Saturday, February 16, 2013

Water Woes

     For most of the time I have been here the water we received in our house came from a well located on an adjacent property.  There really is not a central water system in Juba - and certainly not any kind of sewer system - people have big black plastic water storage tanks elevated on platforms or roofs, the water coming either from bore wells or delivered by tanker truck.  There are seemingly hundreds of tanker trucks operating in Juba, and like so many of the services offered in Juba, water delivery is the purvue of mainly Ethiopian or Eritrean drivers.  It is interesting how certain nationalities specialize in particular businesses.  All of the petrol stations in town are operated by Somalis, who also operate many of the money exchange bureaus.  Arabs operate so many of the general shops, several of the bigger hardware stores in town are run by Indians.  And it's also interesting how similar shops tend to congregate together; you will have in one block a half-dozen building supply traders or plumbing and electrical shops all huddled together.  There is a certain logic to this.  It makes comparison shopping easier, you can quickly go from shop to shop to compare wares and prices.  And also, since there is a certain comraderie amongst the traders, if one is out of stock of something they will obtain it from a competitor.  The other day I was doing my general household shopping and wanted a couple of packages of spaghetti.  My regular shopkeeper was out but he ran around the market until he found some for me.  Did it cost me an extra pound per package? yeah, but it spared me having to search around and ensured my continued patronage, so that quarter a package was worth it.
    The well which supplied our house was on the adjacent compound of an NGO.  This NGO used to rent some space from our Guest House where they housed their staff which is why they provided the water.  Our house and one other - where their staff lived - were both supplied by this particular well.  The other two houses in the Guest House compound are supplied by a different well.  The NGO moved their staff out of our compound in December 2010 and I have always been amazed - and thankful - that they continued to provide our houses with water.
     Evidently the NGO either was unaware they were still supplying us water or finally decided to end it because starting in January I noticed our household water was being supplied by tanker trucks.  The tanker trucks in Juba derive their water from one of two sources: one are USAID operated water treatment plants which draw water from the Nile River, treat it and filter it, and then sell it cheaply to tanker truck operators who then sell it to households and businesses.  The other source is when the tanker trucks just go to the banks of the murky Nile and pump water directly into their holds.  In theory these operators are supposed to throw some chemicals into the trucks to treat the water, but everyone in town suspects they do not.  This water is priced somewhat lower and appeals to those householders or businesses wishing to save a few pounds.  The Guest House operators are decidedly in the latter category since I have noticed since January how dirty and nasty our water has become.  I had also noticed how starting in January my stomach suddenly became distressed like I was suffering from some kind of internal bug.  At first this didn't make sense since I am generally careful but once I saw the poor quality of our water the source of my distress became obvious.
    We're still suffering from the crummy water.  It's just such a shame after two-and-a-half years of decent water to now suddenly being afflicted this way and having to waste money buying bottled water all the time for everything.  Below is a picture of the water that was delivered to our tank this morning.  Yum.

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