Raising awareness on water conservation

“Using a full tank when flushing consumes up to 45 litres of water per flush; water left running while brushing teeth 13 litres; a shower kept running till hot water reaches the showerhead - 35 litres; long showers - 10 litres; water left running while washing dishes - 50 litres; washing a car with a hose - up to 180 litres,” said water conservation activist Simi Kamal.

“This is how much water literally goes down the drain because people don’t care,” said Kamal, who heads Hisaar Foundation, a local NGO which advocates judicious use of water and offers low-cost practical solutions.

“If we don’t save water now, we will not have enough for anyone,” she said.

According to the World Bank, Pakistan, one of the world's most arid countries, is currently experiencing water stress and will soon face outright water scarcity.

Karachi water facts
Karachi’s current population is 16 million and will double to 32.5 million in the year 2020
Unsafe water kills at least 20,000 children each year in Karachi. The leading cause of child death in Karachi is diarrhoea
Of the 37 major diseases in the developing world 21 are related to water and sanitation
Over 10 million people die each year from water related diseases in the world, over 30,000 of these deaths are in Karachi
The poor in Karachi pay at least 12 times as much for drinking water as the well-off
It is estimated that 40% of water in Karachi is lost through leakage before consumption. Another 25% is wasted by consumers (leaky taps, washing cars, watering lawns, etc)
Source: KWP

Kamal insists Pakistanis should make a conscious effort to conserve water. “It does not mean a change in your lifestyle; all one needs to do is consciously use less water.”

She has put a bucket under her daughter’s shower to collect water. Her modern kitchen has two plastic basins, one with detergent for dirty dishes, the other with clean water for rinsing.

Even the water in the washing machine is re-used. “We don’t run the whole cycle but re-use the soapy water to wash our bathroom floors.”

In her toilet cisterns, you may find bricks - “so less water gets in there and there is less to flush,” she said.

Karachi Water Partnership

Tofiq Pasha Mooraj, who hosts a popular weekly gardening show on a private TV channel, and always ends the show on a “use water carefully” note, is one of 200 activists in the Karachi Water Partnership (KWP), founded by Kamal two years ago. It includes government officials, water experts, urban planners, lawyers and economists, as well as schools, multinationals, and even local government departments. 

Photo: Zofeen Ebrahim/IRIN
Pakistanis are gradually becoming more aware of conserving water

In the last 15 months it has reached out to 200 teachers and 7,000 children in 19 public and six private schools to raise awareness of the need to save water. KWP also repairs pipes and helps raise awareness of sanitation and hygiene issues in government schools.

Women’s Water Network (WWN), formed in November 2008, focuses on urban water and sewage issues. It now has five branches in Karachi.

WWN is also working with Karachi Water & Sewerage Board (KW&SB) inspectors, making them “water ambassadors”. KW&SB has included KWP’s water conservation leaflet in its water bills, said Lily Khan, programme manager for KWP.