As we continue to experience hot weather as a result of climate change long into the autumn months, making autumn became summer and winter became autumn and each season being very different to what it was just 30 years ago, many of us are also thinking about what we can do to conserve resources, including of water.
While some countries have experienced dangerous flooding, others are facing serious droughts. In Egypt, people are having to adapt to a future that will be hotter and drier and where fresh water may be scarce.
The UN COP27 Conference held this month in Sharm El-Sheikh has brought the concept of saving natural resources to the minds of many people, and most ordinary citizens have now realised the importance of saving our natural gift from the Nile. Many government initiatives have also been keen to raise the issue, trying to instill awareness among young people and adults alike of the importance of saving water.
The Alexandria Water Company has been keen to spread awareness of how to make the best use of water, for example, along with the risks of contamination and how to save this resource in practical ways. One active campaign was carried out on a beach for disabled people in the Al-Mandara district of Alexandria recently, where people from various areas had come to enjoy a beach that is the first of its kind in the country.
“We carry out many campaigns and other activities to raise awareness about the importance of saving water,” said Mustafa Hosni, a specialist from the company.
As the campaign addresses children too, activities have also been organised for children to explain why it is important to save water. “We think that children are some of our best listeners. They respond very well to our campaigns, better in fact than some adults,” Hosni added.
“Just by playing a simple game such as snakes and ladders, we can show how water can be saved. The best use of water is associated with the ladders, whereas the misuse of water is associated with the snakes. In this way, children can learn about the best ways of saving water.”
Hosni said that saving water can take place through modifying actions that take place every day within the home, including washing dishes, taking showers, cleaning carpets, checking faucets and pipes, and keeping drinking water in the refrigerator.
Everyone can help in saving millions of gallons of water every day by adopting best practices in saving water. “Housewives can reduce the amount of water used in washing carpets, for example, and they can also adopt new practices in cleaning curtains,” Hosni said. “There are many alternatives that they can be used, like sprinkling salt on carpets and then vacuuming them, as salt absorbs dust and stains.”
Another way of cleaning difficult stains is by using a mixture of warm water, vinegar, and bicarbonate of soda. “This mixture does not only save water, but it also helps fabrics to be cleaned better, making them last longer,” he added.
Those who have gardens should water their lawns less often and fix any leaks in pipes whenever possible. This could save thousands of gallons of water each year, Hosni said. He stressed the importance of replacing plastic bottles with eco-green bottles made of glass and stainless steel than can be reused multiple times.
Saving water can be done in various ways while carrying out regular housework. “We are aware that people are now more conscious of water saving, but we continue to campaign to reach people across the governorate,” Hosni said.
The company also keeps in touch through the Whatsapp application and a hotline. The application helps to gather information about the drinking water and sanitation sector. It sends out notifications on how to rationalise consumption and on planned and unplanned maintenance work. It notifies people about any cuts in supply to help them manage their needs.
The Eco-Kids Academy, founded in 2016 in Benha in the Qalyubia governorate, also works on promoting environmental awareness, this time among children. Its main aim is to help make children more environmentally aware, while connecting this to their well-being.
“We teach kids how to protect the environment from a very early age. Nothing is forced on them – the whole idea is to make learning fun. We are interested in teaching our children the importance of protecting our water, air, and other natural resources,” said Hoda Al-Kattan, the manager of the academy.
“Everything we do aims to teach children how to learn different skills while protecting their environment and making the best possible use of it. If we want to teach them the risks of leaving the tap running, or how to save water while showering or brushing their teeth and so on, we do so in the form of theatrical storytelling or through an activity they can learn from.”
“We also encourage parents to do the same so that the circle is not confined to the children and the academy but also includes schools, homes, and clubs.”
A lot of water waste is the result of bad habits at home, and in some areas up to 75 per cent of residential water is still used for outdoor irrigation and sprinklers.
Expanding protected farming is one of the ways the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation is undertaking to combat water waste. It allows the cultivation of all kinds of crops using the smallest possible amounts of water. There are also plans to complete the lining of irrigation canals, a technique that prevents water loss.
Egypt is water-poor, and, with a water supply from the Nile of just 55.5 billion cubic metres per year, it needs to conserve every cubic metre of water in order to prevent shortages now and in the future.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly