“The only reason there isn’t more bacteria in the tap water is because you can’t fit any more in it” said the doctor in the only western medical practice in Baku when we first arrived. Water, the lack of it and the cleanliness of it, dominated our lives when we first arrived in Azerbaijan. At that time (1996) bottled water wasn’t available so my husband’s company provided us with a small distiller, which produced about 3 or 4 gallons a day if we ran it 24/7. It was just enough for drinking, coffee, tea and mixing up the powdered milk we used.
Bath water was a whole other issue. We faced daily water cuts, often in the evenings, so we’d scramble to get dinner cooked, eaten, dishes washed and everyone clean and into their pjs as quickly as we could. We didn’t always make it and sharing one tub of bathwater between three of us became a common occurrence. We lived with buckets of water (just in case) standing around the apartment and if a friend called to cancel a trip out because “the water just came back on” we quite understood.
When we moved to Cairo 4 years later bottled water was easily available but we struggled with the water pressure in the taps because we lived on the 8th floor. A shout of “mafeesh may-ya” (no water) down the intercom to the bahwab (doorman) would usually result in him kicking the pump into action, but still the shower oscillated between freezing cold and scalding hot every few seconds, invigorating but not very enjoyable.
We arrived in Dubai at the height of summer, with temperatures in the high 40s. “There’s something very wrong with the plumbing,” I announced to my husband, as I emerged from the shower looking like a boiled lobster, eyeing the steam rising from the toilet bowl with suspicion, “I think they’ve got it all hooked up backwards.” Later I discovered that most buildings had water storage tanks on the roof and in the summer the temperature of the “cold” water supply was hot enough to boil an egg. Expats already in the know explained I needed to turn off the hot water tank inside my apartment, let the water cool to the air conditioned indoor temperature and then simply reverse the taps I used; use the hot tap for cold water and vice versa.
Today is World Blog Action Day and the topic is Water. One thing I learned from living overseas is that water is a precious resource and one we take too much for granted in the developed world. Not only should we conserve it but we should work towards providing everyone with a clean and easy accessible supply of it. We’re not there yet. If you check out the Blog Action Day page there are various ways you can support the UN’s efforts to bring clean, safe water to millions globally.