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Ed Said - No point making waves


dadWe long for summer, we love our tanks filled by what has become regular pre-Christmas or New Year downpours, but then a fortnight of washing, salty showers and inconsiderate holiday renters turns crystal clear water into a sour slurry when the pumps begin running dry.

The first move is to call water carriers. The second is to take to social media to blame somebody for the situation, usually the local council, who “should have prepared for such an eventuality!“

Seventy-five percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water but poet Samuel Coleridge perhaps said it best in the ‘Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’ when he wrote ‘Water, water everywhere and all the boards did shrink; Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink.’ It refers to a becalmed sailor surrounded by salt water he cannot drink but there is a parallel in that, in a prolonged dry spell for landlubbers, their water supply reduces in both quantity and quality by the day. There are but two solutions: tighten one’s belt, and pray for rain.

Townsfolk, generally, are used to turning on a tap and receiving what they consider is their right – cool, clear, clean water. Rural people have a similar expectation but are much more aware of from whence their water comes and the need for preservation as most rely largely on tank (rain) supply for household use and, in such cases, is a finite luxury. Many Mangawhai people fall into this latter category but summer holidays, visitors and renters often find it hard to comprehend the term ‘watch the water!’ They tend to view the phrase akin to ‘watching paint dry.’

On one occasion in our farming days, a daughter and her friend befriended a young possum, feeding it pieces of apple. In a couple of weeks it took to scratching, so, with the tin-snips, I trimmed its claws. It lived in a tractor shed adjacent to our house. Soon thereafter it went missing, probably returning to the wild to fend for itself. 

A group of Auckland teens descended on us over the New Year break, swam at Waipu Cove then came home to shower, wash their hair then later compliment us on our clean, pure, rainwater which they drank liberally. After they left and being mid-summer, I said to my wife I noticed a ‘stale’ smell in the water and I should check the level in the tank. Lo and behold, therein floated the dead body of one erstwhile pet possum – clipped claws and all. 

Our visitors were never told about this and nobody had any ill effects from drinking our water. Whatever water came out of the tap we drank, made cups of tea and cooked our vegetables in, bathed, showered, and cleaned our teeth, and if we ever caught anything attributed to the water, we were certainly blissfully unaware. I also believe rural kids ‘back in the day’ developed a natural immunity to certain things whereas today there is virtually no such thing as ‘pure’ or natural water.

My story was prior to 2000. Since then so-called health authorities are falling over each other to add any number of chemicals to our water supply to protect us from ourselves and some of which are contradictory. Summer in Mangawhai means there may be a thousand households who require water within the space of a fortnight or so thus the water sources become over-taxed, prices sky-rocket and, in continuing dry weather, the quality may well deteriorate. 

Water is essential, precious and also finite so take good care of what you have. On the other hand it may well rain like hell in the next couple of days and this editorial will be rendered completely irrelevant.


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