are in fruit.  It is surprising how much you can save this way: there are two of us here and we easily save four to five gallons (15- 19 litres) a day.

For the toilet we follow the mantra ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down’ and have a low volume cistern to reduce further how much water we use.

Hot water comes from a solar panel and tank on the roof - and we don’t use much of it. In the shower we turn it on to get wet, off while we wash then on again just to rinse off. And we use the same on again-off again approach when washing hands and brushing teeth.

We could, like many here, take ‘sea baths’ instead of showers and, if we could make sure it is mosquito-proof we could get a water butt to collect rainwater (mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water).

But for now, we’ll just watch every drop, hope we can get through to the rainy season and that, when it comes, it is wetter than the last.

By Elizabeth Helen

Photo of watering banana plants using grey water by Elizabeth Helen

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Climates admin 14.03.2016 1 461
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  •  Grainne Halligan: 

    Sounds like you're managing incredibly well in very testing circumstances. I can't imagine how hard it must be. We tend to take our water so much for granted and don't appreciate how lucky we are to have it in plentiful supply.

    What you write of is such a far cry from my own circumstances where there is just no such thing as a hot dry summer and flood is a much more real threat. Ireland has earned its nickname of the Emerald Isle for good reason. I can't remember there ever being so much as a hose pipe ban. 

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