After seeing what it took to procure 100 litres of dirty water for an Irkaat household and learning that the average Canadian uses 251 litres per day, I’ve learned to honour water and, in ten significant ways, reduced my water consumption.
I spend a lot of time admiring faucets – chrome, brass, matte black, oh my! – and lamenting my rental unit’s uninspired stainless-steel basics (hazard of the job, I guess). I’m anxious for the day I can install a high-arched brushed brass one over the white porcelain farmhouse sink I see in my distant-future dream kitchen (and I’ll take an articulating pot filler too, please).
But it’s not lost on me that lusting over faucets is a luxury in and of itself: I have unlimited access to clean water running right into my own abode while many communities in the world don’t.
Getting water (now) the old-fashioned way from a murky river in Maasai Mara, Jenya.
Of course I knew this before I went to Kenya last winter, but it was only when I touched down in the remote Massai Mara region that the fact really hit home; it was there that I witnessed what life was like without clean or running water, and what it meant to a community to finally get access to it.
These jugs are a heavy for a 10- to 20-kilometer haul.
Steep hills and rocky terrain define the landscape of the tiny and remote village of Irkaat (population 1,797) in the Maasai Mara, where I’m getting a glimpse at life before and after Brita Canada – with the help of the WE foundation – built a borehole that secured unlimited fresh and clean water for the community.
Before? Members of each household – females and children – would trek up to 20 hilly kilometers to the nearest water source (a dirty mud-filled waterhole shared with livestock) to collect 100 liters of unclean water and lug it back home. This spelled low school attendance (particularly for girls) and high risk of water-borne illnesses for everyone in the family (which, in turn, required kids to skip school to care for ailing loved ones). I tried this trek and, trust me, even as an avid runner, I struggled and tapped out after less than 10 minutes. I can’t imagine an eight-year-old under-nourished girl doing it every day (and sometimes twice).
I’m trying to smile, yet I’m in total pain only a few feet away from the river. I tapped out a few minutes later.
After? Thanks to the borehole initiative, water is only a short walk away; households have clean water to cook, clean and bathe with; and illnesses such as typhoid and cholera have all but disappeared. As a result, women have more time to focus on making money for their family, and school attendance has skyrocketed from less than 30 percent to 70 percent – and that itself is remarkable. With education expanding, children from this small community with its own language will start to learn the national language and be afforded access to higher education. In short, access to clean water not only changes an individual’s life, but also, that of a whole community. It offers access to income, education and health.
On-site witnessing the newest borehole Brita Canada is drilling.
The borehole in Irkaat is barely noticeable, but the excitement of the community surrounding it is wonderfully clear.
Considering what it took to procure 100 litres of dirty water for an Irkaat household’s daily use, it’s difficult to digest that, according to Environment Canada, the average Canadian uses 251 litres per person per day. And I’ve been taking every drop for granted. As a result, I’ve learned to honour water – and I regret that it’s taken me this long to do so. It’s affected my daily routine in many ways, but here are the most significant ways I’ve reduced my water consumption since returning from Irkaat (and you can too!):
1. Take shorter showers (and while you’re at it, why not make them cold? Beauty experts keep saying that cold showers burn tons of calories and are better for your skin – and with chilly water jolting you to life, you’re bound not to linger too long under the showerhead).
2. Minimize dish use when meal-prepping so you have less to wash. (Three cheers for quicker cleanup!)
3. Fill your water bottle from a jug in the fridge rather than letting the water run cold every time you top up.
4. Turn off the tap while washing your hands and brushing your teeth.
5. Choose drought-resistant plants like lavender and salvia so your garden is less thirsty.
6. Use the eco cycle on your washing machine and dishwasher. And while you’re at it, make sure your loads are full before you start up the machines; and stop rinsing dishes before you put them in. Most modern dishwashers can handle caked-on food.
7. Invest in efficient fixtures, like water-saving showerheads and faucets.
8. Select the proper pot size when cooking – large pots require lots of water, which isn’t necessary when cooking pasta for two.
9. Invest in a dual-flush toilet since liquids don’t need as big of a flush. If you’re not ready to invest in a new toilet, remember the saying, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.”
10. Keep your eyes peeled for leaks – in pool lining, in toilets, in pipes – everywhere. There are lots of tips and tricks to specifically scope these out but, in general, keep an eye on your water bill and look for unusual spikes.