Saturday, November 21, 2009

Water Survey

dogpossum just posed a question over on Twitter. Weeks running she's been watching her neighbour spend a long time hosing his balcony, watching the water run off and go nowhere.

For anyone who's lived with Level 6 water restrictions such a blatant waste of water is shocking, especially when there are clear alternatives for cleaning one's balcony. Sweeping comes to mind. And maybe you could even use a mop and bucket if you're concerned about dust.

There are by-laws against such blatant wastage, so it's not exaggerating too much to dub such behaviour criminal. One can be fined if a council inspector happens to be passing by.

Of course, council inspectors have many things to occupy them, so those in authority rely on citizens to survey other citizens to keep us all in order. For this they offer hotlines and websites where you can provide details of any breach one might witness.

dogpossum clearly went to the effort of looking up the option to report her neighbour, perhaps at my prompting, I don't know. At any rate, she decided against reporting her neighbour for breaching Sydney's Water Wise rules, and is going to try the 'one-on-one guilt' approach.

Anecdotal evidence convinces me that people who can stand and water concrete slabs for hours aren't likely to be very receptive to such tactics, but I won't attempt to talk dogpossum out of her chosen course of action.

What does interest me, however, is her characterisation of herself as 'anal' should she fill in the anonymous report.

Immediately upon reading this I thought of all those Foucault-informed arguments about discipline and governance and the surveillance society. If we were talking about those television ads where we're all encouraged to watch our neighbours for suspicious, potentially terrorist activities, I'd be critical of the constant exhortation to report people of Middle-Eastern appearance who carry backpacks. In this particular instance, however, I wonder if there is some merit in surveillance.

Is reporting your neighbour for wasting water the thin end of the surveillance society wedge, only undertaken by the paranoid, or is it a legitimate thing to watch out for anyone who would squander a precious resource that many in the world don't have ready access to? Is it 'anal' or responsible? Or is it something you only resort to after your water wasting neighbour has told you to fuck off and mind your own business?

Your thoughts are welcome.

1 comment:

dogpossum said...

This is interesting stuff.

One of the reasons I won't say anything for a while is that we're new in the community (and many people living in this unit complex have referred to it as a community), so I want to get the lay of the land before I wade in, kicking arse. I've also found that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. He could just be super-cleaning because he's recently retired (he is) and bored (as am I). So he might be interested in taking up an offer of assistance with that sort of job, or with my asking _him_ for help with something. We're talking about a middle aged man, here, so the latter will be a better option. Once we have rapport, I can start working on water wise ness.

There's also been a recent meeting for those residents interested in 'going green' in our complex. He wasn't at the meeting. But we generally talked about larger, complex-wide as well as individual options, and i think there's scope to gradually draw in everyone else in the complex.

I've noticed that there are two groups missing from the AGM, the green meeting and generally about the complex (ie they're not high profile, chatting and saying hello the way everyone else is): the non-English speaking residents (of whom there are many, seeing as how we're in Ashfield) and the renters. The over-represented? White, middle class retired men. The AGM was typically dominated by these blokes, and consequently (inevitably?) quite aggressive.

I'm a big old social worker's daughter and long-term community-events organiser and participant in cooperative/collaborative projects, so I'm already thinking of ways of shifting the power dynamics and being more inclusive. These sorts of plans are necessarily long-term, though. And must be multi-pronged if they are to have any efficacy at all. And, of course, it's important to remember that sometimes _not_ being involved is as important an option as any other, and must be respected. I'm especially aware of this when I'm doing stuff like swimming in the pool. Some people aren't cool with a young woman wearing what amounts to her underwear trying to make friends.

But we'll see how we go.