This is a very new experience for me. Across the globe, how we use water and what we think of water is all kinda relative. In Germany I learned a lot about water conservation, it is a way of life and a mindset there, helped by the relatively high cost of municipal water. In Montana, on the other hand, my grandparents had a private well. In Alaska there are places where the water is so full of metals that the shower, the toilet bowls, and the sinks are bright red and rain water is collected in cisterns. Where you live dictates how you view water.
So, when it comes to water, moving to a town like Karakol was a shock from day one. I knew that many people in villages of Kyrgyzstan do not have access to water in their homes. In every village, you see people gathered to collect water from a local water spout. Sometimes with wagons or wheel barrows, or just plain buckets, water is collected and taken home to be used in a dry sink, and obviously it is used sparingly because it is a lot of work to get a hold of that precious liquid.
When we moved to Karakol last summer, we knew that municipal water would not be as clean as in the large city. So, we came prepared with a filtration system so that we would have good, clean drinking water… or so we thought. We had bought a carbon-based gravity filtration system in the US: advertised for very contaminated and highly sedimented water (their website showed disaster zones like in Haiti…) so we felt a bit sheepish with overkill for our filtration system. But, being prepared makes life a whole lot easier.
Unbeknown to us, the town of Karakol was doing a massive overhaul of their municipal water supply so we came at a time when the sediment coming through our faucets in our apartment building was incredibly high. As the weeks wore on, we realized that our filters were slowing down more and more, and attempting to “wash” them out was not working either. My 5 micron filter that was supposed to last a year, died within that first month. What an incredible shock and disappointment. And, the hardest part was dealing with the stress of getting drinkable water every day. We bought endless 5 L bottles of water and dragged them up 4 flights of stairs before we discovered the local Culligan supply. What a relief to have a dispenser with at least 6 gallons of water at a time.
Over the last 6 months I have greatly changed my use of water. If I don’t finish a cup of “clean” water, I cover it and save it for later: or better yet, we keep all of our water in metal drinking bottles, so we can come back to it and just drink from it. Anytime we heat water for tea or coffee, the extra is saved for the next pot! Yup, water is precious in our little town, and I will not soon forget that!