Monday, February 26, 2007

Water Restrictions and the Quality of Life

Back in January Leagle Eagle had a post on water restrictions in Melbourne, including the practice of neighbours dobbing in neighbours. I have been meaning to make a comment for some time.

To me, water restrictions combined with various approaches to restricting water usage represent a major drop in my real standard of living.

I grew up in an era of limited water. Armidale's dams were very small, so there were constant restrictions in summer including sometimes total bans on the use of hoses, more often fixed houses. Banning use of hand held houses in a town of gardeners was something that could be done only in the most dire circumstances. Then when brother David and I as kids went down to stay on the farm with its reliance on tank water, we shared baths with 4 inches of water. We also did not have a shower at home, although we could have a deep bath.

All this makes the long, hot shower one of life's most enjoyable luxuries, especially after physical work or if unwell. I am not saying that I had a long, hot shower every time, most times I don't have time, but in satisfaction terms it had great value. To me, the new water limited showers are simply not very pleasant. And so few places now seem to have the old full size bath.

We had an old system at home, so I could still get a proper hot shower when I wanted it. Recently, we had to replace a valve in the hot water system itself. This appears to restrict the flow of water. The problem is that the lower flow makes the system unreliable. The hot water is not as hot and also cuts in and out. The owners cannot afford to replace the whole hot water system, so we make do. We can get by on the shower side, but actually have to boil water to get the washing up water really hot.

As an aside, a little while ago we tried the new small fluorescents in the lounge room. Nobody told us that they don't work with dimmers, requiring something else to be fixed up.

I love gardening, especially vegetables. Back in October last year I carried a post describing the joys of the old home garden.

I gardened - you see the past tense - in a very water and time effective fashion. Time poor, I would take a small proportion of a bed and clear it, adding compost from my compost heap. I would then water it properly.

Where I was not planning to plant immediately, I would put down a thick layer of paper material with straw on top and then water again to bed the staw down and stop it blowing. Once that was done, I did not need to worry about the bed other than pulling out a few weeds until I was ready to use it. When I did come to use the bed I would find the soil still moist.

In other cases, I would plant and then mulch around the plants, again watering properly. This then limited subsequent watering.

Working this way, six or seven hours in dribs and drabs spread over the week progressively created a substantial vegetable garden providing a range of vegetables all the time.

When water restrictions first came in limiting use of hand held houses to certain times on certain days I had a real problem. Initially I ignored them to some degree, arguing that the small amount of watering I was doing at other times as part of the mulching process was insignificant.

Then, talking to other school parents, none of them gardeners, about this I found that they regarded what I was doing as anti-social. I tried carrying water, but this was too hard. So I stopped gardening. I now have a yard of overgrown beds and no vegetables!


Legal Eagle said...

I just wished they'd done something about the problem before restrictions became necessary. It's obvious enough that something needed to be done.

Gardening can be a great source of pleasure for people. I see my parents' elderly next door neighbour trying to keep her beloved garden alive, and I feel so sad. She is a widow and I think her garden was a great source of solace to her after her husband died some years ago.

Jim Belshaw said...

In one sense you are right, LE. But my core complaint is the view that we must have universally applicable rules without flexibility. This approach nearly always has perverse results like me and the neighbour.

I will write on this to try to explain.