Carrying Water: My Tiny Glimpse into the Life of a Third World Woman
Because my tap water is truly terrible, and because my budget is limited, some years ago I had to choose among similarly limited options for potable and affordable drinking water. Both an installed purification system and delivered water are too expensive. Buying bottled water by the gallon is also expensive and uses far more plastic than my conscience allows me to do on a regular basis.
A water filtration pitcher worked for awhile, but because my water is so hard, and chlorinated, I went through the somewhat expensive filters too fast.
A friend told me about what has become my main solution. It’s imperfect, labor-intensive, and sometimes less convenient than I’d like, but mostly it works. I go to the Culligan store — yes, a water store– where I fill my bottles from convenient indoor taps, with water that has been purified several ways. The result is satisfactory for three main reasons.
1. The water is pure and tastes really good.
2. Even after the third price increase in several years, it costs only 35 cents a gallon – the cheapest option I’ve seen.
3. The store is close to my home and roughly on my way to most places I go. Since I work at home and like being home, I try to keep my outside work, worship, and weekly errands within about a five mile radius, and this fits well within that.
Of course there are also some disadvantages.
1. It takes work and time and adds another errand to my weekly routine.
2. It’s a bit messy and tedious. I have to rinse each bottle with water and either white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or GSE drops, to keep them from growing science specimens. Then I have to rinse them again at the store, to get the tap water residue out. Then I fill them, find the change to pay for them, carry them to my car, and carry them back inside at home. And of course all of this involves quite a bit of dripping and splashing in several locations.
3. If I’m out of water, I’m out of water. You just can’t go all night without drinking water because the store is closed or you don’t feel like taking a drive. It’s a little bit of a panicky feeling. I’m sure drinking a little of my tap water wouldn’t kill me, especially if I boil it for tea, but I don’t really want to take the chance, or deal with the terrible taste.
That’s where my plan B comes in. I try to buy a gallon at the store once-in-awhile, to have a little extra. If I’m really desperate, I’ll walk to the convenience store close to me and buy a couple of way overpriced small bottles to tide me over. This negates some of the frugality I’m doing all this work for, but it gives me a break, and relieves the fear of perishing from thirst.
So, overall, though I plan to look into other options when they become viable, for now it works, and I don’t mind it too much. At least I’m fortunate to have pure, tasty, affordable water a short drive away, and a car to get there, and I can easily fit a trip to fetch water into my normal routine, if a plan ahead a little.
But being one to look for meaning, connection, empathy and insight in the most prosaic activities, this chore often makes me think of those who don’t have it nearly so easy. Yes, rinsing, lugging, and filling water bottles every week is a bit of an annoyance. But I don’t have to walk anywhere to get to the water (except a few steps to and from my car). And it doesn’t take hours out of my week, much less my day.
There are still so many places in the world where drinkable water is hard to come by. And even if it is available, it is often a long, laborious, constant job to reach the source and carry it back and forth, on foot. And of course this task usually falls on the already burdened shoulders of women and girls. I’ve heard that some girls are even deprived an education because all this trekking for water doesn’t leave enough time to go to school.
I promised myself I would not turn this post into a rant against all the unfair ways girls and women are still treated, and I won’t. I’ll just say that this task that I sometimes resent makes me feel some kinship with and understanding for those women whose lives are much harder than mine.
It also reminds me how truly fortunate I am. Carrying my water is one extra chore. A slight inconvenience. It is not a backbreaking, life-limiting hardship.
I have access to good quality water, at little monetary cost, and for relatively little labor cost. I won’t say I wouldn’t be glad to find an easier way. But in the meantime I’ll remind myself to be grateful for all of these advantages it could be easy to take for granted or minimize.
Water is vital for life, and replenishing my water supply reminds me of what a good life I have.
I’m getting to like the idea of writing these posts in installments, and since this vignette took all my word limit, I’ll save the other two for next time. (It will give me time to think of the third one). As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and experiences.