I still remember evenings watching the news and listening to stories about the infamous water crisis of sub-Saharan Africa. At the time, I didn’t really give it a second thought (that’s not to say I didn’t care, I just never felt affected by it nor did I feel I could do anything to really change or help). Now, let me tell you, it is one thing to hear and see images of other people suffering from the so-called water crisis, but it is a completely different issue when you are actually experiencing this water crisis.
For the past four months (at least), the town council has stopped pumping water to my site. Initially this wasn’t a surprise, often the water being pumped goes in and out on a weekly basis, and so at first no one really thought anything of it. After two months, we realized there was a problem. After weeks of going back and forth with the town council arguing about paying for water that is not being pumped, the town council finally told us there was a problem in the piping (which I don’t believe but hey, I guess you have to take whatever excuse you can get). By the time we got this reasoning for the lack of pumped water, it had easily been three months since we had any pumped water. We had been relying on the rank tank reserve water the whole time (again, this wasn’t really a problem, at first). After having relied on the rank tank reserves for almost four months, we realized that our reserves were soon going to run out (and surprise, surprise, within the next few weeks they did). So, for the past two weeks my site has had no water. I had to get people coming from Kampala, Masaka or Kyotera to bring me water so at least I’d have drinking water. I had one last Jerri can of water I was saving to bathe with (I had reduced my bathing to once a week out of necessity…gross, I know). I had been putting off washing my hair for weeks because it easily takes half a bucket of water just to wash my hair (needless to say, I seriously considered shaving my head). I have been reduced to using the communal pit latrines because I didn’t want to use any water to flush my toilet. I soon became a master of reusing any water that was used for washing the minimal dishes I used for breakfast or tea. I would use the water to wash a small amount of clothes, and then use that was to wash my dishes, then use that water to flush my toilet. If I felt the need, I would use the water to wash my face first, before using it for anything else, but I would never just through the water out after one use (interestingly, the other staff members did not seem to engage in the same level of reusing water, even with the crisis they continued a single or simple double use of water which led to more panic on my part). After weeks of waking up in the middle of the night in a panic, and trying to find ways to get water (including considering going down to the swamp and getting water which was brown or ridiculously trying to figure out how people could ship me water from around the world…I was desperate) I finally decided to suck it up and spend about 4,000 USH (about $2) to get three Jerri cans of pumped water from town so I could wash my clothes (which had piled up for the past month, at least). Of course, the universe decided to play a cosmic joke on me, because as soon as I got the water and started my washing it started to rain, and by rain I mean pour. I was so happy, I didn’t even care that none of my clothes would dry until the next afternoon; I didn’t even care that I’d have to sleep in my sleeping bag because I had washed my sheets as well. All I knew was that I was saved, I wasn’t going to die of dehydration, and I will make it through yet another dry season.