We’re not referring to the oceans, or rivers, or even rain, we’re speaking of everyday, ordinary tap water; water for cooking or making your morning coffee, the water in your dishwasher and washing machine, your shower water, regular clean water that comes from your faucet to quench your thirst whenever you get that dry tickle at the back of your throat. Do you ever think much about this water? We’ve never paid too much attention to this common and convenient water. That is to say until it became uncommon and rather inconvenient.
Accra has a sporadic water supply. Many citizens keep large water tanks on their roofs, preferring to trust gravity rather than the municipality, to bring them their daily water. For us, this creates some inconveniences. Our delicate, western stomachs tend to “dislike” both the roof water and the city’s supply. Before entering our bodies, this water must be boiled for 30 minutes or chemically disinfected. Alternatively, clean (rather heavy) water can be purchased at the store and carried back to the apartment.
None of this is terribly burdensome. In fact, it serves a valuable purpose – we now mentally note every drop of water that we use. We have become aware of how much water we need; how much for a shower, how much to mop the floor, how much to boil pasta or lentils, and how much to stay adequately hydrated in this warm climate. When it is time for dinner and you need to soak your tomatoes in disinfected water before you dice them, you notice how much water this takes. When you flush the toilet, you automatically wonder how much of your water tank you just used and how soon you’ll have to pay a truck to bring you a refill. When it takes you 15 minutes to empty your water sachets (see below) into plastic bottles for easier dispensing, you are keenly aware how quickly you speed through the contents of those bottles. Imagine - you may even stop and think; do I really need this water for coffee?
Life in Ghana is like that – life in any new environment can be like that – maybe even should be like that. It is good to expose yourself to new frames of reference, new expectations about average events. It is good to notice the small, everyday habits and methods by which we live our lives. It is good to make note of how much water you consume. The convenience of the States is great; don’t get us wrong, it makes life SO much more efficient. But, it can also
mislead. By removing the personal effort from most of our basic needs, we tend to forget how amazing the little things are – little things like running water; clean, precious, running water.
The intermittent and potentially hazardous water supply also creates opportunity for savvy business minds – hence the water sachet above – 500 ml of chemically treated, affordable water distributed in lightweight plastic pockets. Sold for a Ghanaian dime, anyone can afford these sachets. Easy to pack together and transport, sachets are the distribution network of choice for those who struggle to get clean water pumped into their houses or who lack the water main connections that would bring the water to their homes. Recently, Coca Cola Company recognized the potential of this business and purchased Ghana’s largest sachet dealer, Voltic.