Water, fire management during a drought

Nari, Normal

The National, Tuesday September 22nd, 2015

 During severe drought conditions, two things become critical – water and fire. Their management is important during the extreme periods to avoid the risks and ill consequences of non-adherence to good practices.  


1. Water management 

Locating water

Rivers and creeks become water sources to many. When people and animals alike use these sources, contamination often occurs. In areas where a river or creek dries up, water can still be found flowing under the dry bed. Wells should be dug in the middle of the dry bed and water found can be allowed to collect into a pool and left to clear. Leaves should be placed over the holes to prevent contamination by animals. As dirt settles, clear water can be collected with cups and brought home for use.

In cases where water is still running, animals and humans should not be allowed to bath in rivers or creeks. Water should be drawn in a bucket or dish for laundry and washing. This should be done more than a metre away on sand or stone banks to minimise contamination.

Where the water source is underground and a well is used, the well should be fenced in. In cases where the water dries up, the well should be dug deeper for water, below the normal level.

In wet marsh or swamp areas, most often the greenest spots are those that have water underneath. These areas should be marked and shallow wells dug. 


Treating water for use

All water brought in for drinking or cooking should be left in clean containers for dirt to settle. Once dirt has settled, clear water on the top should be transferred into drinking bottles for boiling to kill harmful organisms.

Water for cooking should be the next lot that is transferred after removing drinking water. This should be boiled before food is added into the pot. 

Water left in the base should be used to do dishes, washing or laundry.

Prolonging source & use of water

Most natural sources of water have their limits and can dry up after a while. For those in tanks, water depends on how much is used. In many cases, when water is plentiful, wasting occurs. To prevent this, take the following steps: 

  • Always collect enough for the household if more than one family uses the water source;
  • water left after cooking and drinking should be used for livestock;
  • water used to wash vegetables etc, should be given to livestock or gardens;
  • soapy water from laundry and dishes should be used to water gardens. This can help control some insects and pests; 
  • all water use should be restricted to buckets, dishes or other containers where used water can be recycled;
  • those with water supplies or tanks and inbuilt showers should build temporary showers outside in gardens or in tubs to collect and recycle water;
  • children should be encouraged to share showers or baths to minimise the use of water;
  • plants should be deep watered once a week. This means making small drains around the base of plants and pouring water into those drains. Wells should be made on top of mounds to water plants that grow on them;
  • the use of sprinklers should be stopped with hoses being placed at the base of each plant to flood the area around it. This deep watering helps roots of plants to grow deep and away from the surface heat; and,
  • Houses with fencing around them, especially in towns, should have beans growing onto them. Small patches of land should also be used for kitchen gardens. This is to allow gardens benefiting from used water.

Make sure everyone in the family understands the importance and wise use of water.


2. Fire management 

Fire and drought

Fires can cause lots of damages to gardens, houses and forest. People light fires to help make gardens. Some people think that smoke from fires will bring clouds. Other people light fires to burn rubbish, or for no good reason. During a drought, small fires can quickly grow into large bush fires that destroy gardens, timber trees, food trees, animals, and houses, and fill valleys with smoke. 

Fire is a very big problem during a drought. Not only is fire a problem at household level, it causes a lot of havoc for aeroplanes.

For the environment, more smoke and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will lead to increased global warming and more frequent extremes in climate like the droughts and floods being experienced throughout the world. 


How can villages be protected from bush fires?

Cut long grass, weeds or small bushes that can bring a fire right up to houses. Cut dry plants and drag the dry leaves and branches well away from houses. 

Discuss the danger of lighting fires. In many countries, during droughts, no one is allowed to light fires outside. People who light fires can be taken to court and fined. To help protect your village:

  • Don’t let people light fires in gardens;
  • fill any large containers with water and keep them covered;
  • make ladders that are strong and can be used to allow people to get quickly onto a roof to put out a fire in the thatch;
  • make sure buckets are kept in the drum or nearby;
  • make beaters from green branches or have ‘tanget’ plants ready for use to beat out fires while they are still small; and,
  • Any fire in the village, even a small cooking fire must be closely watched. Even small sparks that will normally not cause problems might start a big bush fire.


Can smoke help to make clouds and rain?

Smoke from fires do not make clouds that bring rain. Rain clouds are different to smoke clouds. Do not light fires to try and bring rain. All that will happen is that the fires will burn gardens, houses and perhaps people.