As many of you know when we moved to Utila one of the things of most concern for everyone was the water situation. Water is not readily available where we live on the island or at the school I teach so there was a lot of concern about the water consumption of an American couple. -This may be shocking to you but as Americans we don’t have the best reputation for being conservative with our water consumption.
We moved to Utila at the beginning of the summer, or also known as the drier season. We are living in a home that belongs to someone else so we were hyper conscious about using all the rain water collected in case they wanted to visit.
Luckily, my Grandparents were farmers who lived on well water, and rain water so I had some experience with water conservation. We started washing our dishes old school, filling up one sink with water and soap and one with water to rinse. Then when the dishes were done we would take the rinse water and use it to wash the porch off, or scrub the windows clean. We took showers every other day, and washed laundry only when we had completely full loads. (Our drinking water does not come from the rain water source so we have been free to drink as much as possible.) We turn the water off when washing our hands, brushing our teeth, or washing our face (this by the way is a great habit to get into in America since, you know, there is a lot of concern over the future availability of water all over the world, and water crisis’ in our own country).
It was a bit stressful when there would be several weeks with no rain, and I would really, really want a shower. I mean it was July & August in Honduras. I would be dirty from riding four-wheelers to get to the school boat, or sweaty from no air conditioning in the classrooms or in the main living area of our home. I found that truly the cleanliness feeling of a shower only lasted as long as it took to dry off. Then, sweaty again, so a lot of swimming, quick shower rinses and we made it through. We loved traveling because we could take a lot of “free, meaning guilt-free showers.
I think we hit “rock-bottom” when the tropical storm came and we had every available empty vessel outside collecting rain water so we could scrub the house, the windows, the decks, the lights, the rails etc without using our precious shower and dishes water.
Luckily we made it to the rainy season and now, feel we sneak in extra showers, maybe get crazy and don’t wait until we have a sinkful of dishes to wash them, and we wash the windows more frequently. While to us it is amusing and temporary I learned so much about the value of water. When there is no water, there is no washing of clothes, which means no clean uniforms or clothes, which means kids don’t come to school. When there is no water it means parents who are already struggling to find money for food now have to find money for water as well for cooking, and drinking. I know how it felt for us to be worried about how our big tank might become empty I can only imagine how a family of four or five feels when their little barrel is empty and there is no rain in sight for a week or more. We joked a lot about grabbing soap and shampoo and running outside when the rain came, but for many people I am sure that is more of a temptation than we realize.
The school where I teach does not have running water to wash your hands, ever. We have enough to flush the toilet in the rainy season and sometimes enough in the dry season. This is a crazy concept right?
Every time I used water that wasn’t completely necessary during the dry season I thought of someone who might need it that I could share with if I wasn’t wasting. I thought about bringing my students clothes home and washing them, but it doesn’t address the ongoing need for water across the planet, and the desperate situations that can arise without it. I can see a future, if we aren’t careful, where water is a commodity and that is a very scary world.
We are now experts at quick showers, never leaving the water running, using every drop of rainwater we can collect, and being eternally grateful when the massive rain drops hit our roof and run into the cistern.