The Source of Our Water
by Ryan Powell, Ait Yaddou, Morocco
My village is located along a narrow valley in the eastern High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Our water and that of three other villages comes from a natural spring. This spring is enclosed by a concrete-and-rock wall channeling the water into concrete-and-dirt irrigation ditches that run the length of the whole valley (approx. 15 km). The spring, which has never dried up, along with a few wells, is the only source of drinking water. It is also the only source of year-round water for crops, besides rain.
Luckily, my village is just a kilometer away from the spring and the first to receive the water. It is clear, relatively clean, and always cold and running. As the water travels through the valley and other villages, it decreases in clarity and quality due to debris, sediment, and microbial parasites it picks up.
The women always collect the water by carrying it or loading up a donkey with buckets, called bedos, filling them straight from the irrigation ditch, which is no more than 100 meters away from any house. The mules and donkeys drink from the irrigation ditch, along with the sheep and goats, before they are returned to the mountains for grazing.
When heavy rains occur, the dry riverbed that runs through the valley floods, and the irrigation water becomes a rusty brown from heavy sediment. At the first sign of rain, people fill up their bedos to have a supply of clean water.
If the irrigation ditch is still murky and the people want water, they load up a mule with bedos and go to the spring to fill them. Luckily for me, my landlord's daughter stops by on her way to the spring to fill my bedos for me.
by Jennifer Bohman, Souss Massa National Park, Morocco
Life at the beach—that is not exactly what I would have imagined as my Peace Corps experience. However, that is where this Ohio girl found herself, a cozy beach village along the southern shores of Morocco. It is a very dry, sandy area officially classified as semi-arid.
Just south of the village is the River Massa; the water in this river is extremely salty, due to intrusion of seawater. River water can only be used for irrigating some of the greener fields along the flood plain. Other fields with higher elevations, removed from the river, depend on rainfall—or Allah, as my village friends tell me.
For drinking water, my village gets all of its supply from a well with a motorized pump and piping that delivers water directly to houses in the village. My village is fortunate to have running water in individual homes. I often see women from other villages walking their donkeys to local springs or wells with large buckets to fetch water.
Water treatment is limited to bleach, which is added to kill any contaminants. The main problem for the region is salt
— you can taste it in the water. Wells in the area are often closed or abandoned when the water becomes too salty.
by Erin Olson, Agadir L'henna, Morocco
I live near the "gateway to the Sahara." This area is very much a desert. However, most oases have water. You will see nothing but desert, then all of a sudden a patch of green—an oasis. People cluster their villages around the oasis. I do not have running water in my home and neither does anyone else in the oasis. We carry large tagdurts, or metal water containers, on our backs to the nearest well. I live about a hundred yards from my well, but it usually seems farther, walking back with a bucket full of water on my back. When I get home I can empty this into other containers, and go back for more if I need to. In order to get water for the animals, we go to irrigation ditches in the oasis. There are many of these ditches, which are fed by a giant holding tank at one end of the oasis. The water can be diverted to different ditches on different days to make sure the whole oasis is watered, as this is the farmland. There seems to be plenty of water. Even though the water in the well is lower on the hottest days in July, we have not run out of water. There isn't a lot of rain in Tagmoute, but it does rain, and when it does, the mud homes start to wash away and must be patched after the rainy season is over.
by Jessica Seem, Zaouia Village, Morocco
In the city where my office is, we get drinkable tap water; however, this year, due to extended drought, the authorities have been shutting it off from noon to 6 a.m.. But, at least you can count on it being on every morning.
In my village, there are seasonal fluctuations, which are made more extreme by drought. The rains are expected from October through May. Last year, the rains were three months late. With rain, the 14-meter-deep well fills up and the output of the spring increases to five liters every two minutes. In the summer, the spring dries out and the water flow slows to five liters every six minutes. People either face a long wait at the spring (figure 60 liters per household per day) or walk many kilometers into the mountains to better openings.
This year, a new well was dug in my village 25 meters deep, so hopefully this will see the villagers through future dry summers. Also, three kilometers away is an 80-meter-deep well, complete with pump, holding tank, and taps. However, people must pay to drink from this, because money is needed to power the motorized pump. Also, it is next to the only coffeehouse in my area, where young men hang out. Since fetching water is traditionally the work of girls and women, this source for water is not used to capacity. I'm sure the government thought it was a good idea when they built it three years ago, but it remains an unpopular source, for reasons having nothing to do with water.