I go to take my first shower in the Eco-Village in the small village of Cloughjordan, my first experience with water in Ireland. There is a shower head but not the typical nozzle or handle to turn on to get water pressure and no indication whatsoever of any control of temperature. There is only a button to press on the wall, and when you press it the water turns on for about 15-20 seconds and then turns off and you have to hit it again. Showering like this gave me a new appreciation for how much you water I normally use and how much I actually need. As someone who tends to take longer showers, often just standing there contemplating life, being somewhere that conserves as much water as possible really made me think about and realize that I don’t need all the water I have been using and how important it is to conserve what I can.
Another way that the eco-village in Cloughjordan saves water is by conserving water coming from sinks. When I went to wash my dishes after my first meal I found the sink full of water and immediately went to drain it before washing my dishes. I was quickly stopped by Pa, a resident of the eco-village and owner of the hostel we were staying at, who instructed me to use the water in the sink to wash instead of running the water the entire time while 20 people wash their dishes. While this was something to get used to it did conserve a lot of water and made me appreciate all of the other times i’m using water unnecessarily. The eco-village, while focusing the most on it, was not the only place in Ireland that is conserving water.
On the island of Inis Oirr water must be conserved especially carefully during the summer months, when there can be water shortages. In early June when we were there, water was being ferried to the island from the mainland up to three times a day. This meant that water was a large focus for the community at that time and the hostel we stayed at encouraged us to save as much water as possible. The owner of the hostel explained this on our first day and asked us to take short showers and “only flush when necessary”. In other places in Ireland that didn’t have a water shortage they still focus on conserving water and there were signs in both of the hotels that I stayed in asking people to be conscientious of the water that is used washing towels and bed linens. It was impressive to see how many people and establishments cared about conserving water and how many small changes to daily life can have a large impact.
How many times a day do you use water? See water? It’s probably more than you think. As my professor, Dr. O’Connell said, “You can’t survive without water.” This statement is true. It is crucial to all communities to have a supply of water for drinking, the sink, the shower, and the toilet. Most people do not think twice about their water usage and I was one of them. However, since my trip to Ireland, it is clear that water consciousness and water conservation is very important.
Water conservation in Ireland became evident in our first hostel in the Eco Village in Cloughjordan. Both the sinks and the showers had a push button system for the water. For the sink, I would push the button and water would come out and if my hands weren’t completely rinsed by the time the water ran out I would push it again. The showers also worked on the same push-button system. But, when the button was pressed, the water ran for about 30 seconds. To complete my shower, I had to press the button an uncountable amount of times. This made me pay attention to the amount of water I use when I shower and use the sink.
The other place I visited that stood out in my mind about water consciousness was the hostel, Bru Rhadarch na Mara, we stayed in Inisheer. Inisheer is the smallest of three islands off the coast of mainland Ireland. Since the island is so small, they do not have a freshwater supply. They can no longer use rain water because they have acid rain caused by emissions. Additionally, their aquifers have not been replenished due to dry and hot summers as a result of climate change. In order to get water, they import water from Galway which comes by ship 2-3 times a day. Last year, there were even water restrictions enforced on the island. Since water is limited, there were signs all around our hostel about conserving water. These signs promote short showers and only flushing when necessary. Although these are only two examples of places trying to conserve water, due to climate change, many other places risk drying up their water supply in the future. Therefore, being conscious of water use is important for all communities.
Before shipping out of Boston to Ireland, I read some of the blogs from last year’s trip. I noticed some students talked about push start showers. These showers required you to push a button every 15 seconds to get the water to start. If you forgot to push the button, the water would turn off. Not only did you have to push a button, but you were unable to adjust the temperature of the water. If you got lucky, you had warm water. Hot water was usually scarce when other residents were showering at a similar time. Reading this before I arrived in Ireland, I felt a sense of panic. When I first arrived in the Ecovillage, the first thing I checked was to see if those blog posts were true. To my dismay I saw a button and no way to adjust the temperature. I began to dread the day I had to take a shower. After learning more about the Ecovillage, and the steps they are taking to reduce their carbon footprint, I began to appreciate the way the bathroom was set up. I then took my first ecovillage shower. To my surprise, I did not find it as challenging as I thought it would be. The button restricted people to shorter showers. Which then reduced the amount of water wasted per shower.
In places like Inis Oirr short showers were a way of life. Being on a small island, water can be scarce from time to time and has to be closely monitored. Their struggle to have a consistent water supply, led them to have water shipped to them from Galway twice a week. When I entered the hostel on Inis Oirr, we were informed that they had a water shortage on the island on last year’s trip. This restricted people from using water from 7 pm to roughly 6 am. This was a typical thing that occurred on the island, due to their small water supply. Walking around the hostel, near sinks, showers, and toilets, there were flyers that read, “Keep it short. Water shortage on the island. Thank you!” These flyers served as a constant reminder to keep it short, because of their limited water supply. By either taking a quick shower, not leaving the faucet running, and only flushing when necessary, water supplies would last longer. Coming from a place where I don’t have to worry about water shortages, I suddenly became more aware of my shower time. I used what I learned from my showers in the Ecovillage, to help conserve water during my stay in Inis Oirr.
Water usage is something that some people in America are not conscious about. They seem to think they have an unlimited water supply at their fingertips. Living in these different water usage environments has opened my eyes to become more aware that long and hot showers are not the most necessary thing in the world. These shower set ups got me in the routine of taking shorter showers. After the Ecovillage, I found myself turning off the water when I put in my shampoo and conditioner, then, turning it back on after I was done mixing it in my hair. Living in these water conscious environments exposed us to other ways of living and will allow us to bring these new techniques back to America.
Tired after a day of travel, I picked up my towel, still wet from the night before, and headed for the shower. Pushing every button, I could find, I tried my hardest to figure out how to get the water on. It couldn’t be that hard to turn on a shower, I thought. I was shocked to find out, the water had been shut off two hours earlier. Water is something we often take for granted. Because water is so easily accessible, after a stressful day we come home and take a long hot shower. Or we leave the water running while we brush our teeth and wash our face. In Ireland, even being an island, there is not much fresh water to spare. In the beginning of our journey in Ireland we stayed at the eco village. The eco village opened our eyes to see how spoiled we are, and how we frequently misuse the readily available fresh water. In the shower at the eco village, you had to press a button to get about eighteen seconds of water. Having to continuously press the button to get more water, made me realized how we are so used to taking long showers. I tried personally, to press the button the least amount of times, resulting in a quicker shower. I learned to shampoo my hair then turn the water on to rinse. Later, on the island of Inishmore we discovered the hard way that the water shortage causes the island to turn the water off between 11pm and 8:30am. I spoke with a man in the lobby of the hostel and he said, “I’ve been living here for seventeen years and it has never been this bad. It also hasn’t rained in two months”. Even when rain falls on the islands, it often arrives in brief bursts and quickly continues onto the mainland. The brief bursts of rainfall have not been enough to get the island out of its water deficit situation. After Inishmore, we then went to Inis Oirr where they have the same water shortage as well. The hours on the Inis Oirr island were 8:30pm to 8:30am. After learning about the hours of water restrictions, we learned how to adjust. So many of us students have a showering schedule that we are used to. People prefer showering at different times, but personally I like to shower at night. When we were on Inishmore and the water shut off without a warning, I had to learn to adjust. I woke up earlier to take a shower the next day. This situation opened my eyes to show that we are so fortunate to shower whenever we please and can flush the toilet in the middle of the night. Although many places in the U.S. are experiencing droughts also, they do not take as extensive measures as the islands here off Ireland.