Sunday, August 5, 2012


There are some things we take for granted.  Water is one of them. 

Our family had the opportunity to live without water for four months.  Opportunity may be a strange word for it and it did not feel like it at the time...

What would a young mother with three children do without water?  This was not a city dwelling where one could merely call the utility company and have it turned on.  Rural areas obtain water from wells or underground springs.

There are four primary areas we use household water and these do not even include the agricultural necessity of producing food:
  • Cooking and dishes
  • Bathing
  • Bathroom
  • Laundry

It was trial and error at first but little by little we developed our system.  My memories of my grandparent's ranch and the hand pump encouraged me along.

My next door neighbor allowed me to come over whenever I wanted to use the outside hose.  I had two 5 gallon buckets.  Mind you this is a rural area so next door neighbor means one field away, not one house away.  I would only fill the buckets about four gallons full because all the sloshing on the walk would spill some out so it was wasted energy to try and carry more.  Besides, the pails were too heavy to carry more and I remember more than once crying on the way home from the strain.  My arm muscles quickly developed and hence started the "muscle contests".  This water was used primarily for bathing and  flushing down the toilet which was only done when absolutely necessary.

I developed what I called a "pour bath".  The kids probably thought I was saying "poor bath"  A large pot was heated on the stove and I would then add cool water to make the comfortable temperature.  We would take this pan into the bathroom and set it in the tub and pour water over ourselves to wash up.  This was our daily routine but at times I would get enough water to fill the bathtub two inches deep and we would bathe in that.   An average bathtub holds 55 gallons.  One learns these things when water is hauled by hand.

During this time I was making friends and had some relatives so once a week would go as an invited guest and could take a wonderful shower or bath.  After bath time we would sit and visit over coffee.  Off the top of my head I can think of at least 3 people whose showers I used but there may be more.  One cannot appreciate the gratitude of a steam filled bathroom until one has done without.

I also had a five gallon bucket with a lid that was used for cooking and dishes  The household water was again heated on the stove and conservatively rationed. The local gas station was the source of drinking water.  I also bought 1 gallon jugs of water for coffee.  This was closely guarded to enable me to stay within what at that time was a meager budget.

The laudry was easily dispatched with a weekly trip to the local landromat.

We cheered when the toilet was first flushed and had a celebration.  As we contined to work on repairing our water system, which was delayed because of the winter, the water continued to increase to meet all our needs though on a very conservative basis.  One not dare flush a toilet while another was taking a shower or the water would be cut off for five minutes causing a very unhappy naked person.   

Why do I share this story?  It happened almost 25 years ago.  I could put it behind me and remember it no more.  The experience changed me.  Each time a toilet flushes I am happy and grateful.  Each time I use too much water doing dishes I feel wasteful.  A shower now feels like an advantage of the rich and I often am aware of how rich I am even when things are tight.

Over 1 billion people do not have clean water available.  Recently I became aware of an organization that drills wells in impoverished areas.   The cost was stated as $500 to put in a well that would serve up to 200 - 500 people in the community with a hand pump.  There are many excellent ways to help others but I tell you this one got me excited.  Imagine what it would be like to have clean water for cooking, bathing, and growing food for the first time in ones life.  A miracle. 

In my research I located the link provided I wanted to share.  If you know of other organizations feel free to share them.  If you have been looking for a way to really change the life of others in a meaningful and lasting way WATER may be something to consider.   I am just now beginning to participate and hope and plan to increase my efforts in the future.


Practical Parsimony said...

i have not had a bath in five weeks. My tub leaks, so I have to wash at the sink with a wsshcloth. NOT FUN! All my "friends" know this and no one has offered me a shower.

Several churches have asked me if I don't have relatives who will fix my tub when I have asked for help.

I am dying for anything as nice as having water poured over me. It is so hot and humid here right at this time that I feel grimy all the time.

One church offered to allow me to shower at their church facilities, but I have to make an appointment that suits their church schedule and they need to know when so they can turn the water on in that part of the building. I cannot afford to drive 15 miles round trip to bathe in iffy water.

There are dozens of friends about an hour away that would offer me a shower or I would ask. Not here.

Carol Schultz said...

I gather the church who offered to rev up the water heater for you is not one you attend regularly so thought the offer was generous.

Hope you can find something until you get the plumbing problems fixed. do you have any gyms, community centers, or public pools or parks close by? Those often have showers and might be additional options.

Think I would be tempted to hang an outside curtain and use the hose (or kiddy pool in a suit) but that's only because that is what my brother did while living in Hawaii.

R. said...

Very nice article. Yes, I do remember when you first moved to to the country and I remember you not having water to flush the toilet. When you got the well running I remember getting a glass of water from the kitchen faucet. It looked like it had sand in it. You told me it was minerals. It tasted funny too. lol My family went through similar situations at the home on Mt. Hood. When I moved in to that house in West Seattle in 1988, we had no heat. We had to use a borrowed kerosene heater. I remember my daughter waking up on cold winter mornings and having to scrape the ice from the windows on the inside. Of course I use to do the same thing at Mt. Hood. But in Seattle I was so happy that we could take a hot shower. We may not enjoy he struggles at the time, but it makes us grateful for what we have now. Thanks for reminding me.

Rosemary said...

Boy, can I relate to this one! Right now I am on a strict use of water. They have found a bad leak (again) in our water system so we can't use all the water we want. This year has been the worst one for heat & drought & also the worst for our electricity & water being off. Power was off here 5 times last month. I am between 2 towns in a retirement area & it has its own well. The aquafer is getting low and now this bad leak on top of it. I grew up on sponge baths so yes I know what you are talking about.

Carol Schultz said...

We are hearing more about droughts as time passes. Last year I looked at some of the Texas dought pictures and it's just so sad. Water is truly one of the most valuable assets we have been blessed with.