Home > Uncategorized > Can you live without water?

Can you live without water?

November 27, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

This is how many people in rural and urban areas get their drinking, and cleaning water in Nicaragua

After about a month of living in Nicaragua, I am starting to understand the difficulties and challenges of those with limited infrastructure.  In Canada, the vast majority of people have access to clean, and continuous running water.  According to most sources, it is at 100% – there is no way this is true, as there are most likely a handful of people that live off the land who do not have running water to their homes.

In Nicaragua, it is much different.  There are not a lot of resources or statistics out there.  I could only find estimations, and those estimations could also be off.  One source on wikipedia, indicates that 84% of urban homes and 27% of rural homes have connections to water.

This is quite staggering, because even if there is a connection to running water, the service is often unreliable, and the cleanliness can be debated.

In rural, and urban areas, many people are forced to fetch their water a few times a week.  Water is usually carried in a 5 gallon bucket, weighing around 45 pounds.  Women, children, and other family members are forced to walk long distances to lakes, or private water facilities to retreive water for cooking, drinking, and bathing.  There are services that deliver water, but in a country where the per capita income is on average $430, it is difficult to afford these services.  Keep in mind, this is the average income….many people live on much less in a year, and the UN World Food Program estimates that the average income is even lower, at $300 a head.

I have experienced some inconveniences with water in the past month – nothing like what people face on a day to day basis:

  • Spending the weekend with friends, and having to fetch water from a water tank to brush teeth, and bathing with a small bucket.
  • Running water at a place I stayed at for 2 weeks only ran for 2 hours every 2 days.  When the water was running, the pressure was so low, that I was forced to shower with a bucket again.  Water tanks on the roof helped alleviate this problem, but the pressure was also unreliable.
  • My permament residence in Managua has running water for 12 hours a day (not 16 as I had previously thought).  We get running water between 11pm and 11am – give or take, depending on the day…sometimes more, usually less.
  • We keep a basin of clean water to cook, and clean with in the back, where our washboard is also located.  This is how the vast majority of people wash their clothes in Nicaragua (nearly everyone).  Washing machines are usually reserved for the wealthy.  Luckily we are fortunate enough to be able to afford a cleaner, who does this manual task 3 days a week for us.
  • After one month, I do not mind cold water showers anymore.  It is actually great for – a) waking up quickly in the morning and b) conserving water – as you learn to wet your body, get lathered up with soap and shampoo with the water off, then rinsing as quick as possible.  Cold showers coming from a shower head with good pressure is a luxury here.

An example of a washboard. This is common in Nicaragua, as we have two in our backyard washing area. Efficient and cheap, it what Nicas rely on for cleaning their clothes

For many people, including people I have got to know, this harsh reality is normal for them.  They do not complain, they just live with their situation.

For a Canadian, who has travelled a lot around the world, I have experienced these situations in a travel sense.  I have never lived for a prolonged period of time exposed to these situations before in my life.  Given the situation that others live with in close proximity to me, I think that my situation is actually quite good.

I am observing many harsh differences between life in Canada and life in Nicaragua on a daily basis.  People learn to live with less, and make the best of a bad situation without complaining.

It makes you think a little bit of how silly we act when our hot water heater fails, or we are without electricity and forced to shower with cold, or boiled water.  Canadians are lucky.  I am lucky.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. S.C.Bardhan,IAS(r)
    April 19, 2012 at 23:54

    Hi Jon,r u still in Nicaragua,or back 2 Canada?Canada is a beautiful country,we have enjoyed our trip to Canada very much-specially Niagra water falls.Nature is not equally kind to all places-we should try to do with as little water as possible without giving up enjoying life.I have discovered-a great way -to Shave without water & thus -Save water,to the extent of billion liters daily all over,& also reduce -water pollution,& save real money.Pl let me know if interested?-
    -scbardhan@gmail.com,–20 April,202-

  2. Nicole
    November 30, 2010 at 14:41

    Hey Jon! I love the blog. It sounds like you’re having quite a life experience there in Nicaragua. There’s nothing like walking in someone else’s shoes for a while to see what sort of journey they’re on. And can you imagine explaining to someone there that we Canadians actually use clean fresh water, in the middle of the day, to drown our precious front lawns – to them that must be equivalent to paving our driveways with gold brick! It’s too bad there isn’t more/better ways to give people the insight to truly appreciate and respect how fortunate we are to be born in this country.
    And I love the pic of you on the ostrich (is that legal? is that actually a form of transportation there??)
    We all send our best to you. Keep up the blog posts!


    • jon
      December 3, 2010 at 09:00

      🙂 It is just normal living here. I did not think of the watering the lawn comparison when writing the blog – but it is very true. Even when we are told to water our lawns during the evenings, or at off peak hours it is an inconvenience to us in Canada.

      Part of writing the blog is an outlet to record my experiences, but part of it also is to inform others that there is a different way of living outside of Canada.

      The ostrich tour was in South Africa – Outshoorn was the name of the city – it cost 1 euro for a tour of the ostrich farm, with unlimited rides. I believe it was legal, as it was a legitimate tourist operation. The only catch was that you had to be under 90 kg…

  3. November 27, 2010 at 13:51


    I’m from Spain and I collect map and flag postcards from all over the world and I wanted to ask if you could send me a written and stamped postcard from Nicaragua.
    I would be really happy to add a new country to my collection.

    Please let me know if you can help me with my collection.

    My postcard blog: http://tite-roy-gatra-pc.blogspot.com/

    • jon
      November 27, 2010 at 13:59

      thanks for the insightful feedback on my observations on the water situation in Nicaragua.


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