Water. Water is life. Water is the epitome of cycle and recycle.
There is really so much to talk about when it comes to water, it’s actually mind-blowing.
Water is one of the five elements of nature, water is the source of all life, our bodies are made out of water. There is an often recited quote ‘Be water my friend’ by Bruce Lee. There are water blessings, purification rituals and the importance of holy water in different religions. People speak about water conservation projects.
The importance of water in our lives is obvious, which is why we decided to create a blogpost to share information on water and how it relates to Bali, our home, to create awareness around it and what we can do to preserve clean water.
Word Water Day – an advocate for fresh water
March 22nd is World Water Day. Since 1993 this day celebrates water as the source of life and raises awareness not only around the importance of fresh water, but also the billions (yes, billions!) of people on this planet that do not have access to safe water. It is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis. A core focus of World Water Day is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030.
Clean water is a scarcity. It is under an extreme threat from a growing population, increasing demands of industry and agriculture and the devastating impacts of climate exchange. According to a report launched by UN Water in February 2021 2.2 billion people lack safe access to drinking water and 4.2 billion people (55% of the world population) lack access to proper sanitation.
This year’s theme on World Water Day is ‘Valuing Water’ and asks the question what water means to you, generating a global, public conversation on social media about how people value water for all its uses. How is water important to your home and family life, your livelihood, your cultural practices, your wellbeing, your local environment?
What does water mean to us?
The Energy of Water
'Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.' – Lao Tzu
Humans come from nature and – if we listen closely enough – are constantly being called to be in nature, to immerse into the elements, to yield into matter, ether, water. Water is the driving force of all nature.
Water is strength, water is nurture, water is soft, water is at times brutal and relentless.
Water asks us to yield, to observe the reciprocity of meeting and being met - ourselves and our environment. When we draw strength from the element of water we draw strength from the liquid aspects of ourselves buried deep within.
Water tackles emotions, inviting us to flow in the current and energies of life without resistance. Water asks us to yield and surrender. To just float atop to see where the waves will carry us next.
Holy Water in Bali
‘Holy Water is an agent of the power of a God, a container of mysterious force. It can cleanse spiritual impurities, fend off evil forces, and render the recipient immune to the attacks of negative, or demonic, influences. In Bali, holy water is not a symbol, or something abstract – it is a sekala (tangible, visible) container of a niskala power (intangible, invisible), and as such is sacred and holy in and of itself. The water strengthens and purifies everything it touches. Although there are many kinds and potencies of holy water, no matter where or by whom it is made and no matter whether its quantity is great or small, holy water is always a sacred and powerful agent.’
– Excerpt from Holy Water, Substance and Symbol from Bali Sekala & Niskala written by Fred B. Eiseman Jr.
The importance of water on the island of Bali shows itself in a myriad of ways. There is no ritual in Bali that is held without the use of holy water. Holy water can be found everywhere and its ‘harvesting’ is a sacred procedure in itself.
As the quote above shows, in Balinese Hinduism water is both formless and form simultaneously. It holds integrity as much as permeability. It is sacred and holy.
Water blessings and purification rituals, whether they appear in small family compounds or entire villages or even the entire island (as we have just recently experienced with Nyepi), are a big part of everyday life.
This includes the so-called Subak system, the irrigation systems that are a traditional water management method to water rice fields. Subak for Balinese is more than just an irrigation system, but also the concept of life for the people of Bali itself, as it ensures continuity in the cycle of life and provides the lifeblood of the Balinese - rice. It is a concept that is based on sacredness and community.
The strength of the Subak system, that has been around for centuries, is found in its spiritual element: life in the subak revolves around the pura, a temple specially built by farmers to worship the Goddess Sri. Every rice field has a shrine, every subak a temple, and up to 15 blessing ceremonies are held per season to ensure a good harvest. The water management is under the authority of the priests in water temples, who practice the so called Tri Hita Karana Philosophy, a self-described relationship of harmony between humans, the earth/nature and the gods which – when in balance – instills prosperity and wellbeing.
Balinese rice farmers organise theirselves through Subak associations. All members abide by the same rules with each allotted work concerning the amount of water they receive. Subak supports in particular the small agriculturalists by assuring them of water, guard irrigation channels against divertion of water for use that isn’t in service of the community, repair any damages in the dikes, and organize celebrations at an auspicious time, such as the completion of a harvest.
At least once a month a general meeting is held dedicated to the agricultural deities. Subak associations are essential to the prosperity of the Balinese people. The mountainous nature of the land makes irrigation extremely difficult. Only through this full cooperation among neighbouring farmers have the Balinese become known as the most efficient rice growers in the archipelago. Due to its uniqueness and effectiveness the Subak system is enlisted as a World UNESCO Heritage site.
Video Courtesy of Ministry of Education and Culture The Republic of Indonesia
Water scarcity in Bali
Despite its importance in the daily life of the Balinese freshwater in Bali is increasingly at stake due to diminishing fresh water tables, salt water intrusion into fresh water and massive water quality/pollution issues. Particularly the river banks are incredibly polluted due to the lack of infrastructure, but also awareness of the local population about their impact of waste disposal near water lines. Due to the reallocation of waste management funds for COVID response central landfills had to close in the last year leaving many local villagers no other alternative than to dump waste illegally.
World Water Day is a beautiful reminder that there are numerous brands and charities out in the world that are contributing to the preservation of freshwater, to solutions for the developing world for safe access and sanitation.
Here are a few of our favourites:
Sungai Watch: https://makeachange.world/sungaiwatch
Aquamarine, a stone of water
Aquamarine is very powerful stone to stimulate psychic powers and increasing awareness. It enables us to create a link between our intuition to our conscious mind. The very thing that lies beyond what is tangible. Just like water.
Bali Sekala & Niskala written by Fred B. Eiseman Jr.
Wikipedia Subak System