Water, and its absence, in Botswana

Water-rationing has come to Botswana. I’m sure it’s not the first time.

The Sunday Standard has a full page ad in which the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources announces that, country-wide, we can’t use potable water to wash cars and stuff like that, construction companies can’t use potable water to mix cement – no doubt a major matter when there is so much building going on around Gaborone these days – and, this is the one that intrigues me, hotels and restaurants with automatic-flush urinals have to convert to manual within two months. I’ve never felt that flushing is one of the male species’ strong points, so maybe this will save tons of gallons.

Gaborone, the major city in the country, goes further. They’ve worked out a rotation system, whereby they cut off our water on particular days. Ours here in the Village, where we live, is Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to about 4:00 p.m. Karen or I take a big tub bath on Friday nights, set aside a bucket, and we’re ready fort emergencies on Saturdays.

Water no doubt is a serious matter in a largely desert country. Rains have not been good (some of my Batswana friends use much stronger words) in the last several years, and the Gaborone dam is down to 24% capacity. One Motswana tells me that Botswana should run pipes from the controversial Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which is intended to help South Africa solve some of its water problems. That strikes me as quite a distance, and quite unlikely.

So, we try to limit our consumption, and we look with dismay when we drive past a burst water line on the street this afternoon.