Part Love Letter to Groundwater & its Custodians
'Pro-active' has never really been a term associated with the local water sector. In the business of water – just like in life...and water is Life, not so? - our Agendas are informed mostly only by that 'must-do's, can't put this off any longer's' that scream the hardest for our attention at any particular time. And that is the nature of 'reactive' responses – cleaning up the mess, apologising, rationalising, blaming, promising action in mitigating the next disaster. All with hindsight – sometimes offering embarrassing insights – and mostly ending up in the minutes of a meeting or draft plan that will be dusted off / rebooted when the time is just a bit past twelve.
But that is bureaucracy, a wheel without power steering.
Enter our rugged and real <selective, note> groundwater technicians and groundwater scientists that actually walk the dusty plains and hills and valleys of this beautiful country. They talk with headman, the farmer, the woman and kids. They shake the hand of the mine boss, can stomach the boardroom bore and ethical tightropes with the best of MDs and Developers and do the corridor shuffle down the bleak hallways of government buildings..
..but their place is outside in the sun: measuring, plotting, drilling and probing
These workers of the science of the unseen. Most exciting, in my mind. This world below our feet that where, also ions old, fossil water turns.
< sidenote: A recent snippet read – it was a whole article but I can just only process snippets in this too much information world- of the study into the 'memory' of water made me wish I could tap into that world too>
But you don't just 'tap into groundwater'. It's a complicated and much involved science of geology and lithology and soil and gradients and impacts and hydraulics and Darcy's Law....and so much more. And it's also a frontier. Explorers by heart, our scientist map (and use all advanced new ways) and model to help us visualize our 'hidden treasure'.
And now they bring us news (based on scientific data no less) from out there ...from over the river and around the bend.
There is trouble in the land! Our treasure is being depleted...and in some places showing 'no signs of recovery'. Mother nature retaliates, users pollute, over abstract and sometimes just blatantly ignore the impacts that our way of living balancing the economy vs the ecology / environment... have on the world around and below us...
Our last, and in some places, only resort for sustainable living is being threatened.
And then stakeholders gather together and in a chorus affirm each other's concerns and call for action!
...Is the indicator on and blinking yet? And which way will the wheel turn?
How can we insure that we act purposefully and successfully upon these early warnings, I ask myself.
Having been part of the bureaucratic system where I witnessed first-hand how difficult (and cumbersome) the road to implementing any new policy or strategy is, I do a quick relaxation exercise to calm my mind. WE CAN DO THIS.
We can "raise awareness", we can go to press and call to action more stakeholders. Create such 'bottom-up' furore that the powers 'that be' take notice. This bring to mind the huge outcry in Polokwane over the....but that is another story for another day.
We can go to Green Peace <the activist in me that is> or Green Scorpions <has its sting still?> and 'safe our wetlands and the largest freshwater lake in South Africa' campaign it!
But I always stop there in my mind. I look for the possible alternative solution...opposite of the obvious? It is not the first 'early-warning' and not be the last. Not in the least...
Big picture, big solution? Is it possible? For now, until we can find partnerships in like-minded 'Actioneers'..this is a story as old as time...
Perhaps just as old as the groundwater you drink 😉
FOOTNOTE ADDED 27/05/2020 Opinion entirely my own. This piece was penned about a year and a half ago in response to a wetland report that landed in our inbox. I actually still have no idea what was the outcome/ resulted after the report went public.