Home Opinion and Features Cobwebs in the shower cubicle

Cobwebs in the shower cubicle

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GREY MUTTER: The good thing about the recent water shutdown is that there were regular updates from the municipality, even when the ‘hiccups’ occurred. We were constantly and regularly reminded that the shutdown was to effect ‘major repairs’ and was for the good of the city and its residents, and the short-term inconvenience would pay off in the long run.

Picture: xarkamx from Pixabay

IF I WERE not so good at eavesdropping, the recent water shutdown would have been very, very much worse for me.

Allow me to explain: One day, quite a number of years back, some of my Dad’s sporting colleagues were chilling after a game, and I overheard one of them explain how he managed to pack very lightly when the team travelled.

I pretended to be struggling to lace my school shoes, but my ears were pricked up and alert.

“I pack only one pair of underpants for four days,” he said, and the murmuring and looks of suspicion wafted through the ranks of his teammates.

“It’s simple,” he continued. “You wear your undies normally on day one, then inside-out on day two. On day three, you wear it normally again, but this time back to front, and on the fourth day, you go inside-out, back to front!”

Thanks to that sage advice, and decades later, my supply of undies lasted pretty well through the recent “drought”.

Therefore, seeing as I avoided the schlepp of having to wash my undies with wet wipes, I had more time to keep my friends and family informed of how taps work. “Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey,” I kept telling them as the scheduled five-day water shutdown crawled into seven, then 10, then 12 days.

Of course for some of them, I had to explain – using diagrams – what a tap or a faucet was, and what it was supposed to do. You see, during a water shutdown, you have to adapt; learning to wash one hand at a time holding a jug in the other, for example; or filling your cistern with a bucket before flushing your, er, “crocodiles” to the croc farm.

It was while doing this, last Friday morning, that I gave myself a good scolding. I was a bit clumsy and poured – no I didn’t “spill” – a very, very generous amount of water on the bathroom floor, so much, in fact, that it even seemed as if I had intended to wet the floor.

“Aaarrgh!! That was stupid,” I said in frustration, as the “crocs” giggled from inside the toilet bowl.

But then it occurred to me … I was not at fault here. I was not the “stupid” one. After all, a cistern is not meant to be filled from the top with a bucket.

I thought about the aged in a city without water; retirees who perhaps old, frail and brittle now, had to fill a cistern by pouring at least 10 litres of water in from the top. I wondered how they were doing it. Would they have to carry and lift heavy containers of water, or make several trips with a jug?

Some cisterns have porcelain lids, and those can be pretty heavy, and by the way, pouring a bucket of water directly into the bowl is not pleasant; there’s a risk of backsplash, and with it, the risk of faecal contamination.

And that’s just the aged … there are others who more than likely experienced their own challenges.

One friend of mine, who had stored more than enough for five days, ran out of water by day eight, but heard that the “water truck” was in the street next door. Out of desperation she carried her 20-litre container to the truck, stood in a queue and then had to carry the container – that now weighed 20 kilogrammes – all the way back home.

As I write this, my friend is struggling with an injured back.

Then there was the older gent who had his 25-litre container filled at the water truck. When it was topped up, he tried to lift it, but got his legs into an awkward position; also his hand was wet and it slipped. Had he not had such good reflexes, he could have taken a nasty fall; and who would he have to blame?

This recent protracted shutdown wasn’t just an inconvenience; it was a health and safety hazard for many.

Now, besides all the “inconveniences” and “hiccups” as the updates from the municipality called them, my stomach was in a knot throughout the shutdown.

“What if there were a major fire in the city during this time,” I thought. “Where would the fire department source water from to extinguish a blaze?”

Look, I admit that I do not understand what’s going on underneath a city and whether there are reserves of grey water freely available. So that may have been covered. But I was horribly uneasy for 12 days!

The good thing is that there were regular updates from the municipality, even when the “hiccups” occurred. We were constantly and regularly reminded that the shut down was to effect “major repairs” and was for the good of the city and its residents, and the short-term inconvenience would pay off in the long run.

Maybe so, but we must not forget that these major repairs – that we are supposed to be thankful for – came about because regular maintenance on our water infrastructure was neglected for decades!

The massive, expensive pothole repair campaign, that may or may not carry on after the elections – we’ll wait and see – is massive and expensive because, once again, maintenance was neglected.

We have a gigantic lake of effluent on the R31 to Barkly West – again neglect. And I am surprised that there is not more concern at the neglect that’s causing Kamfers Dam to slowly creep to the N12. How long, I ask again, before that railway line and national road to Gauteng is submerged?

How expensive will it be to sort out that ‘inconvenience’ in a few years’ time?

And then residents are expected to be thankful to the municipality for the massive, expensive and unprecedented repairs to the water system? A lot of people I know are not impressed at all – you get to discuss these issues while standing in water queues.

The people I spoke to in my small social circle and long water queues are thankful to the consulting engineers from the private sector who came on board and did a cracker of a job, but as for those whose neglect caused this problem in the first case … they may have lost their adoring audience.

Here’s why I say that: Who has been taking stock of the amount of homes, businesses and schools that are installing water tanks?

Yes, even while the promises are being made that there is light at the end of the tunnel and one day, in the not too distant future, Kimberley will be well hydrated again because businesses, malls, guest houses, homes and schools are installing massive water tanks – that’s a vote of no-confidence if ever I saw one.

Come to think of it, the only reason, in fact, that this latest water shutdown was not far, far worse, is because there are dozens, if not hundreds of homes in Kimberley with water tanks.

And every water tank being installed has a label attached to it. The label, though invisible at a casual glance, clearly says: “We no longer trust your empty promises!”

If that seems harsh, here’s a question that each Kimberlite can answer for themselves: What’s one of the first things you did when the water was restored on Tuesday morning?

I’ll bet that many of you filled your water containers – just in case – didn’t you?

Anyway, as residents in the city of Kimberley brush cobwebs from their shower cubicles and learn how to use their taps again, in the aftermath of the shutdown, it seems as if the faith of many has been badly shaken.

But then again, perhaps in the face of the recent adversity, this can be a call to residents of the city to demand accountability and transparency from those entrusted with our city’s infrastructure.

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