THE 3 LAYERS APPROACH TO WATER SAVING

 

Saving water is not simply about writing a plan on paper. It is about achieving common knowledge, creating common understanding and undertaking common actions. There are many actors involved: politicians, businesses, political organisations, civil servants, acedemia, extraordinary people, residents, visitors etc.

Important causes call for important projects, and it all starts with a cause – a challenge.

Gather a team in order to create a shared mental model of what is possible to attain. With that team, you have to study your own community. To get a comprehensive overview of the freshwater situation, all of the community must be observed: it is not enough to describe the wells, cisterns, pumps and pipes, but you must also figure out how it is processed, how it reaches the consumers, what it is used for, how the water system is managed and how the water is priced.

The three layers of an island illustration.

To make an intelligible model out of all these facts, we invite you to cut your community into three overlaying, horizontal layers. As our project focused on islands, this is reflected in names of the layers, however, the model is applicable in every community. The first slice is the water of the island which is the physical landscape, the second is the water of the islanders which is the cultural landscape and the third is the water of the community which is the technical landscape.

L2-6 Sein lighthouse and water intake.jpg

Water of the  islanD

... a basic hydrogeological system level which includes the physical geographical conditions: the surrounding sea, the bedrock, the weather conditions (especially rainfall) and the island’s ability to contain water. This is the basic slab, the physical bottom of the island, the groundwater and rainwater systems of your island. This is the part where you describe your community’s water assets.

L2-1 Woman with glass.jpg

water of the islanders

... humans leave theit footprints everywhere, build houses and villages, till the soil, extract water, eat, drink, work and sing. We arrange our lives with children, schools, health care and security, using water in many ways for various purposes. We create a cultural, human landscape on top of the natural landscape. This is the part where you describe the water needs of your island.

Inis Oirr aerial view 20120506.jpg

water of the community

... on top of the physical and the cultural layers, we create an infrastructure to communicate, move around, have light and heat, produce energy, food and water. Water schemes are one of such infrastracture. This is the technical landscape which ends with a consumer having water by just opening a tap or flushing the toilet. This is the part where you describe how this common system is configured and financed.

Gathering all facts using the 3 layers model is part of making a water saving plan. If you want change to happen, it is important for everyone to be on the same page, to find common ground, before setting goals and discussing actions. You need to show each other what has been done and discuss what you want. You need to share ideas and come up with new ideas – inside the box.

When making the plan, we propose using Edward de Bono’s simple and creative method called Six Thinking Hats combined with Ishikawa cause/effect diagrams and Metaplan group facilitating techniques.

After that, you can move onto broader action. Change started the day you first defined your challenge, now you will have to disturb the social, technical, economic and political systems of your island. Water saving calls for bold, long-term strategies including simultaneous changes in (residents’ and tourists’) behaviour, investments in infrastructure, and brave politicians.

Change is fragile. If you have wisely balanced the three types of actions – changing people’s behaviour, engineering, and wise governance – in a consecutive seven-step process as described in chapter four, chances are that change will stick. Your changes will have roots.

Within each eexlained layer you will find exercises that will help you practice what we are preaching. It will help you get an overview of the water conditions of your island, like a dashboard in a car telling you how much fuel you have, how much fuel you are consuming, and if your engine is running hot. The exercises will help you know how much water you have, how much you are using, and whether the system is running dry.

Can you save water?

Of course you can.