Water for Life

It’s around 8pm as I unwind from a busy day which has included planning and teaching various lessons, dodging trucks and motorbikes through chaotic streets by bike and buying soil for my soon-to-be-flourishing balcony ‘garden’. My belly is full of curry and rice and I’m contemplating devouring a square or two of chocolate.

There are three things I’d like to do before I retreat to bed this evening: have a shower to clean my sweat encrusted body; wash the dishes towering in my kitchen; and do a load of washing. I put the washing on and then turn on the tap to start the dishes.

A splutter
A squeak
No water
The washing machine flashes ‘E’ for error
And beeps its frustration
Not again…

The water situation in Ranong is different to other places I’ve lived. Drinking water is delivered regularly, as required, with containers refilled for a small fee. Usually, we have enough cold water for from the mains supply for showers, washing clothes and dishes. I flush the toilet by bailing water from a large tub I keep topped up. With the weather oscillating between intense heat and cooler rainy weather, I’m reasonably tolerant of cold showers, which also helps keep usage down as there is little temptation for long showers. The water pressure fluctuates between steady and a dribble; and then sometimes stops altogether without warning for several hours. Annoyingly, this is often at the most inopportune time. And then, it will suddenly burst to life again, coming in fits of murky brown water until it eventually becomes clear. It’s incredible how dependent many parts of our domestic life are on a reliable water supply.

Adding further contrast life elsewhere, are the things I notice on yesterday’s day trip to Kawthaung, Myanmar. We arrive during a torrential downpour and briefly shelter in the local market before boarding a motorbike taxi. Weaving through the streets I see orange-brown torrents rapidly conveying eroded soil  to the sea. There is no piped water supply or sewage system, something we take as a given in many Western countries. I watch people haul buckets of water up from wells. I see rubbish being freely thrown into the open or partially covered sewers which snake alongside streets and between buildings, also collecting other waste and road runoff.

My experiences in this part of the world continue to remind me to treasure the things we often take for granted. Clean water is an integral part of everyone’s lives, but it is often not until we don’t have it that we realise how important it is. Moreover, when we don’t have efficient systems to bring us clean water and take away dirty water, it is a lot easier to see our impacts on the wider environment. What are some things you take for granted?

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