Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Endless Water Saga: A Desert-Dweller's Dilemma

This is a picture of the Gaborone dam on the 1st of November. As you can see, it isn't much to look at these days. In fact, the Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) stated that the dam is at about 14% (although this photograph begs to differ). Of the four dams in this area, half are already completely dried up. This equates to the southern half of the country having mere weeks of water left. When a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer asked someone in her village what happens next, the response was: "we die."

Now, I don't think the situation is quite that bleak. Despite having their own water issues, I can't imagine South Africa letting us die before offering some water and the Botswana government has consistently been meeting with WUC to discuss a way forward. Plus, if we're lucky, it will rain for more than five or ten minutes at a time... (But that requires Mother Nature playing a more active role here and that's not a reliable solution.) The truth is, the villager's assertion may be the reality for some in the most rural of villages. For those of us near the capital city, however, it is looking as though WUC will likely start funneling treated recycled water to homes or, they are suggesting, setting up pay-as-you-go standpipes and shutting the water off otherwise. Hopefully this method will work and it can be extended out further into the southern part of the country. If not, the four plus days per week without water will seem like a cakewalk.

I would like to state that Botswana is a desert country and its inhabitants are no stranger to going without water for extended periods of time. This is not to say that very serious issues don't arise as a result of droughts like this, but rather that people here live in such a way that they are constantly prepared for water issues - storing water, learning to bathe and clean and live with less, and so on. (Plus, I'm not going to lie, somehow folks seem to survive without drinking nearly as much water as my constantly dehydrated self needs. I think this may be to their benefit in times like these.) Peace Corps Volunteers adopt many of these practices throughout their service so we, in turn, become adept desert-dwellers. We become part of this place, including its challenges. We are fortunate here, though, in that the country is also a tight-knit community full of hearty people who tend to take care of each other whenever possible. And they have embraced us. It may be hard in the coming weeks but we are survivors and we will make even this work.

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