New Zealand is currently in the middle of a drought, probably the worst for the last 70 years. Wellington, where I live, is subject to water restrictions. The local Hutt River – where a lot of our drinking water is drawn from - is down to about 25% of its usual flow. We had some rain for a day or two last week, but it wasn’t enough. In fact, it just washed the dust off the land and into the water sources, making our drinking water resources more scarce. One of the huge reservoirs to the north of the city is sitting empty. It is – like so much of our infrastructure since Christchurch crumbled in 2011 - undergoing earthquake strengthening. So our water is limited. There is a total ban on outdoor water use, and a request for every household to save water.
This is unusual in New Zealand, perhaps particularly so in Wellington, we where usually have an abundance of water. We live our lives seeing our neighbours in Australia suffering droughts of enormous magnitude and regularity. We visit their land (and others) and see rivers full of brown silt, slow-moving and ugly, compared to the clean, blue, often glacier-fed rushing rivers that criss-cross our lucky country, that irrigate our lands and fill our glasses and power our electricity. And we feel rather smug in comparison.
So this morning, as I had a much shorter shower than usual, and I contemplated whether I should do a load of washing, and congratulated myself for not having a browning, thirsty lawn, I also thought about those with kids, and perhaps how much harder it would be for them to reduce their water usage. Then, as my thoughts often turn, I thought of those with a lot of kids, and I felt a little “holier-than-thou.” Because regardless of what I do, my impact on our water usage is minimal in comparison to another adult who has children, whether it be two, or six. And yes, I felt a little smug.