When I turned on the tap to take a shower this morning, about five drops came out and that was all. Later, there should be some water coming, but, if it does, it won’t be a lot. Usually, it comes twice a day for about an hour. Now, it’s only once a day, and not absolutely every day.

In the months before the monsoon, most of India has a shortage of water, and in many places the shortage reaches critical levels. There is an effort on to get Indians to adopt rainwater collection, but it hasn’t taken hold yet. This is something that really needs to happen, as many places face shortages all year and don’t even have clean drinking water nearby at any time.

Anyway, I’m getting back in the habit of being extremely careful with water, something I have to do every year. By American standards, I don’t use much at any time; but by Indian standards, I am prone to using a bit too much, at least in this season.

Even in very upscale neighborhoods in the big cities, there can be acute shortages of water, though it’s usually much worse in the poorer areas, as politics plays a pretty big role in water distribution. In cities, there are often water trucks going round, and people go out with big water jugs to fill up. The affluent send their servants, while the poor have to spend hours every day waiting for the truck themselves. It can be pretty grim. But many places don’t even have water trucks, so when you run out, you’re really stuck.

The secret to managing with a very limited water supply is to use an absolute minimum of running water. Bucket baths are far preferable to showers. Washing dishes is best done with a dish pan, and clothes washing in a bucket. Dirty water from washing clothes and dishes (without a lot of food scraps) can be dumped into a separate bucket to be used for flushing the toilet. Flushing is kept to a minimum, of course. Always keep a bucket or two of clean water on hand for those days when no water comes. And be sure to keep a good supply of drinking water.

Most places in the world are experiencing water shortages as the water becomes more and more polluted and as global warming progresses, so it’s something everyone will have to learn eventually. One of the biggest problems in India is the extremely heavy use of pesticides, which pollutes the water wherever they are used due to runoff. The companies that make pesticides would like the world to believe that they are necessary to grow enough food to feed the world. In reality, by poisoning the land and the water (which means poisoning people and animals who consume that water and the food grown with the pesticides because, yes, they are toxic to humans and animals in any quantity), they are setting the conditions to kill off a substantial portion of the world’s population. Not incidentally, consuming pesticides is probably the leading method of committing suicide in India.

So if you are in India now, even if you are fortunate enough to be staying somewhere that seems to have plenty of water, please be conservative with it.

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