In the late 1970’s I was speaking with a fellow traveller who was from Gibraltar, who explained to me that the Gibraltarians paid a high price for piped water to their homes. It was metered. As a consequence, her family, like others, were cautious how they used this commodity. Water for a bath was used by various members of the family before it was used for other purposes. It was siphoned into buckets to flush toilets, for example, though not on all occasions of W.C.use. Water used for cleaning vegetables might water an edible plant or two. There was no such thing as running tap water while teeth were cleaned. Mouth rinsing water came out of a tumbler, and the used water went into another receptacle. Washing machine water was also siphoned away for secondary use. As far as was possible, not a drop of water was wasted.

Thirty years later, in a leafy East London suburb, I sat in a garden where I heard the constant trickle of water, yet there was no stream nearby or other obvious water source. What I was hearing? It was explained that the water from the washing machine was being siphoned off into a garden irrigation system.

There is an abundance of water where I live now. I do not have to think twice about how I use water, however, I do, though not to the extent that I might have to if I lived elsewhere. Every time I turn on a tap, the memories of my chat with the lady from Gibraltar are evoked.



  1. The lady from Gibraltar was onto something, though I must admit it would be hard for me to adjust to 😉 Maybe in the future or even now , houses will be built to use every drop of water efficiently.


  2. I don’t live down South now. I do remember parched Summers there. I lived in the South and was there in 1976, what a year that was, and I was resident also during the heat waves of the 1980’s.

    Where I am these days there will be water-a-plenty, it is just too uneconomic at the present time to sell it! Take it for granted, never. it’s just that we have been endowed with much of it. As a result, it can have adverse effects on farming and the production of grain. Too little water can create similar problems from the opposite end of the spectrum.

  3. Hi Miramaze,

    It was hard for me imagine living with the economies then, the lady from Gibraltar described. Though I expect during WW2 in East and West Europe, probably in S.E. Asia too, there must have been major deprivations of the basics. Flushing toilets were a luxury post war, if they existed they were built attached to the outside of a house.

    Now, with drought periods in some parts of the UK during high Summer, (I’m trying to remember what that was like!) there are restrictions on the use of the water commodity, and all newly built properties – and some conversions of old properties – have to have water meters installed. There has been an advertising drive to encourage people to volunteer for water meters. At some point, it may become compulsory.

    The latest is a pitch for the consumer to use smart switches and meters that tell you how much other fuel you might be using, especially when not at home and when sleeping at night.

    I think we’re getting closer to the economic manner of thinking about our use of utility commodities that I was enlightened to thirty years ago.


  4. We’re all going to have to start taking our use and misuse of water more seriously as it becomes an ever-scarcer commodity around the world. Next thing will be filtration of sea water on a grand scale – the mind boggles.

  5. I think there is an inevitability in your thoughts, exactly where and how remains to be seen. In the back of my mind is the thought of unintended consequences of using sea water in any vast quantity.

  6. Not to drink in 1976…that was not just ridiculous, but downright ignorant and neglectful of children’s welfare and well-being. Thank heavens you survived!

    Where I was, we did shifts from very early morning then those who took an afternoon, to keep the office open – a portakabin, can you imagine! – (in rotation) had a powerful fan each and litres of water available to drink.

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