Home Opinion and Features Leaks can kill us if we are not careful

Leaks can kill us if we are not careful

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So my question is … who wastes the most water in our city?

Water flowing in David Harris Street, Cassandra. Picture: Danie van der Lith

CABIN fever is real. I find myself becoming increasingly irritated by the most insignificant things these days. But what can we expect? Ten months of isolation and being housebound with the same old irritating people can do that … fortunately for them I am not irritating; I must be the easiest person in the world to get along with.

But in a cramped environment, I even find myself getting a bit abrasive. And then to add to the problem, the cramped environment has become cluttered of late.

Everywhere you go (when you actually do get to go somewhere) you see a room or cupboard space reserved for several large bottles of water. And everyone you speak to eventually brings the topic around to how many bottles of water they fill up to tide them over when the water goes off.

Now Kimberley’s water is being shut off every evening so that the levels at the Newton reservoir can recover. This is a good strategy; a full reservoir is the ideal, but as I pondered this short-term solution – and I really hope it is only a short term solution – I cannot help but come to the conclusion that this emergency action is a harsh rebuke to our city’s municipality.

Look, I don’t drive around a lot these days. I keep my outings short and I just do the quick trip to the shops now and again. But on the few roads that I do travel there are rivers of water constantly flowing, and they have been flowing for months.

So my question is … who wastes the most water in our city? Is it the more than 200 thousand residents, or the dozens (if not hundreds) of burst or damaged pipes where water is trickling, flowing or gushing?

To add to my question … who stops wasting water at night when the water is shut off? Is it the residents who are asleep anyway, or is it the leaking pipes all around our city? Personally, I am not in the habit of taking a shower or watering my garden after 11pm at night, but a leaking pipe flows seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

So many people I speak to are all saying the same thing – fix the broken pipes and the levels at Newton will recover overnight!

On Tuesday a pipe burst in the street where I live. The volume of water that gushed out of the hole, I estimated, could fill an average bathtub in about five seconds. By Thursday the water was still flowing hundreds of kilolitres just flowing down the street, wasted – water that could have helped the Newton reservoir maintain its levels.

By the way, this was the third pipe burst in this street in the space of two weeks.

We are experiencing a very real and very frustrating water crisis in our city. People with pennies in their pockets are investing in large storage tanks to harvest rainwater from their gutters … while those with even more means are sinking boreholes.

Meanwhile, people like yours truly have to fill five or 10-litre plastic bottles with water, when there is water, and clutter up our homes with this life-giving fluid. I would never have believed, growing up, that one day every household would have to hoard water reserves.

A friend of mine got home from holiday on Thursday. He, like most people, had endured a horrific 2020, but he had managed to get away to spend some time with his family. When he got back, I spoke to him … for the duration of our 20-minute conversation we moaned and griped about Kimberley’s water problems.

The point is, the broken pipes are not only depriving us of water, it’s depriving us of normal, pleasant conversation. I mean, how much better would we have both felt if we had spoken about how much fun he and his family had, how they relaxed, and how rejuvenated he felt?

Look, and I feel that I have to go on a tangent for a moment; our city is filthy. It is in a shockingly disgusting state. The litter is not merely a problem, it’s a feature of Kimberley. But a municipality does not have the resources or manpower to clean up after thousands and thousands of citizens who have an ingrained, established belief that littering is a form of job creation.

Also, a municipality is powerless to keep sewage lines open if people flush anything from “disposable” wipes, condoms, diapers and even blankets down the toilet – yes, I said bankets!

Let’s take another tangent; a government is not able to prevent the spread of a contagious virus – no matter what measures they put in place – if the population will not be careful and follow common sense advice: washing hands, social distancing, mask-wearing in public and, as far as possible, avoiding crowds.

But just like those serving the people can do nothing about the bad behaviour of their citizens, just so citizens seem to be powerless to do anything about the apparent laziness and neglect of public servants.

My training and upbringing has enabled me to place my litter in a bin and behave myself during a pandemic. I know how to use water sparingly and I know what not to flush down a toilet bowl.

But I do not know enough about fixing dozens of leaking pipes in a city. That should be, and is someone else’s responsibility. And if we all do our part, if only we would all just think of someone other than ourselves and our own comfort, then I truly believe that things could improve.

I also believe that the turnaround can happen quite quickly … that is, if we had an others-centred focus. And if we don’t kill ourselves tripping over all the water bottles in the kitchen.