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Clean Water

May 7, 2012

(Chris wrote the following “essay” about clean water in Zambia for a second-grade Girl Scout troop in the US. He thought it might be generally interesting, or even useful, for others as well.)

How often do you think about your water? Every day our whole city lives with a shortage of clean water. The city of Petauke provides water through underground pipes, hooked to a water tower and some boreholes (wells), probably much like your town provides water to you.

Unfortunately, because electricity generation is very unreliable here, the pumps don’t always work. Additionally, there are too many people for not enough water. So, the city water only runs for about 2 hours each day. We get about 1 hour of water first thing in the morning (about 0600 – 0700), and then another hour or so at night (maybe 1800-1930 or so).

This is a problem. What if you want to get a drink at noon, and there’s no water? What if you want to flush the toilet in the middle of the night? What about bathing? Or washing dishes?

If the water only comes for two hours a day, people have to think of a way to store their water inside their house. So most people wait until the water comes on in the morning, and then go outside and fill buckets for their water for the day. Some people have a drum for water (about 200 liters/50 gallons) in their kitchen that they fill up, and then they dip what they need throughout the day. They fill a tin washtub for doing laundry by hand. They put a little in a pot over the fire to heat up for bathing. They fill some water bottles in case they get thirsty.

But on some days, the water doesn’t come at all. Then, the kids are outside in the morning with their empty buckets, waiting for the water to come out of the pipe, but it doesn’t. Then people have to hope that the water they collected the day before will last them through for today as well.

Our family is blessed to have enough money to build a water tank on our property. It’s about 4000L / 1000 gallons. It sits on a 6 meter high tower in our front yard. When the water comes in the morning and at night, the tower fills up. Then, when we need water during the day, we can turn on the sink and water flows out (because of gravity), even if the city water is turned off. The tank is big enough that even on days when there is no city water, we still have enough. Once, the water was off for four straight days. Our tank still had water for our family, and we were able to share with others who had run out.

All of this is true for people who live in the cities and towns. In villages, there is no running water. People have to draw water out of deep wells with buckets on ropes. Sometimes there is a hand pump. It is the children’s job to pump the well enough for the water to come out. Sometimes, if the village is too poor to have a deep well, the people have to draw water from the river or a stream. This water is often very dirty and can make people sick. And the streams can be far from the village. In the dry season, it can be very hard for many people to have water. Sometimes, people even have to dig in dry stream beds to find the water underground.

So next time you turn on your faucet for a drink, or flush your toilet whenever you want, be thankful that there is plenty of clean water where you live. Not everyone has enough!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Val Fischer permalink
    May 7, 2012 9:13 am

    What a great commentary on something we take for granted here in the US. Dennis from Fairhaven who is going to Gabon will be fixing solar electricity panels. He will be trying to correct the electrical problems of a hospital. This is another just assumed necessity enjoyed by many.

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