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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Daily Usage: Mauritania

Water in Africa

Africa, Mauritania


by Heather Cameron, Rosso, Mauritania

My day begins with a cold shower and a reminder of how lucky I am to have indoor plumbing as a Peace Corps Volunteer. When I return from a long morning spent in town, working with a variety of businesses on management techniques, I am usually very thirsty. I buy a small bag of ice from my neighbor with a freezer, then add some treated water and a packet of Kool-Aid. That really hits the spot!

Once I get the call from the kids that lunch is ready at my family's house, I head across the street with my water bottle in hand. I spend the afternoon there having lunch and drinking tea. The kids love to fill up the bowl for hand-washing with water from their new, indoor faucet. On especially hot days, I invite them back to my house for a bucket bath. They love to fill up a bucket with the cool water and jump in. After our mini pool party, I fill up my water filter for the next day. Before going to bed, I usually cool off with a second shower, once again thanking my lucky stars.

by Kerry Zahn, Paris, Mauritania

In my house in Garalla, I use my water for drinking, a little cooking, cleaning, and bathing. All of the water I use I carry to my house from the village well. I filter water that is destined for drinking into my cannery (a clay pot used for keeping water cool) and treat it with bleach. I use all other water as it is. Bathing from a bucket is an interesting experience. In the hot season it always feels nice to take a bucket bath, but in the cold season it can get pretty chilly, and sometimes I even have to heat up the water before I use it. My shower is outside and when the wind blows it can get pretty cool.

My host family uses much more water than I do, simply because there are so many more of them. Before my host sister moved to her husband's house, she and I used to go to the well together every morning to get the family's daily water. We would take the donkey, the two gerbas (goat skin bags used to store water), and two buckets. At the well, she would pull the water while I filtered it into the gerbas. Once the gerbas and our buckets were full, we would put the gerbas on the donkey and the buckets on our heads and start back to the house.

My family never uses bleach to treat their water. Although filtering is a good practice, it does not kill all of the microbes, and often people fall ill because of drinking contaminated water. My family uses water to drink, to cook, to make tea, to wash their dishes, to wash their hands before and after eating, to bath, to wash their clothes, and to wash themselves before praying.

In my community, water is used to grow vegetables in the garden; grow crops such as millet, corn, squash, and beans; and water the cows, goats, donkeys, sheep, and horses.

My water usage here in Mauritania is much different from in America. In America I took long showers and let the water run to make it cold before getting a glass of water to drink from the faucet. I also washed my clothes when they were not really dirty. Here I have come to realize that water is a luxury and not necessarily all that easy for most people in the world to acquire. Because I have to carry all of my water back to my house on my head, I really do a much better job conserving water than I used to do in America. I really think before I use the water I have, and I have become really talented at washing my clothes and my body with small amounts of water.

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