Water is Life, Use it Wisely

By Josepha Jabo

By Josepha Jabo
 ‘Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink,’ so goes one of the stanzas in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The poem recounts a sailor’s experience who, while lost at sea and suffering from thirst and dehydration, was surrounded by the ocean’s undrinkable saltwater. We do not realize how valuable water is until we do not have it.
Last week, on the morning of Thursday, March 12, 2015 as I was on my way to work, my askari warned me to use my water supply sparingly since there was a water shortage in the area. I was momentarily startled, until I remembered I had a standby 20 litre jerry-can of water in my kitchen for such emergencies. I had not even been aware that there was a water shortage in Najeera because the water, from my water tank, was still flowing at the same pressure from my bathroom and kitchen taps. That evening, I saw my neighbor across the road, climb his water tank and tap it. It seemed he was out of luck for his black, plastic water tank sounded hollow. Fortunately, I still had water. The following evening, on Friday, I watched a news bulletin where National Water & Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) explained they had been in the process of replacing old pipes and rerouting the water supply at Kansanga Valley on Gaba Road.
 This routine repair work, an exercise that lasted 72 hours, had caused the water shortage in: Naguru, Ntinda, Kiwatule and Najeera. Unfortunately, this had caused a sharp hike in the price of jerry cans of water from external taps in the affected areas. However, NWSC assured the general public that by Saturday the situation would normalize. It turns out I was not affected by the water shortage at all as I went through the crisis unscathed. I was grateful that I was still able to carry out my household chores that weekend such as: doing the laundry, mopping the floor, washing dishes, boiling drinking water in my kettle, cleaning the bathroom and flushing the toilet. These are everyday activities, which we take for granted. There is a common saying that states, ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness.’ Water, or its formula H2O, is important when it comes to maintaining one’s hygiene such as: bathing, brushing one’s teeth and washing one’s hands after using the toilet (October 15, 2015 is Global Handwashing Day).
In recent years, the water at the shores of Lake Victoria has turned green. Why? On Tuesday, March 17, 2015, I attended Kampala Capital City Authority’s ‘3rd Kampala Water and Sanitation Forum’ where Dr. Babu Mohammed, the Manager of Research at NWSC explained to me that: “Nitrogen and phosphorus come from domestic waste water (sewage) especially from slums (flying toilets). Nitrogen and phosphorous stimulate the growth of green algae on the lake.” Incidentally, there are three types of waste water that pollute water sources. The first is grey water (from kitchen sinks), the second is domestic waste water (sewage) and the third is industrial waste (organic waste). In addition, it is common practice for women in slums to throw their kitchen and bathwater out onto the streets, assuming this water will be absorbed by the soil. However, at the same forum, Dr. Charles Niwagaba, speaking about sanitation innovations in Kampala, taught that this is not necessarily the case for: “If there is a high water table this water remains stagnant.”
 Sunday, March 22, 2015 is International World Water Day. It is rightly said that, ‘Water is Life’ and Jesus Christ himself declared he is the living water. Therefore, we need to value our water supply since our lives depend on it. For example, carelessly drinking un-boiled water from suspicious, untreated water sources or drinking juice that was prepared un-hygienically has led to the typhoid outbreak that has invaded 15 districts in Uganda. We all have the responsibility to pay our water bills on time and not squander the available water in our households by carelessly leaving water taps running when not in use.  Lastly, we need to dispose of our human waste and water waste in a sanitary manner.

The Writer works for Uganda Media Centre