Many of us take for granted that when we turn on our taps in our kitchens and bathrooms that clean water will pour forth. I was among the many, inconsiderate, when it came to using water.
But then I visited to Ferafalu, on a work trip. Ferafalu is a coastal community on Manaoba Island in Malaita Province. Here, children and older people outnumber youth. Economic opportunities are few - mainly fishing, selling copra, and hand-made items at the weekly market on the mainland. And water is always in short supply.
There are only two water sources on the island - ground water and rain water tanks. The community has made a culvert, and dug out well, called Kafobisi. The well lies some hundred metres away from the village. It is here that members of the community come to bathe, do their laundry, and fetch water for drinking and cooking.
In the dry season, the water level in the culvert drops significantly and most of the families have to trek for about an hour to a sink hole further inland, just to get water for cooking and drinking. The water tanks are privately owned by a few families that provide them with an alternate water source during the dry season.
I walked to Kafobisi for the first time carrying a bucket to get water for a bath. Walking along small path leading to the well, I met women and children carrying jerry cans filled with water from the well on their way back to the village. It is about a hundred meter walk and when you are carrying five-gallons of water on each shoulder it is tough going and painful.
But change is coming. The community is now being equipped with rain-water harvesting systems such as water tanks that will provide a supply to all villagers. It is an initiative of the Solomon Islands Water Sector Adaptation Project, being implemented by UNDP.
In doing this work, I can see how a lack of water impacts remote communities, and how climate change is affecting their freshwater supplies, due to less rainfall that affects levels in the water table. Higher tides are also causing freshwater to get salinated.
After my visit to Ferafalu, I have changed.
I use water sparingly, I do not let the taps run. I also teach my children not to be wasteful with water. We now use buckets instead of a shower. I reuse water from rinsing out vegetables, to water my supsup garden.
For a Honiara-based family like mine, it’s a daily effort to manage water and some days are challenging. My extended family has labelled me the water police. But they haven't been to Ferafalu.