This is a quote from "Hillel the Elder" from the first century. (I thought I was so original!)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Water = Life

I used to go to this office whenever I was handed a water bill to pay.  I tried waiting for them all to show up and then go pay one time and it wasn't working.  Some flats got notices that the water would be turned off and others hadn't gotten their bill yet.  However, things have settled down and I think I can now pay all the bills at the same time.

This is the main office for the Lusaka Water and Sewage Co. in Lusaka.  It is in the middle of a block behind a large wall but with the help of this big sign I found it again.

The biggest problem I had was that I could not read the names or numbers on the bills.  This is important as you must have the house owner's name plus the account number for each bill to write on the back of the check.  Thankfully, I was left with a list of the numbers and owners' names on the wall of my office, otherwise no bill could be paid from the washed out notice that is left at the house.

This month was a miracle, as apparently I was not the only one that could not read the bills.  This month as each bill came in, it had been printed on a laser printer, and it was totally legible.  
More progress.

Above is the office and that tall white thing with the blue top on the counter is a sample of a water meter you can get that allows you to prepay for water like you do for electricity.  Pay at the counter and get a code to allow so many gallons to pass through the meter.  This way you won't run up a bill too large for your budget.
Oh, how fortunate we are in the U.S. to water a garden with a hose or take a shower endlessly without thinking too much about the cost.

There seems to be plenty of water here but very little pressure and the service is erratic.  Some mornings on the way to the office we notice a flurry of increased activity around certain neighborhoods.  It became clear that the activity was crossing the road to get water from those who have it still flowing.

Everywhere, women and children were scurrying with empty jugs and buckets.

They would dodge the traffic and get to the other side and find a spot, either at a business or hose someone had put out and left running.

I saw quite a few open tubs to carry water in.  I was amazed they didn't splash or spill.

People were smiling and chatting and getting it done before school or work.

Water was available on the left and off on the right side of this road..

Heading back,  just remember water is about 7.5 pounds per gallon.

A few young men were pressed into service, but mostly women and young girls.

This is a community spigot that got extra use.

On the other hand this is the display at the top end grocery store.  Crystal clear bubbly water for those who can afford it.

We've been asked how our water is.  Is it safe to drink?
Below you see two faucets.  The one on the right is hooked up to the city or council water line.  We never use it.  I would probably boil it first but that is because I am new here.  There doesn't seem to be much wrong with Lusaka's water.  The biggest problem is that they are constantly working on pipes and I don't think they get flushed well after repairs, otherwise the water seems pretty safe.
Where we live and most compounds have a well or bore hole as it is called.  That is what our main tap is hooked up to.  We cook, shower and brush our teeth in that water.  Still, very low pressure.

For drinking we use mostly bottled water.  It is delivered to the mission home when I order it.  Emmanuel brings his crew and unloads the bottles and takes the empties.  The zone leader picks up the empties from the missionaries' flats and then I know how many to order.  Then the zone leader will go back and deliver them.

In order to save time and a second trip he now takes full bottles and picks up the empties at the same time.  This helps with use of time but creates more of a problem for storing bottles, but it seems to be the best solution so far.  Some missions use filters and change them regularly on their faucets but apparently that solution wasn't successful here.  One thing about having these bottles in dispensers is the water is always nice and cool.

So you see we are a little spoiled with the luxury of cool clean drinking water in every flat.  We refill our smaller plastic bottles from them each day.   If the water system on our side of the street is turned off we have a well and shower.  The young missionaries might miss a shower but still have water.

Just outside the city, water is available in open ponds or steams, which is very risky.  The fortunate people have a hand pump well for the village so the time spent getting water is greatly reduced and it is much safer.  When money and time permit, more and more wells are built and water borne diseases are less frequent.

Above is an open shallow well in marshland where the women are washing the clothes. Below is a well that brings up relatively clean water from 100 feet or more below the surface.

Turn on your tap and don't give it another thought,  but know you are blessed.