Friday, January 05, 2007

Mai (Water)

According to the Army, fresh water is a Class I supply item. Class I items are sustenance items, like rations and fodder. If we still had horses, I mean. We used to import all of our water from Kuwait, but the roads got too dangerous, so they built a water factory on Camp Liberty, near the Liberty Main helopad. I’m not kidding, it’s a water factory – I don’t know what goes in, but pallets and pallets of plastic bottled water comes out. Every unit has a water detail that has to go twice a week to pick up whatever that unit’s allotment of water is.

I remember a couple of years ago in Oman I was in charge of the water detail. We had to go out to the check point that served as a gate to the compound and transload every case of water off of the commercial trucks that brought them from the city of Salala, and onto the military five ton that would bring it out to the airfield. Well, rather than wait around and watch the guys do all of the work, I always pitched in. Towards the end of that deployment I sat down and figured out that I had personally moved something like 85,000 liters of water.

Anyway, there are stacks of bottled water everywhere here, inside almost every building, next to the motor pool, even out near the Aha, or Ammo Holding Area, which is a ways away from everything (they have a tendency to blow up and burn all night). It’s considered bad form not to offer a visitor a cold bottle of water before settling down to business. Guys don’t even carry canteens on their belts most of the time any more, usually they’ll just throw a case or two of water into the back of the humvee.

There are other types of water here too. KBR (Kellogg, Brown, and Root) has set up large plastic holding tanks for the stuff all over. Those tanks connected to the Baghdad water supply hold water considered non-potable, but okay to wash in and brush your teeth with, so long as you spit it out. The latrines and the showers use Baghdad water. The trailers that Colonels live in are also plumbed with Baghdad water – lucky them.

Then there is gray water, which is what Baghdad water becomes after you spit it out. Worse is the black water, which is what they call the stuff you flush down the toilet.
The tanks holding gray and black water are emptied out every night by huge shit sucker trucks (SSTs). They are very loud, and they usually start the pumps about, oh, say, midnight. Just when you’d be drifting off to sleep. And it’s worse now too, because we’re not running the AC so there is no white noise to drown out the trucks.

At the bottom of the list – even worse than black water (according to some), is the water in the canals and catch basins we have around here. We call it swamp water because of its green tinge, and it’s also pretty muddy. But I have seen several different types of fish, and eels, and snakes, and even turtles and crabs living in there, so it can’t be that bad. The locals sometimes fish from the banks using a safety pin, a string, and some bread. Well, maybe that’s not a stellar endorsement, but I still think the swamp water got a bad rap. We tend to occasionally drop humvees into it and they seem to be no worse for the wear.


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