If our modern European civilisation has taught us to enjoy the pleasure of running water when we open the tap for as long as we want, it has also made us unaware of the value of water. When we spend hours under the shower or in the bath, when we repeatedly wash our laundry, has it ever occurred to us that some countries haven’t seen rain in years?
Amorgos is one of these charming little islands in the Aegean sea, that, unfortunately doesn’t get a drop of rain from May first until October. When I say not one drop, it literally means not one drop. So where does the water come from? Surely not from heaven.Vineyards and vegetable gardens covered the well maintained terraces around the villages. Wheat was harvested and ground to flour in the large windmills scattered around the mountains. There were cows for milk and meat, goats for cheese. There were the donkeys, faithful slaves to men, transporting rocks or hay on their backs, patiently questioning their masters with their wise eyes. The full springs quenched their thirst and supplied all the gardens with the necessary water. Winter rain filled the natural wells, dug into the mountain over 3000 years, and the water thus stored was sufficient for the prosperity of the island’s inhabitants.
The bucolic rhythm of this insular community was suddenly disrupted by the earthquake of 1956 which destroyed nearly every single spring on the island. The prettiest one remains in Agios Valsamitis on the way south to Arkesini. A few others still have water but most of them have been cracked and remain helplessly dry. The face of the island is burnt by the sun, the vegetable gardens have disappeared and the goats have stripped the vegetation down to the root.
Cisterns collecting winter rain, in many places, have replaced the sources, and water is also shipped to Amorgos by boat.
Now let me come to the point. If you have a cistern with a capacity of 100 cubic meters, how long will your water supply last, knowing that five people are living in the house and using the water? Showers, toilets, dishes and garden are the main spenders. You might also have a small washing machine. You will become quickly aware that you are using far more water than necessary and without realising it your cistern will be empty in four months. What about the remaining eight months?
Amorgos is one of those islands that symbolizes the cruel reality of draught and reminds us that we must not waste water even if we have too much of it.
How to reduce water consumption
- General hygiene: turn off water while showering, brushing teeth or washing hands. Reduce showering time to the srict necessary.
- Kitchen: Use a bowl in the sink while washing dishes. The dirty water can be recycled by watering flowers with it. Use eco dishwashing soaps or none at all when possible.
- Laundry: reduce the quantity of washings by filling the machine properly. Choose the eco programm.
- Garden or flowers: recuperate any water from showers or other use of water for watering your pots.
In this way you can reduce your consumtion up to 50%
We might say water comes from heaven… but it’s not everlasting.
Wendula von Alvensleben, Amorgos