Consider for a moment these two bottles of water. Notice the difference in color?
The one on the left is tap water that has been bleached and run through my expensive Peace Corps-issued water filter. The one on the right is the water straight out of the tap.
Starting within the past week or so, the water flowing through the pipes has been thick and brown. When I fill up my bucket to take a shower in the morning, the water is so murky I can’t see the bottom of the bucket. It looks like lake water.
Up until now, the water around here has been much cleaner. In the past, I was still vigilant about bleaching and filtering it, but at least it looked clean coming out of the faucet. The rain has really picked up here in the past week, around the same time the water turned so brown. I presume that all the rain is flushing more dirt into river behind my house, which I assume is the source of our water.
The other day, I finally got around to cleaning out the candles in my water filter, and that was itself an eye-opening experience. I didn’t realize how hard they had been working over the past six months until I scrubbed them with an old tooth brush.
The first day I filled up my bucket and looked down at the brown murk at my feet, I was grossed out. I thought to myself, “Ew. There is no way this shower is actually going to make my any cleaner.” As I stood in the shower complaining to myself, it hit me.
While I’m complaining about my bathwater being dirty, all my neighbors are drinking this stuff straight. They don’t have spiffy, imported water filters. I know people are aware they should sterilize their water and I’ve seen Sur Eau sold at the boutiques in town, but I don’t see that many people actually boiling or bleaching their drinking water. I know Emmanuel, the cook here, keeps a big pot of water boiling on the stove all the time to drink from, but students, for example, drink straight out of the tap. I’ve also seen chidren kuvoma amazi, fetch water, from puddles on the side of the road.
It’s easier to ignore this issue when my water at least appears clean. But now that the water is too dirty to see through, I don’t want to even think about drinking it as is. This realization put things in perspective for me. Instead of worrying so much about maybe being dirty after my shower, I should be more grateful that I can control the quality of my water.