Saturday, 16 March 2013

The drought isn't just in Auckland, of course - the drought is in the whole North Island. I'm in Auckland though.

Do you remember the drought in 1994? I was eight. We studied it in school, and the backyard grew deep, dry cracks that reached all the way down to the centre of the earth. My brother found some 44 gallon drums to link up to the downpipe on the roof, even though there wasn't any rain, even though why would we want rainwater even if it did rain? They did catch water eventually, which was never used for anything (why would you need to water the garden in the rain) and grew vast colonies of mosquitoes to torture us all.

There was another drought in 1998, although not as bad. That year we played under the trees: pulling apart pine needles (if you get the nobbly bit at the top, you get a wish), and looking for dinosaurs in the bush behind the school.

It occurs to me now, that the endless summers of my childhood aren't some trick of the memory. The months and months of endless sun were the reality for everyone. It also explains adult's obsession with water distribution: family trips to the pump house at Lake Pupuke ("All the water used to come from this lake! ...Yes, even though it had duck poos in it."), and to the dams in the Waitakeres ("Your grandfather helped build that dam! See, the sign has his name on it.") and my grandmother showing us the spot on the beach between Takapuna and Milford where you can drink fresh water from the sand. ("It comes from Lake Pupuke; all around here used to be a volcano, and volcanic rock is very porous so it filters through. ...It doesn't have enough duck poo in it to matter, and it tastes fresh.")

Later, they put in a pipe to bring us more water. There was worry in the paper about whether that water had poo in it. It came from a river - somewhere. The paper was as big as a bedsheet, too big to read in a chair or at the table, so I spread it out on the floor in the sun and sprawled over it. Sanitation Fears With New Water Pipe, said the paper.

That pipe brings us enough water so we don't have to worry - too much. We're not going to run out of water, like Wellington might. There's still superficial shows of solidarity. People aren't washing their cars as much. On the curbsides, the grass is dead and cracked, while over the fence, there is an oasis.

This tension between inside/outside is palpable. Don't let the neighbours think we're wasting water, think of all the poor farmers/the kids love playing on the lawn and in the pool.
Some of the houses on this street are being done up. These people just got new grass put in a couple of weeks ago. You can understand the hose. It must have cost them a fortune, all that grass. 
These people got new grass as the same time as their neighbours.
There are differences which just can't be explained away by a change in elevation. Some people have pipes, and some people don't.


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