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The Drought: Water VigilantesAuthor: Simon Sellars • Feb 7th, 2007 •
Beware the water cops (photo: Sandy Scheltema; courtesy Age newspaper)
Here in Victoria we’re undergoing a severe drought; heavy water restrictions are in force and things are projected to get much worse.
A sign of the times is the appearance of “water vigilantes”, as reported in the Age newspaper:
MARGARET Norriss is living in fear. The retired teacher is so scared of the emergence of water vigilantes that she doesn’t dare hose her front garden, even though she has been using a rainwater tank for the past nine years. “The whole thing is turning the community against one another,” Ms Norriss told The Sunday Age. “It’s becoming like Big Brother and I’m starting to feel very uncomfortable.”
She is not alone. Garden envy is rife and threatening to spill over to open hostility as the State Government asks the community to anonymously “dob in a water cheat”. Monash University academic David Dunstan fears the growing hysteria about water is threatening our sense of community as “neighbour is pitted against neighbour”.
Like an increasing number of Melburnians, Ms Norriss is terrified of being wrongly accused of breaking the new water restrictions. Terrified at the thought of a knock on the door from the “water police”. She has hung a sign on her front fence declaring only non-town water is in use. But that hasn’t stopped the abuse and glares of people as they slow to pass her Northcote home.”
Anyone who’s read Ballard’s Drought will surely notice the chilling parallel with the book’s Reverend Johnstone and his tub-thumping militia. Of Johnstone, Ballard writes:
By a strange logic he seemed to believe that the battle against the drought, like that against evil itself, was the local responsibility of every community and private individual throughout the land, and that a strong element of rivalry was to be encouraged between the contestants, brother set against brother, in order to keep the battle joined.
Johnstone brushed aside the money with the barrel of the shot-gun. ‘We take no cash for water here, son. You can’t buy off the droughts of this world, you have to fight them. You should have stayed where you were, in your own home.’ “
As we swelter down under, I’ll keep you informed as to whether the remainder of the Australian summer follows the prophecy outlined in the rest of Ballard’s book.
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