Our water bill came the other day. It was about 100 bucks—a spike from the month before and it left us scratching our heads. Where did all that water go? We hardly know because here, with water, it’s easy come, easy go. Turn on the tap and it gushes—hot, cold, or just right. It couldn’t require less effort.
I’m not happy about the bill, of course. Someone in the house is being profligate and my husband and I joke, with some seriousness, that we’re going to follow Arnold Schwarzenegger’s example. He made headlines recently by describing how he has taken to clocking the duration of his kids’ showers and docking household privileges if they stretch beyond five minutes. Between 15 and 25 gallons of water typically dribbles down the drain in that time. Next step, he says, is a water meter that’ll switch the system off automatically when their time is up. It’s the waste that gets to him.
I could grumble about the size of our bill, but in truth it’s nothing at all in comparison to the price some women in southern Ethiopia pay for their water—particularly during times of drought. And when I say pay I don’t mean in cash, but in hard physical labor.
In August, Loko Dadacha told us that she walks six hours round trip to fetch water from the only source available—a murky pond shared by people and animals alike. She fills a 20-liter jug—that’s about five gallons—and lugs it home on her back, all 44 pounds of it.