Life on the dry side of the planet

Alberto trying to save the banana plant In 2013 I had the chance to visit my family and spend a year in a little village “somewhere in the middle of Colombia”. In most part of the country there are two seasons: the rainy and the dry one. In the recent years the dry season became critical and I could experience myself how difficult it makes people’s everyday life. My sometime neighbour’s story can describe better how critical problem is the decrease of potable water today in many places:


“When I was a little girl, Christmas was my favourite time of the year. Today, I fear it the most, to be exact I fear from what is coming after Christmas…Burning heat, dry land, not a single drop of rain. First, the nearby lake dries out, then the upper one. We used to get water for our house from that lake. The side of the road is covered with fine, thick layers of dust. Trees are loosing more and more leaves, in order to keep some water inside, they are trying to adopt to the dry season. Rain only comes maybe two times a month.The struggle of survival begins.


In the house everything is about saving water. »Don’t flush the toilet yet! You can also wash the floor with that dishwashing leftover! Please, stop the water int he shower when you are just soaping yourself! During shaving, stop the water! Use a glass for brushing your teeth!« And the list goes on…

We only wash with one rinse and afterwards the used water is led to the plants. My father used to say: this is still better than dying of thirst.

We save the last drop of water even when washing a tomato: we collect every little bit of water, then wait for the evening to water the papaya tree. Because watering the palnts during daytime would cause the water to evaporate and make it a total waste.

Unlike in europe, the grass does not turn green later if it dries out. Here we have to plant it over again. I don’t have much energy to replant it, because I know that it will dry out eventually. We don’t keep cattles anymore, it doesn’t make sense anylonger. Since our upper neighbour fenced his land, we have no place to take them to drink.

The remaining little green we have is gone in the night when the leaf-cutter ants come and take it all away. Snakes are sneaking closer to the house in hope of some water. Frogs are sleeping in the dog’s water ball.


Every single morning we go to see the lake and pray for it. Then, my mother wanders around the lemon trees, talks to them, caresses them. God knows if this is helping…

In the rainy season we use the water pouring down from our rooftop. We use it for everything except drinking. We bring our drinking water supplies from our relatives in the city. We collect rainwater in a tank beneath our house. In case that is all gone we fill it up from the lakes from the neighbourhood. In an ideal case we get water for three hours, three times a week. Now, in the dryness we only get one hour, three times a week. In the end we are happy about any water, even if it comes only once in a week.

We used to have plenty of friends and visitors before. Now we are forced to ask them not to come because our toilet doesn’t even work properly and it smells badly. We don’t go to their houses either. Why? Because we have to water our plants, we have to sit around and wait for the water to come from the lake. It can come in any hour of the day.

The most dangerous effects of the dry season are the sudden forest fires. Last time it burnt three farms in our neighbourhood. We barely couldn’t stop the fire…


We are arguing more and more with each other. In the family and in the neighbourhood also. We are slowly loosing our patience. My father can not spend breakfast in peece with Mom. There are some who are trying to steel from the common water supply or they just simply block the way of water in their land. Last time someone stood on the hose with his car and we were cut out from the water supply system.

At the end of the drought we are avoiding others because we feel scruffy and dirty. You know, being clean and showering is saint for us. We take a shower and dress in tidy even before going to the market. We cannot do that now… We don’t feel comfortable this way. If only there was a more effective way to collect and reuse the water we are using and wasting!”

Laura Gomez, Colombia

These stories are what keeps us up at night, why we are working on Gris water saving system, why we are eager to make this idea happen as soon as possible. If you’d like to get more information about our project, you can subscribe to the Gris Newsletter here.

CEO and Chief Designer
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Can water consumption be reduced in the Third World?

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Gris water saving system designed by Alberto Vasquez, founder of IgenDesign

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1 thought on “Life on the dry side of the planet

  1. Pingback: New success of the Gris waters saving system on the Hungarian Design Week! | IgenDesign – Product Design and Innovation Consultants

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