Reflections on Water

Shortly after I moved to Brisbane in June 2007 a little package appeared in our mailbox.  It contained a polite letter explaining the civic need to conserve water in the midst of a severe drought and a 4-minute shower timer.  Fresh off the boat from the USA, I was aghast that 1) The Government could dictate shower lengths; 2) they sent out hundreds of thousands of egg timers; 3) my housemates laughed and stuck it in the shower.

Recreational showering never held much joy for me, but 4 minutes?  Honestly?  To my surprise, I discovered I could thoroughly clean myself in the set time.  The habit of 4-minute showers stuck with me long after we lost the timer.

The news at the time reported the capacity level of Wivenhoe Dam (primary reservoir for Brisbane) every night, and we listened with great interest.  When the rains came, we triumphed, “Did you hear? Wivenhoe hit 56% capacity last night!”

Now Wivenhoe sits at 187% capacity, which means without controlled releases, the dam could burst.  Remember me excusing stringy hair because of the rain?  It’s been raining for six weeks.  Soft, steady rain, not like the crashing summer storms of my childhood in hurricane alley.  I didn’t expect flooding to come of such lovely kind rain.   We took pictures for our holiday dresses the other day at a sunken garden near the river.  I’m sure the flood swallowed it.

(See the white posts?  They mark the wall that drops down to the river normally.)

 The controlled releases contributed to the flooding in central Brisbane- all that water had to go somewhere.  I’m high and dry, if a trifle mildewed, and I ponder the difference between the days of 4-minute showers and the present state of “water water everywhere.”

Queensland’s vegetables, our fruit, the sugarcane and cotton crops, the cattle all decimated.  My own happy tomatoes in the backyard rotted with fruit still on the vines.  My husband reports grocery shelves stripped bare.   Fruit and vegetable prices are set to increase 100%, and we hear constant warnings of flood-borne disease.  Hello, Dengue

The best news?  Monsoonal rain forecast for the next several months.

I count my blessings and when the water starts to go away, I’ll grab a mop and see what I can do to help out.  Expect follow-ups.

In an unrelated topic, here’s what I wore today:

 I like the pieces together, my version of “vintage.”  Most of it is hemp.


  1. Oh gosh, I didn't know you were in Qld! Do take care, I hope you, your family and friends are safe. Now if only some of that water could get distributed among the areas that still have drought! Or sent to perth where the fires are… mad weather lately.

  2. My heart really goes out to everyone whose home has flooded. As a child in Tampa our house flooded in 1985 with Hurricane Elaina. Flooding is so dirty. The sewers back up, mud is deposited, things are damp and smelly. And usually the weather is humid, so it is difficult to get anything to dry out. It's hard to save much. The BBC is reporting on this constantly and everyone is talking about it. My thoughts are with all the people stranded who are vulnerable and cut off, little kids, the elderly chronically ill, etc.

  3. Some of the stories are truly heart-breaking, I pray for them and try not to dwell on it too much.Kevin Rudd, the former Prime Minister, has really shown himself to be a man of the people. He worked without resting (he's a perfectionist workaholic anyway) to help people evacuate, and wryly described debating with a local man about why he should leave his home (because it would shortly be under water!). Imagine, a statesman of his caliber… He even helped an old lady move a piano… I'm not kidding.

  4. And yeah, my house is stinking with mildew and full of bugs and reptiles seeking shelter from the sodden earth, but I feel I have little to complain about.

  5. I've been following the flooding with interest since the area where I live had its 25th anniversary last year of a major flood. However, it didn't wipe out cattle and cause fruite and veggie prices to increase 100%!You look fresh and bright in your outfit!Good luck.

  6. I just read some tragic stories about victims of the flooding. Glad to hear you are not directly affected.On another note, when I lived in Australia I was initially confused about the two buttons on the toilet. A roommate explained it to me rather bluntly. I just noticed in the hardware store the same thing here- just now catching on I guess.

  7. I really admire how conservation is part of the culture here. Ordinary people breathe fire from their mouths when talking about protection of native species, the two buttons on the toilets (liquids and solids, friends), the front loading washers that use a ridiculously small amount of water, the prevalence of household solar panels, everyone hangs out their laundry, etc etc etc. I might do a post on these admirable aussie traits in the future…

  8. We've never recieved a shower timer, but I figure showering every other day and washing my hair once a week cuts down on water usage anyway.My husband is an American import and I've never though to ask him how he feels about all our water fanatacism. Then again, he lived in the desert in CA so maybe he's used to it?(I've been lurking for a while and figured you were in either QLD or NT from a comment about houses on stilts, glad to hear you're simply mildewy and not under water.)

  9. Oh, and the toilet thing – we had a septic tank when I was growing up, and the toilet only got flushed if there were solid contents, or we had visitors around. For us it was necessity, but I've since learned that other non-septic-tank-burdened people do the same thing. I think thats taking things a bit too far.

  10. @ Sarah—that's the rule at my grandmother's farmhouse as well. She also still has an old washer (complete with mangle) that doesn't drain after every load; every Monday she starts with the cleanest load and works through to the dirtiest. It seems to work…They have a cistern and well, but it often goes dry.Glad that you're dry(ish), Steph, and I really hope things improve there, soon. :(

  11. So glad you are safe and dry… have been watching some of it on TV here in SA… horrible. I heard K-Rudd talking about how people tend to forget that Brisbane is on such a major river, with a substantial flow. This sure is a land of extremes.Toilet-wise, we mostly go by the "if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down" mantra here. Unless there are visitors!

  12. So glad to hear you are OK. I've heard that people who have experienced fires and floods always say that floods are the worst, the mess and clean up job that is left must be heartbreaking. I've been pretty impressed with the QLD pollies and how they have handled the disaster as well.

  13. I've been wondering how you are doing with the floods. I'm glad to hear you are high and dry (well, damp), but my heart aches for all those other people.My whole childhood was swings of drought and deluge. I know all about the worlds fastest showers, long-drops when there wasn't enough water for flush toilets, AND getting up in the middle of the night to move all the furniture to the second story.

  14. Weird.. I can't seem to volunteer. By the time friends we knew who *might* have flooded were reachable, they had been cleaned out. We keep going to volunteer stations and being turned back. I just want to shovel mud!

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