Human communication is a tricky thing. It can be information by which we mean one-way communication when someone – your superior, a teacher, the Tax Authority – is trying to make someone else understand something. One person talks and the other one listens. The one talking is not really interested in getting any feed-back, just in getting the other one to understand.
Communication can also be a dialogue, a two-way interaction between people who are genuinely interested in what the other has to say. Both are listening, both are talking. It can be a couple talking at the dinner table, a round-table discussion with some interesting people, or a TV debate (even though debates tend not to be dialogues, but parallel monologues).
Sometimes the dialogue involves many people. Technological progress in the last twenty years has allowed the so called digital democracy with millions of people communicating via social networks today. General elections are also an example of a very large dialogue. We like to call this a demologue (demos is Greek for people, logos is speech).
Information can be focused on facts, it can be fun, friendly, angry or even furious. It depends on who you are and what you want to say.
On Prince Edward Island is a Canadian island covering 5,600 km2 with a population of 142,000, famous for being the home of Anne of Green Gables. In the summer of 2012, the dry weather shone a spotlight on water usage in Charlottetown. The city gets nearly all its water from the Winter River watershed. The drought caused the Brackley Branch of the river to run dry six weeks earlier than it did in 2011. The city was nearing the water use limit from the watershed allowed in its provincial permit, but the Winter River Watershed Association believes the amount allowed in the permit is unsustainable. They wanted the province to reduce the amount of water the city is allowed to take. The situation prompted the city to ask residents to conserve water. To help citizens see how much water they were using, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), a Canadian public service company, launched a water usage calculator on their website.
Komiža harbour is located near the Pizdica spring on the Croatian island of Vis. The pressure from humans is very uneven, peaking in summer. When water is most scarce, the population rises approximately 2.8 times. On a hot day in August, the island hosts 6,000 visitors plus 3,500 residents = 9,500 p/90 km2 = 108 p/km2.
The guests are not expected to know this on their own. Instead, signs in the harbour explain that there are water shortages. Guests and boat owners are made aware and asked to understand that water is for drinking, not for showering and boat cleaning.
You could send a postcard from a Greek island, issued by the Non-Conventional Water Resources (NCWR) programme. The postcard says: “Greek islands face a serious water issue and YOU can help! The water on the islands is often not sufficient, while the increasing demand combined with climate change require our active participation. Using as much water as you need is critical because every drop counts. Say no to water waste and contribute to the water saving effort across the islands.”
When someone talks to you and wants you to answer, communication reaches another level. Sending a postcard is great, but what if someone actually listens, and reacts?
Hotel rooms in the Leopold hotel in Brussels have a sign with the following text in three languages: “Leopold Hotel Brussels has adopted a sustainability policy. You can help us to reduce both water consumption and the use of cleaning products by reusing your bath towels. A free drink per stay at the bar of the Brasserie will be offered to every guest accepting to reuse their towels.”
They are making much more than just sending you a postcard. They are not addressing you in a general way, but actually making you a kind business offer: you give up that, we give you this. They realise sustainability is not a one-man game, but a joint effort and will reward you for doing your part. This is not the usual hotel monologue, it is a simple, creative and nice way of having a dialogue on water saving.
Thinking out of the box, rewards need not necessarily be financial. As a visitor, you may appreciate to be involved in taking care of the island you visit, not just using it for your own purposes. People seek unique, new experiences and even 400-litres-a-day luxury hotel water consumers may consider water slimming – if we make it a singular, valuable treat.
Water was always scarce on the Greek island of Santorini. There is only one spring, perched on the rocks next to the church of Zoodochos Pigi (the life-giving spring), alongside the road that leads to ancient Thira. Islanders developed crops like vines and olives that could survive with only moisture from dew. They stored rainwater in elaborate underground reservoirs that survived to this day, although many have fallen into ruin or remain unused because tourism has brought sufficient revenue to the island to enable them to construct desalination plants.
In the early Summer of 2016, an interdisciplinary group of Cornell University students and staff visited Santorini. With the help of the Santorini Water Board, the Mayor of Santorini, The Atkinson Center For a Sustainable Future, the Cornell Institute for European Studies and the Global Water Partnership, they developed Water Walks through Santorini. Their purpose is to acquaint locals and tourists with water resources of the island. Walkers will gain an understanding of freshwater availability on the island, the water and its role in the history of Santorini, water management practices, and ideally, walk away with an interest in sustainable water management for the future of Santorini.
