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On Saturdays we bath in water for Canitoga
by Silke Gehrmann-Becker | 3/19/2011

A shock. A scream. A death - and rescue for St. Peter is nigh. Whoever had the good fortune to grow up in the film world of my grandparent's generation, back with the repeats of the repeats that we children of the Seventies enjoyed, will know the melodrama. Hansjörg Felmy as Roman Blatter, hanging from a rope in the glacier wall, in pursuit of "holy water" in the Swiss canton of Wallis as the source of life, namely to ensure that the destroyed mountain pipe started to feed water to the valley again. The list of Sunday afternoon TV thrills could be continued at random, from "Wasser für Canitoga" (Water for Canitoga), in which Hans Albers sang "Goodbye Johnny" to the best of his ability, via "Und ewig singen die Wälder" (Duel with Death), in which Björndal's inheritance has to be save by river, through to the ‘houseboat' on which Sophia Loren and Cary Grant test their wills. Water has always flowed across the screens, and not just since Leonardo di Caprio voluntarily commended his soul (how could he?!) to the ocean, we have been defined by all those fateful events that H2O brings to the life of us earthlings.

The moral consequence to be derived from such early experiences is short: Water is precious. Saturdays is bath day. Your siblings can then dip in the soapy brew you left behind. Take rainwater from the butt to water the flowers. A guilty conscience when pouring the water from the jar in which you dipped your paintbrush down the sink. And the washing machines also played along - they did not rinse until you pressed the orange "continue" button, only then did fresh water come rushing over the laundry for another rinse.

The first dishwashers in the 1980s also triggered collective family conflicts of conscience: Did these things not simply use too much water - and can we really allow that? A phase of greedy tableware consumption ensued, with dishes taken from all the cupboards, and exaggerated car washing in front of the garage, to present your very first car to your friends ready for the trip to the disco. You only drank mineral water from a local spring, and your local supermarket certainly did not boast anything from French volcanic rocks or Italian thermal springs.

Then came the French handbag-sized waters, and for the first time people started philosophizing about greenhouse gases and icebergs. We'd already repressed the idea of acid rain and instead hungrily bought Michael Graves "9093" kettle for Alessi - design to save the world and water, that is what it was about. The concepts for a set of containers on the beach at Kühlungsborn, intended to explain the water cycle to kids in a comprehensible way, took a backseat given the greater fun of study trips now possible. Later, we were sorely tried by the Chair of Ecology and Design, when we headed for the Vosges hills, with almost nothing with us but a few old water bottles, with dirt at the bottom of them. What a thrill the first shower then was and emphatic thoughts about the civilization we enjoyed over the next few weeks - no tap left running by the 20 youthful design minds while brushing their teeth. The path was cleared, H2O now got joined by CO2.

Today, in the Western world there is much dispute over the pros and cons of saving water. Little water in the pipes spells germs, as the pipes do not get flushes sufficiently. And getting rid of the germs means additional costs. Water then becomes more expensive and the ghost of leak tests on private drain pipes will continue to stalk us until Dec. 31, 2015.

Figures released by BDEW, the German Federal Association for the Energy and Water Industries, show that personal water consumption in Germany fell 17 percent between 1990 and 2009. The reason given: the new technologies used in households and by industry, making Germany and Belgium the trailblazers among the industrialized nations. It bears noting here that in 2007 of the 188 billion cubic meters of water made available as public water supplies, "only" 32.3 billion cubic meters were actually used. According to BDEW calculations, only 17 percent was extracted from the water cycle and then returned to it. In 1980, the German federal government's water supply report assumed that per capita water consumption would rise to 219 liters per inhabitant per day in 2000; in actual fact, consumption was 136 liters, despite the increasing attraction of playing wellness oasis in our own bathrooms.

The ISH in Frankfurt once again built a bridge between end consumer and industry. The "world keynote fair" for innovative bath designs, energy-efficient heating and climate technology and renewable energies bundled issues relating to water and energy resources and essentially combined two fairs under one roof. Visitors could look to what degree design pins its colors to the mast and shows itself able to work for the environment.

Doris Day and Rod Taylor knew full well that it was a small step for mankind from water to the moon, and that NASA would claim to have found water on Mars: In the "Glassbottom Boat" of 1966 the two are superbly combined and, moreover, both designers and end consumers experience the dream of mobile suction robots - but that's another story.

Graphics: Alejandro Mosquera Ochoa, Stylepark
Graphics: Alejandro Mosquera Ochoa, Stylepark