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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Daily Usage: Namibia

Water in Africa

Africa, Namibia


by Mark Schwartz, Tsumkwe Region, Namibia

Every morning I check to see if the water is running (that is, to make sure that the town's generator didn't turn off during the night). If there is water, the pressure is often weak, and the hot water does not work. However, if there is adequate water pressure, I take a shower and water my plants and garden outside. I am growing sunflowers, onions, spinach, and tomatoes.

As I walk to work, I often see my neighbors watering their gardens and lawns. But few houses have grass, since water is so scarce. Many of the local, indigenous people fetch their water from communal taps and use the water to make tea and porridge over a fire.

The local government building where I work has indoor plumbing. Often during my workday, I drive out into the bush to the rural villages and see children carrying water in buckets from the water taps next to the boreholes. Most of the boreholes are located away from the villagers because of the problems with elephants trampling through homes in an effort to get to the water. Elephants have destroyed many windmills, dams, and pumps in the village. Recently, considerable time and money have been spent building better safeguards against the elephants (e.g., stone barriers, trenches, underground water taps). When I am driving in the rural areas, I often assist people in getting water, or report when water pumps are not working.

by Deirdre Deakyne, Onambutu Village, Namibia

I filter the water I drink and cook with. If the water has come from the well or an oshana (a large body of standing water), I boil it first, then filter it. I would guess that I usually use about 20 liters of water a day. This includes drinking, cooking, doing the dishes, watering my garden, and bathing. Washing my clothes uses a lot of water. I usually take my clothes and two buckets to the tap, wash everything there and bring it all home wet, then hang it up to dry. My concept of "dirty" and "clean" has definitely changed since I have been here. (I wash my clothes only when they're dirty.)

It still amazes me that I use only about five liters of water to bathe. In the United States, we waste so much water letting the shower run while we wash our hair, shave our legs, and lather up. When you only use a small pitcher to pour water over your head in order to bathe, you become much more aware of the water you use.

by Heidi Spaly, Eembahu, Namibia

In the morning I heat up water from a five-gallon can in a tea kettle. There is usually a five-gallon can in the kitchen and one in my sleeping room. I'll pour the water into a bucket that's already half full of water. I use this water to bathe. I use filtered water to cook and drink during the day at school. About once a week I wash my clothes in two big buckets (one wash, one rinse). I have to fill my water cans every other day. I wash my dishes in the morning in another bucket. I use the wastewater to water the plants in my garden.

My host family uses their water in a very similar way. They do not filter or boil the water. They do not need to do anything to the school tap water supply.

At most of the schools there are water taps. They open them at certain times for people from the community to use and for the teachers and students to get drinking water. They also use the water to water their trees if they are part of a tree-planting program.

I definitely don't use as much water as I did in the States. All washing (myself, dishes, and clothes) takes much more physical effort and time.

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