In areas dependent on tourism, and particularly in the Aegean islands, water demand reaches its peak both for irrigation and for domestic supply in summertime. On some islands, the summer peak can reach up to thirty times the domestic needs of the permanent population. As the domestic supply takes priority over irrigation purposes, conflicts invariably arise between the municipal water suppliers and the local farmers.
“The Gift of Rain" is a schoolbook, an educational material intended for students of late middle and secondary level (10-14 years). It addresses the old, mostly abandoned water use practices traditionally applied in the Cyclades islands over the centuries, as well as the modern techniques than can be applied today in homes and hotels in order to collect, economise or recycle water.
As defined above, a demologue is when many people talk to each other.
Fix-a-Leak-Week campaigns are run by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from coast to coast every year. Leak detectives are engaged and given leak detection checklists, grabbing their sleuthing gear (dye tabs, wrench and leak checklist) to find and fix common households leaks in bathrooms, toilets, showerheads and faucets, outdoors in spigots and many other locations. 5.7 trillion litres have been saved in ten years.
The EPA also runs the “WaterSense at Work: Best management Practices for Commercial and Institutional Facilities”, has a “WaterSense Label for Homes”, and in May 2014, it started the H2OTEL Challenge. Hotels get technical resources, including a Water Use and Savings Evaluation Tool - a spreadsheet designed to help hotel operators and facility managers assess their water use and identify and prioritize best practices to implement; Training webinars on hotel water-saving topics; Recognition tools, logo and a certificate; Case studies and lessons learned from other hotels that successfully saved water.
Oxfam - the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief , which is a confederation of humanitarians fighting poverty and injustices in more than 100 countries – have designed a clever and complete Water Week for Schools intended for young people to learn and think critically about water issues, before taking informed and meaningful action.
The Water Week material includes a Teacher’s Guide, slideshows, session plans, learner action, campaigning and fundraising guides. There is background country information about Niger, Uganda, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Chad, Sudan, Liberia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Haiti.
Water Week can be held at any time of year, but many schools find the summer term works well.
Slaven Kevo, the Water Manager of Vis, strongly believes island schools should pay more attention to water. He is dreaming of a ”water week” focused on water issues in the world, in Europe, in Croatia and on Croatian islands, engaging kids in water metering (”how much water does your family use per week for different purposes?”), how much water is used by tourists and industries, what is water, how can water be saved, how do others do it, maybe making a water conservation campaign?
Malta is an island of 316 km2 in the Mediterranean. With its little sister Gozo of 67 km2 it has just under 450,000 residents, making it one of the smallest, most densely populated and most water-stressed countries of the world. The tiny islands don't have rivers or lakes, so tap water is sourced from a combination of desalinated seawater and groundwater.
Potable water is distributed throughout the islands through a dedicated distribution network which provides potable water to every household. Over the years, the national water utility has carried out an extensive leakage detection programme to minimise water losses and improve its efficiency.
The water scarce conditions of the Maltese islands have instilled a sense of water consciousness within the Maltese population. In fact, on average, a person in Malta uses 120 litres of water per day, making Malta one of EU’s countries with the lowest water consumption rates per capita. The existing tariff structure also encourages efficient use of water at the household level with the adoption of a rising block tariff system ranging from 1.39 euro to 5.13 euro per cubic meter.
To further increase the awareness and understanding of the importance of water in Malta, a Water Conservation Awareness Centre was inaugurated in 2017. The centre hosts a number of educational and interactive installations to support national educational initiatives on water management and conservation. The centre is called Ghajn (pronounced AIN) which is an old Maltese word for spring. This project was managed by the Energy and Water Agency, the entity responsible for policy development and implementation. The centre offers smart games for kids where they can interactively understand the water cycle, or be the water manager of a city.
The centre is equipped with solar panels on the roof to generate renewable energy and cisterns which harvest rainwater runoff. The available water is then used for secondary purposes such as toilet flushing and landscaping of the centre grounds.
To further complement these initiatives, Malta will shortly launch a National Water Conservation Campaign targeting the main water-using sectors in the Maltese islands. This campaign will include both traditional and innovative ways of reaching out to consumers. Innovative approaches to convey the water conservation message include:
- The use of demonstration sites: a representative sample of households will be refitted under the condition they let themselves be measured before, during and after, and willing to accept visits. This will also be done with a representative sample of agriculture/farms, and later with industries and hotels;
- Targeted assistance at the household level including a moving exhibition with an ideal water household “live” including the option to book a water household consultant;
- The use of information technology to inform consumers of their consumption patterns.
What a superb package of water saving information!