Water, beautifully complicated.

Aldert Brink
To know Water is to love Water

Talking about water is interesting, intriguing, and intimidating.

Water forms part of a very complicated combination of systems and processes to ensure sustainability and support life on earth. The natural water cycle does wonders to regulate temperature, influence weather patterns, and continuously circulate and clean water naturally. Interesting and intriguing. 
However, due to population growth, we are seeing changes in weather patterns and tremendous pressure on this natural cycle that can simply not keep up with the high demand from human activity. Intimidating!
To deal with intimidating stuff, we can try to better understand water by using the acronym VUCA. VUCA is a concept originating from the military by which one tries to understand and face intimidating challenges. It is also widely used in the business sector. Let's take a closer look at water in this context.


Something that is characterised by, or subject to rapid or unexpected change. Water is one of the most volatile substances on earth. Its ease of vaporising and condensing gives the natural water cycle its power, but this is also its weakness. Humans cannot control water but we have managed to manipulate and cleverly use water to our advantage.


Meaning “indefinite – not reliable – not constant – unpredictable”. Changing weather patterns differing from year-to-year, makes rainfall increasingly unpredictable as we see more flash floods and dry spells all over the globe. Unlike the sun that we know rises and sets everyday like clockwork, water has a mind and will of its own. This makes long term planning for economic development very difficult with unreliable availability of water. The positive side is that it can surprise us with the most amazing or unexpected events.


“A whole made up of complicated or interrelated parts”. Considering the complexity and sensitive balance of the natural water cycle and adding complex man-made infrastructure and processes, almost make water impossible to manage. Water has a massive influence on social, political, historical and economic factors.


“Doubtful or uncertain – capable of being understood in two or more possible senses or ways”. The world is an ambiguous place. People’s understanding of life and the things life hands to us are understood and explained in many ways. People’s understandings of life are influenced by amongst others: social status, upbringing, education, age, gender, etc. A politician or a scientist would have different approaches to the same problem. Talk to the scholar and rock star about water matters and you will realise that water matters to both, but in completely different ways. Put an economist in the mix and we’ll have an interesting conversation. Water can be understood in many different ways.
Describing water as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous only sheds some light as to why water is intimidating. In fact, it may now even be more intimidating. That is very true, but it also deconstructs the intimidation into biteable sizes. It does not make water more controllable, reliable, simple or the understanding of it more universal. Water cannot (and should not) be changed, but human behaviour can. We can choose to get a deeper understanding of water and we can choose to be responsible water users. 
As the year draws to a close, it is that beautiful time where scholar and rockstar put aside their differences. When the biggest complexity in life may be volatile family dynamics at the Christmas dinner or the uncertainty of a loved one's reaction to your gift. It is a time of year that we want to put the VUCA of life aside and treasure family and friends. You can control the outcome of the festive season by controlling your expectations of the people in your life.
There are some things that is not within our control and may surprise, confuse or even intimidate us this festive season. Visiting Europe, wishing for a white Christmas ("But observations over the last decades show that snow is in shorter supply..."), hitching the caravan to the Western Cape, welcoming you with rockfalls and flash floods (despite it being a winter rainfall area), embarking on a road trip through a thoroughly wet and flooded Karoo, or spending the holiday at home - in the dark… Just to name a few.
Wherever you find yourself during this time, take a minute to think about water. Then, take a good few minutes to appreciate water. Isn't it true that almost always, when we find a moment that recharges and rejuvenates, it involves water? Staring at the ocean, listening to the tranquil sound of a forest stream, experiencing the thundering roar of a waterfall, or being in awe of the soft magical dance of snowflakes making their way to the ground. May we all find those moments, and be quiet enough to LET IT refresh and renew.
Contemplating new year's resolutions is next on the calendar. Everything controllable that went out of control along with any new challenges, will become the new notes on the fridge. Some resolutions for 2022 have been met, others got blown off by the hustle and bustle of life. (Go and have a look, you may just find a few under the fridge).
Add a note or a magnet on the fridge this year as a reminder to be mindful of water and conscious of your water use. South Africa is a water scarce country. We should not let the abundance of rain and full dams in some parts of South Africa make us complacent. NOW is the time to save water - while we have water to save. Here is a metaphor we can easily relate with, charge your batteries while the power is on 😉.
Changing our water-behaviour and water-attitude in 2023 cannot only be a note on the fridge or a good intention, it needs to be an action. Follow through with a personal commitment, a series of daily pro-water choices and a mission to bring about change in our collective behaviour towards water.
Here's to being committed Water Stewards in 2023 and beyond.

And here's to the beauty and complexity of Water! 🥂
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