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WILD COOT: Our water woes

HARRY RUSSELL, [email protected]

WILD COOT: Our water woes

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ACCORDING TO GOOGLE, more than 1.2 billion people throughout the world lack access to drinking water. This is surprising since the planet earth is 71 per cent water and 29 per cent land.

In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s (1772-1834) poem The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, we get the famous lines: Water, water, every where, /And all the board did shrink; / Water, water, every where, / Nor any drop to drink. According to the poem, Barbados with its crossbow has shot the albatross. Now the “ice cracked and growled and roared and howled like noises in a swound”. Full-page expensive ads to save us in a ‘silent sea’. “Down drop the breeze, /the sails dropt down’ – till May we need to hold strain. Then we discover that there must be certain exceptions, or else the work in the island would come to a standstill. One step forward, two steps backward – more expensive ads. Hotel pools, farmers and so on have to be serviced.

The problem is that we have allowed the old system of ancient pipes to survive for too long, and the wastage is out of control. We have a desalination plant, but it is out of service possibly because we did not have the money to service it. Thanks to our debt priorities. We do not have the money to build a new one, neither do we want to increase our debt by borrowing (even if we can).

Day after day (until May) day after day, /We stuck, nor breath nor motion, / As idle as a painted ship / Upon a painted ocean’. Then, ‘Through utter drought all dumb we stood, / I bit my arm, I sucked the blood, / And cried, A sail a sail.

Wild Coot,” said the presence, “Let me be of aid. I have a company the name of which is Waterwiser. I supply custom flow control valves for faucets and showers. Let me introduce you to the stainless steel product. This valve is attached to your bathroom sink and kitchen faucet at the angle as well as with the shower between the post and showerhead. It reduces the volume of water gallons per minute used while maintaining the water pressure.

“This is ideally suited for large users of water like businesses and hotels. Imagine a hotel with 100 rooms all equipped with 100 showers and 120 sinks. Let us suppose that in a month we use 30 000 gallons of the precious commodity throughout the plant, and 80 per cent is used by showers and faucets. Then these units would normally consume 24 000 gallons. The installation of these valves is estimated to reduce usage by approximately 43 per cent as experiments with the valves have shown with an adequate pressure of water still emanating from the pipes. You see, Coot, there is a benefit to small holes.”

I turned away from this annoying fellow feeling that this supposed water-saving device would not apply to me with a $200 monthly water bill. Suddenly the fellow was up in my face.

“It affects you too, Coot. Don’t mind your water bill may be small in comparison. Saving 43 per cent on your water bill could allow you to buy more pork that I hear that you like.” That got my attention and I took the proffered papers he was handing out.

Now in my quiet solitude I started to masticate on the information. A benefit is a benefit. The outlay, according to the information supplied to me, would benefit the projected hotel a 43 per cent savings or me a savings of $86 every month. This is serious. Hotels and big business should be aware of this savings both in water usage and in expenditure. It seems that to invest in these valves by a hotel would involve an outlay in the first instance. However, such an outlay would be reckoned acceptable if it could be recouped in three to six months. Were I in charge of a big business I certainly would exploit this savings even if the outlay were to involve a temporary facility from a bank. Of course, the Wild Coot is too aged to qualify for a bank approach as he has been told time and again as he tries. 

Well, you know that the Wild Coot has been unsuccessfully seeking ways of augmenting his income. He called this creature, followed by an email, and proposed as follows. “Fellow, if I were to disseminate this information in my column, what percentage of successful custom would I be entitled to?”

“Nil. Zilch. Nada. Time you pay back the society and do Dr Estwick a favour.”

• Harry Russell is a banker. Email [email protected]