Water… I have read articles that discussed possible future wars over water and logically their reasoning made sense, but I did not understand the emotions behind it until moving to the Kgalaghadi. We have now been a week without water although luckily we spent the weekend in Moshupa for a writer’s retreat with a few other volunteers. This allowed us to rehydrate, bathe, etc. Although we have gone up to 2 weeks before without water normally I was able to get some at work or a neighbor’s tap works. This time there is no water at work and a larger part of Hukuntsi is out of water. Apparently a water main broke week+ ago Sunday night (May 20th, the first night below freezing, so I would not be surprised to find out it froze).
There are a few main things we use water for:
- Washing dishes
- Washing clothes
- Flushing the toilet (we do have a pit latrine outside, but when water comes on we tend to use the one inside instead)
For us normally water comes on around 9-10pm and is off by 5am although this varies day to day and it is not uncommon for it not to be on at all some nights. While reading this, keep in mind that I know that water will come on eventually and I know I can find water somewhere in the village most likely. I also have no kids of my own whose well being I have to worry about.
Here’s what happens in our minds during a water shortage:
24 hours without water: I assume this is just a day that is skipping and it will be on the next day. I normally skip a bath or washing clothes and conserve when we flush just in case, but everything else stays normal.
2-4 days without water: I assume it could be a couple more days without water and go to work with my water bottle empty and try to return with it filled. Normally 20-35% of our water storage might be gone by then. We also check the outside taps just in case the pressure can get to there but not up to the house. We might ask a neighbor or two if they have any.
4-5 days without water: Definitely no bathing (unless we have baby wipes or something), no toilet flushing (try to only use the pit latrine), minimal amount of water is used for cooking and dishes are washed in dirty water (for example I made pasta last night and washed the dishes in the water I drained off after cooking). We start bringing in extra bottles to work to fill and bring home. Over 50-75% of our water storage is gone and I begin to assume it could be a week or two without water.
5-6 days without water: I stop even trying to drink the amount of water I should and get irritated with having so much dried food to cook like beans and rice. Water is foremost on my mind and I become more and more irritable over time.
Of course the whole time water is a part of every conversation I have with someone and I am often not the one to bring it up unless I am trying to find out who does and doesn’t have it to find out where to get it. Some of the smaller villages or settlements have much larger issues with water than us and the amazing thing is that there is water in the reservoirs underground. The big issue is the system that has been put in place to allow a standpipe brought to every house and clean water. The idea is great and in the bigger villages it does not often go out for more than a day or two but the farther you get from the more highly populated areas the more issues there are.