My National Water Week story

“Today is the last day of National Water Week, but I urge you to not only save water during campaigns like these. This needs your commitment every day. South Africa’s CLEAN water resources are very scarce. We need to keep saving water any way we can, and not be scared to tell others to do the same. Knowledge is power……”

This post was put up by the 50/50 community on Facebook this morning. I whole heartedly agree with it and strongly believe that knowledge is indeed power, but I’d like to share a little story with you.

At our office we have a sweet lady who is in charge of our kitchen and the cleaning of the offices. I was in the kitchen with her the other day and she had put the tap on and was letting it run over a cloth to wet it. She then stepped away from the sink and went to do something else in the kitchen, but left the tap running. I, naturally, was not entirely happy about it, so I asked her to please turn the tap off. I proceeded to ask her if she knew that water was so precious and that we shouldn’t waste it. She told me that yes, she knows very well about how important water is and that she’s sorry she left the tap on – her mind had wandered. We chatted a little more about it, discussing how little water there really is in South Africa and that we shouldn’t take it for granted etc. I was pretty certain that she understood and that our talk had just reinforced her knowledge.

Unfortunately, just a few days later, I again noticed that she was wasting water while wiping the counters – tap turned on full-ball and running straight down the drain while she went back and forth between wiping the counter and rinsing out her cloth.

So my question is this: how do you effectively communicate with those around you that have a lower level of education or those who, in some cases, have only just recently recieved running water in their homes and want to enjoy it or those who claim to understand the idea of saving water, but who don’t translate that into a behavoiur change?

It’s a challenge I’m not sure how to handle. This women has 5 children and a close family she could pass this message onto if she really truly understood it, but I fear they will not learn that lesson from her. I have no idea how to approach her in a way that will make her fully understand and that will result in a behaviour change, because I don’t have a point of reference to understand where she is coming from (culturally or societally) or what her real thoughts about it are. I worry that until I understand what makes her tick, I doubt won’t be able to find a way to get the message through.

It’s almost like Part 2 to the ‘teach a man to fish’ story – show me how to teach it!

Anyone got any ideas?

4 Comments

  1. Cindy, thanks so much for your comment – it really is a superb demonstration to drive home the message. And thanks too for the encouragement – I will definitely keep trying to get the message across!
    I’m also very pleased to hear about your additional website that will have more information – we need a platform like that in this country.

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  2. Hi Dale,

    Thank you, and yes we are planning just that. We have a brand new and seperate online addition to 50|50 website created by our sponsors, it is linked to 50|50…but it will be completely community driven. It will not only tackle issues such as water, but all other issues too. It will be launched at the same time online as the 50|50 show. So watch this space. I think it will go a long way in helping with issues such as these.

    Cindy

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  3. Cindy, what a perfect way to illustrate how we should decide how to ‘spend our water”! Folk who live off and farm the Land, will all know, at one or other time in their lives, the terrible heartache that comes from having no water – animals die, crops dont grow and EVERY facet of ones life is affected, even to death. Illustrations like yours could go a long way to impacting how people view the availability and scarcity of precious, fresh, unpolluted water. School plays a large part of developing a ‘preservation mentality’, but adults need to be reminded too, and it starts with you/me. Is there someone out there who can develop a Campain to spread the word and get it onto National Television and Radio???? Any one? Who can help? We are running out of time to both protect and wisely use what little ‘good’ water we have left in this land. Regards, Dale.

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  4. Hi Tracey, Thanks for the blog post on this matter.

    I absolutely love water. When I was child I had played with the water constantly. I loved the feeling of water on my skin, and till today I still do. If there is a swimming pool around, you will find me in it. When we go to a dam or if there is a fountain to sit by, I would sit and play with my fingers in the water. I also had an obsession with washing my hands as well. It needed to be CLEAN, all the time. And I would stand for minutes at a time washing my hands under the tap. It was also my duty to wash the dog bowls every day, and I used to let the water run every time I did it. And I loved to take long baths. I drink lots of water too.

    My mom walked up to me one day and also explained the whole water issue to me…but being a child I didnt fully understand as well, and a day later I was there again…washing my hands and playing with the water.

    My mom came up to me the next morning and gave me a cup (smallish teacup with a little flower on it …I still remember it well), she said to me to fill it with water and that I would have only that water to use for the entire day. If I wanted a sip, it would have to be from the cup. If I wanted to wash my hands, it would have to be from that cup, if I wanted to play with water….it had to be from that cup, and if I wanted to wash the dog bowl it had to be from that cup. If I wanted to bath myself it would have to be from that cup. I offcourse looked at her and thought how was I to that. She said I had to decide how I was going to spend my water because if that was all that was left in the world, and all that each one of us had left to spend I would have to spend it wisely. So I took the cup and thought about it for a long long time.

    That was probably the worst day of my life (as a child)…because there was no water to use for play, or for quencing my thirst. My mom didnt let me take a bath that night like always and said if I wanted to be clean I would need to use to dampen the cloth with whatever is left in the cup and I needed to wash the dog bowls in the same way.

    The moral of the story is, untill i really understood the value of it….I didnt implement it. Untill my water was taken away. I couldnt understand…and in some cases lots of people are still learning about this…almost like children. Convince your cleaning lady to make it through a single day and still do all her work with just one small bucket of water. By the end of the day, ask her….what she would have done if that was the last water in the world. Because honestly…that is where we are headed. We will be rationed on how much water we can use if we don’t stop wasting it. So for all those still learning, keep reminding them…..its years of bad habits that are instilled in people. It wont fix itself over night. So keep repeating yourself, or teach people through demonstration if needed. But keep trying.

    Hope this helps.

    Cindy

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