Ireland’s relationship with water use is in a well-documented transitional period, as water meters are rolled out across the country and charges for use loom on the horizon. Despite a largely negative reaction to this scheme, the potential for conservation is promising and important – leak detection works and water saving products are a boon for homeowners and the environment alike. While we may never see droughts as severe as those currently ravaging the west coast of North America, a wasteful infrastructure poses a huge threat to natural resources and people.
Municipalities in California are scrambling for water as we speak, with mandatory cutbacks and fines being implemented in the face of a historic drought – a 25% reduction in water use is the target for the state. The fight for resources has, in some quarters, become bitter – the practice of drought shaming has taken social media by storm, with residents of areas hit by water scarcity publicly condemning over-watered gardens and driveway car-washing. “According to a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, 66% of Californians believe that their neighbours are not doing enough to save water” (BBC News). Environmental patterns make it abundantly clear that California’s drought problems will be a fixture for the coming decades, yet the serious revision of water policy is only beginning.
That water is now a precious commodity will be no surprise to many people in the world, particularly in countries typically regarded as economically poorer. Now that much wealthier jurisdictions like California are experiencing widely-publicised difficulty, it is important we consider our own attitudes to water on a personal and governmental scale. The idea of shaming people for using wasting water may be a little extreme in countries such as Ireland where rainfall is predictable (sometimes too predictable), but a clean, constant supply drinking water is no longer a commodity. The financial incentive to reduce waste will hopefully see more responsible, environmentally friendly usage.