Jump to Content or Main Navigation

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Daily Usage: Senegal

Water in Africa

Africa, Senegal


by Rebecca and Jay Wozny, Saare Oumar, Senegal

Our day usually begins with a trip to the well for three or four buckets of water. We pour one bucket of water into a filter. After adding a little bleach, we let the water circulate through the filter, then empty it into a clay cannery that keeps the water cool. We use this water for drinking and brushing our teeth. We dump the other two or three buckets into a larger tub that is kept in the latrine area for bathing. If we get the water early in the day, it is warm for evening bucket baths. If we forget to get the water early in the day, our showers are icy cold.

The villagers pull water from the well for drinking, bathing, cooking, and washing dishes. Around mealtime, a line of women forms around the wells. On laundry days, the women and girls haul all their laundry to the wells so they don't have to make too many trips back and forth to their homes. This is a time to socialize with friends and neighbors.

Although our water use is similar to that of the other villagers, I'm sure we drink more water and use a lot more for bathing. But the water we use here is just a fraction of what we used in the States. Having to pull all your water from the well and then carry it back to your hut certainly makes you want to conserve water.

by Catherine Guillard, Samba Diarry, Senegal

I use much less water in Senegal than in the United States. My home, which is located in my host family's complex, is one of eight huts. Throughout the day, we use water for cooking (almost everything is boiled or steamed), cleaning dishes, washing clothes, drinking, and bathing. One of my favorite uses of water is the "bucket bath." I take a bucket of cool water into my backyard (a small, fenced-in area) and pour water over myself with a small cup. The process is very refreshing in the hot weather, and it is a peaceful time spent alone—rare in this communal society.

by Kathleen Rucker, Louga, Senegal

I use two buckets of water a day for bathing, washing, drinking, laundry, and watering my plants. My host family uses water in much the same way, but they also use water for cooking, religious ablution, and giving the animals a drink.

Water is precious here. Each family limits their water usage to only a certain amount each day. In the United States, we often think that we have an infinite supply of water, so we tend to use water more liberally. But here, in Senegal, I know I can use only two buckets of water a day, and no more. I am able to see exactly how much I've used and how much remains. Back home, we never see exactly how much water we use because the faucet is always running. We don't account for each drop of water we use.

by Jamie Schehl, Sokone, Senegal

Like my host family, I begin each day by washing my face. Shortly thereafter, I make two trips to the well to fill a three-gallon bucket, and then I carry it back home on my head. Unless I'm doing laundry, I never need more than six gallons of water in a day.

After my morning trip to the well, I fill up my water filter so I can have drinking water. I wash any dirty dishes I may have, and then use the soapy water on my garden and tree seedlings (the soap acts as a natural insecticide and helps to protect my plants). During the day I leave one bucket in the sun. This provides me with warm water for my shower at night (even though it is hot here during the day, it gets much cooler at night). The other bucket of water is stored inside my hut where it stays cool.

Because we eat meals with our hands, water is also very important for washing our hands before and after eating.

My host family uses water in the same ways for cooking, drinking, bathing, and washing. Each morning and evening, all of the women go to the well. Most make two trips each time. Men do not pull water.

World Wise Speakers

Invite a Peace Corps volunteer into your classroom to share what it's like to live a global life by sharing stories, cultures and knowledge.