The summer heat is thankfully not in full-blown May mode but hot enough for water consumption to inch upward. We’re trying to stay hydrated and those who are fasting do so between the sunset-sunrise hours, plants need more watering and cars more washing because of the dust.
It’s a good moment to ponder on our use of water. Bahrain is listed among the top 10 countries that are likely to suffer from a severe water crisis in the next 25 years by the World Resources Institute (WRI). Water security is a real threat and is upon us – countries are already staking claim to common water bodies by building dams and diverting rivers and fighting for their share of water.
My focus though, is not on the larger picture. It’s on our everyday, individual relationship with water. When did water cease to be a shared resource and become one with a price tag? As a visitor to our ancestral village in Kerala, I was shown a large earthen pot outside a house – apparently it was an ancient custom for the pot to be kept filled with cooling, salted and watered-down laban in summertime, for passers-by to quench their thirst and families took turns to fulfill this duty. It was a great way to boost electrolytes and show community caring.
When guests come home, it is an Indian custom to offer a glass of water before we start the conversation or offer anything ‘dressed up’ like juice or tea. In Bahrain, this quaint custom from the dusty plains of India persists despite our stepping from one air-conditioned space to another and the welcoming cultural echo of that gesture resonates in our hearts.
So let’s get back to that idea of water as an act of caring. In almost all restaurants, you are expected to buy the water at jumped-up prices. Considering we spend on the food, should we not be offered a free jug of drinking water? If restaurants feel that customers would worry about the germ count, then give them a choice of drinking from the jug or bring in their own bottle of water or – finally – buy from them.
And when we do buy the water or go to banquets in hotels, what happens to the bottles of water that are half-consumed? Are they simply discarded down the drain? Think of the waste – the water is not directly consumed but poured into glasses which means the remaining quantity is perfectly potable still. Added to the water waste, we also add to the plastic pollution as thousands of water bottles end up in landfills and in oceans where they kill turtles, dolphins and whales.
I, for one, do use plain water-in-the-jug wherever possible, since I’m well past the age to boast of gourmet adventures in suspect hole-in-the-wall places and only entrust my digestive system to places where I know the hygiene levels are up to my standards. And when I do order bottled water and there’s a half bottle or more left, I take it with me, much to the embarrassment of family and friends.
We often hear complaints about the lack of public toilets in Bahrain and although the authorities have not done much to address the issue, the toilets in malls are a halfway answer for the public. Given the summer heat and humidity in Bahrain, I think we should also look at public water fountains where people can quench their thirst for free without resorting to buying plastic bottles of water and trashing our streets.
Shall we drink to that with a cool draught of H2O?