drought_t460We have a wonderful cycling and walkway that encircles most of Napier, some tracks wander along the beach and some meander through the countryside. Along the water front, there are strategically placed water fountains from which fresh, clean water gushes at the push of a button. And we never question its availability.

18 months ago, our family moved out of town. We now have a 15 minute drive to reach civilisation, and we have to collect and store our own water. This shouldn’t be a problem – we have three large water tanks and 2011/2012 we had a wet summer and a decently wet winter. But it has been a problem.

Unbeknown to us, the two larger tanks had a plumbing issue: no matter how much it rained they were either maintaining the same level of water or the water level was reducing. Eventually, when we realized the neighbours had a lovely green patch of grass just near one of our troughs, we found the leak. That discovery happened in October last year, around the same time the drought began.

There has been no decent rainfall in our region of Hawke’s Bay since October and for some farms since July. We are now facing the biggest drought since the summer of 1961-62. Farmers have sold off most of their stock due to lack of feed and unless we get some rainfall soon the autumn grass growth they need to get animals through the winter won’t happen.

For us personally, stock is not such a big issue. We have six sheep and six chickens and they don’t demand a lot of pasture. We are lucky to have one water tank that is still pretty full. As this feeds the kitchen and shower, we are at least clean and have drinking water! The other tanks feed the laundry, the toilet and the water-troughs. The animals take priority, so we ensure they get the remaining water stores as they need it.

We take our laundry to town and use the washing-machines of friends and family, it’s inconvenient but we have this option. Our boys “pee on a tree and poo in the loo” and this means the toilet isn’t draining water unnecessarily. We don’t have the tap running while we brush our teeth. The boys couldn’t use their waterslide and we couldn’t fill up the paddling-pool. There have been no water fights and any spare water from drinking cups is used to water the fruit trees. We collect grey-water from the shower and kitchen sink for the same purpose. Water in town is still readily available, although our neighbouring city of Hastings has water restrictions in place Napier has not.

All this does make me wonder though: what will life be like if fresh water becomes a rare resource, even in the urban west?

How would your life change if you didn’t have clean water on, ummm, tap?

Karyn Van Der Zwet is a mother of three boys. She has had articles printed in the US parenting magazine: ‘Pathways to family wellness” and the journal of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy – Children and Young People. She also writes for her own blog: http://kloppenmum.wordpress.com and can be found at http://facebook.com/kloppenmum. Her book “All About Tantrums” is due out in June this year.

Photo credit to the author.


Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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