Today I am thinking about water. In America I have easy access to water all over my house. Clean drinking water is not a concern. I have chilled water to drink dispensed through a filter from my refrigerator door. I have water to wash clothes, water to cook, water to clean, water to bathe, and water for my garden. We have water to waste.
In much of the world access to water is a daily struggle. The right to clean water is an issue. Many people have to gather water every single day to bring back to their homes. A running tap in a home is a major luxury. In America we are spoiled and our access to water is a right we take for granted. We are unprepared and lack resources if our water mains break and service is cut.
In Kenya I am spoiled. My life on the campus of Kenyatta University is easier than for most. Although I regularly lose the water in my home, I have water in my home. I am lucky to have water that runs dry a few times a week. I could be walking with a jug twice a day to get water for my needs.
I do not drink tap water in Kenya. It looks like very good water. I see workers and children and students drinking from the taps around campus and the water always looks refreshing. I have been made to fear the water because it may contain organisms not found in the States to which I could have a bad reaction. ‘DON’T DRINK THE WATER.’
Bottled water is not ubiquitous in Kenya, as in the States, and it is certainly not readily available in every shop or on campus. Bottled drinking water is an American luxury.
I buy large bottles of water at the Nakumatt for 370 Kenyan shillings, about $4.50. They contain 18.5 litres. I purchased a water pump that I place on the top of the bottles and a bottle lasts me between a week to a week and a half. I keep them on the floor in my kitchen. Before I leave to teach for the day I fill a bottle that I carry with me in my backpack. I make coffee and tea with the water, and boil pasta and rice and potatoes in this water.
However, I know I have consumed Kenyan water. I do my dishes in the kitchen sink using cold water. There is no hot water in my kitchen. I brush my teeth morning and night every day using tap water, and I take daily showers using the taps.
Am I a nervous American? Could I drink water from the tap and be fine? A Kenyan told me, ‘Our drinking water is so good and clean. I heard you drink recycled waste water in America. I would never drink your water.’
The view is always different from the other mountain.
One day we will all need to think more about water.