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10/27 The Day The Water Returned

As I've mentioned here before, Berberville gets water only a few hours a day.

The fact that we have running water at all has already changed lives.

Three years ago, plumbing was installed. For the first time in the thousands of years that Berberville has been here, women didn't have to gather water either from the flowing surface water or from the freshwater spring.

Explanatory tangent: On maps, Berberville sits at the intersection of two rivers; that's undoubtedly why this became an "urban center" (if such a thing can be said of a community with only a couple hundred households) back in the dark mists of time. But these "rivers", though they're so called on maps, look like the things we call "creeks" back home. (In fairness, I grew up on the Mississippi, so maybe I have a skewed perspective on what a "river" should look like.)

All the land adjoining these waterways gets farmed. It's Irrigation 101: the shorter a distance you have to transport the water, the more food you can grow. The side effect is that the houses sit on hillsides/mountainsides above the fields. So the women have to carry water into the houses to do their work.

It's easiest to use water from the creeks/rivers, but that water is used for everything from watering livestock to washing clothes to bathing, so there's a predictably large volume of ... waste ... polluting it. People still drink out of it, to be sure, but it makes them sick.

The nearest spring - the place where groundwater emerges onto the land, ie a source of much, much cleaner water - is 4 km outside of town. Uphill. (Note for puzzled geologists and hydrologists: marly limes --> perched aquifers.)

So the arrival of pipes and plumbing, three years ago, was a Really Big Deal.

At that time, the commune - the local legislature, j-jm3a3 - discussed a dilemma: Should villagers get access to 24-hour water flow, and pay for their (metered) water use? Or should the government provide water for free - but since the commune has limited funds, the water usage would have to be limited, too...only two hours a day of free flowing H2O.

You already know the punchline: I get water from 9ish till noonish every day.

I'm not sure if I've before mentioned the deciding factor, that swayed the minds of enough commune members to determine the vote: Someone pointed out that Berberville's economy is rapidly shifting from an agrarian system to a cash-based system, fueled by tourism. Tourism funds the mountain guides (like my host dad), the hotels, the cafes, the trinket shops... And those tourists, this person argued, want to see an Authentic Berber Village. They want to see pristine Amazigh culture. Pristine Amazigh culture doesn't include running water. If everyone has plumbing, he concluded, tourists will stop coming and our town's development will tank. (Pun intended.)

I'm not here to argue the merits of the case, just report that the argument was made.

...But this is all old news. Three years old.

I've lived here for 17 months; I've adapted. I do dishes, laundry, etc, only in the mornings. This morning, I took a bath. I usually cook more in the mornings than evenings; if I do make an elaborate dinner, I stow the dishes in the sink and wait for the morning to wash them. Etc.

But today...

Today was different.

Water shut off a little before noon, as is normal.


A couple hours later, as I was making another batch of Kauthar's Pumpkin Spice Muffins, I cracked the eggs and then reached for the tap to rinse off my hands. Even as I twisted the knob, I realized that it was useless - that the water was long gone. But in the split second before I could twist the knob back and turn to use bottled (stored) water - WATER POURED OUT OF THE TAP!

I stood there, blinking at it (and yes, rinsing my hands). I turned it off...and then back on again, just to see if I could.

It worked.

We had afternoon water!!!

I hastily washed all the dishes I'd dirtied since the morning, refilled the kettles I'd emptied with my bath, and just **marveled** at the wonders of running water.

So there you have it, friends, a pre-Thanksgiving reminder of something you probably never thought to give gratitude for: 24-hour access to running water.


  1. Dear Friend,
    Thanks for giving us another item for gratitude this Thanksgiving. Thanks too for all of the updates. :)

  2. So, you now have running water 24/7? Lhumdileelah!


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