finding water in Kampala – a beginner’s guide

It made sense for me to be on the road with ten empty jerry cans just after five o’clock on Friday morning because: a) I don’t listen to local radio much anymore, and b) my domestic employment policy is very much unlike Google’s.

Explaining a): I dropped off the FM station radar a while back because the one segment of the day when I would be sure to be tuned in to FM chatter began to involve my children being in the car with me, and they became of an age where they would actually listen to what people on the radio said.

At first, I’d be quite aware of the moment when these radio presenters would be just about to burst into profanity or lewdness, and I was practiced at raising my voice while turning the radio volume down. Most of the time, though the joke and story on FM stations here are salacious, or based on some personal ‘relationship’ issue with inane solutions being offered up by the presenters, or focused on some American or European issue.

I therefore could not intervene often enough, and very much aware of the risk of dumbing children down so early in the morning and in their lives, I switched off the radio and started them off on offerings from my CD collections, downloaded podcasts (including a Ugandan one by Mister DeeJay) and the BBC.

As such, I missed all radio announcements about a water shortage this weekend.

Explaining b): Google employs the most intelligent people they can find, through a rigorous, painstaking and very detailed process, then pay them very, very well.

Because of my failure to employ domestic staff in this manner, my oft-repeated instructions to them to keep filling our emergency water receptacles, aka jerry cans, and ensure that the water stored within them is clean, keep getting ignored along with many other things I say, request for and order. 

Also, even though they spend the day listening to FM radio broadcasts, none of them heard the announcement regarding an impending water shortage.

As such, on Friday morning there was only half a jerry can of water for the entire household to share around covering ablutions and breakfast, and I was soon groggily driving down Jinja Road.

I circled various places till I woke up and realised that I had no idea where to get water from in the event of a shortage – the National Water offices. But which ones?

I drove in the general direction and then, voila! There was a water tanker, aka bowser, driving right towards me.

I flagged them down frantically, and they were all too ready to stop the car and hop out to talk with me.

We negotiated for about ten minutes, parked smack in the middle of Mugalu Road, aka, Fourth Street, and trotted back to their truck – only to return to me with a question:

“Boss, you said we are going where?”

“Just follow me,” I said, ultra-polite and hopeful that I would not be having a smelly day ahead, then gave directions.

“This lorry cannot make it up a hill,” they explained, “we need to go and get another one.”

I parked by the side of the road waiting and as my mind cleared with the morning skies, I noticed this signpost:


So THIS is where people get water in this town! 

I had seen these water bowsers before, of course, but not here – parked at various odd swamps around Kampala piping water into the tanks! I had sworn NEVER to get involved in their disease generating activities.

But now, what was I to do?

When the fellow eventually returned, thirty minutes later, I knew for a fact that he had been at a swamp filling up his tank.

“Where did you get the water from?” I began my interrogation.

“The National Water tanks, sir. Very clean!”

I paused and gave him that quizzing look. He paused and gave me back that look that indicated that I was just being foolish because there was no way I was going to prove otherwise, I had no water and would have none till Sunday, and if I didn’t swallow his story then I would have to just go to hell.

It was a very eloquent look.

I emptied my Milton’s steriliser and the deal was done.

But I am still asking: What is everybody else doing? Do you all have 10,000 litre tanks at your homes? Do you also have bottles of Milton’s lying around the house to sterilise swamp water?  

4 thoughts on “finding water in Kampala – a beginner’s guide

  1. How ironic!? Reading your post, I was waiting for the (c) and it would probably read “because I did not get an SMS from NWSC powered by 8198”. National water actually sent out m


  2. @Sandor: Lol! Yes – they did; but that only works if your number is registered against an NWSC account. If you change numbers as I did in October last year and neglect to change registration with all service providers, then you end up like me at five o’clock on Friday morning. I’ve sent them an update email, though.


    1. “Dear cust xxxxxx we regret to inform you that water supply will be off on 24/10/2013 due to ongoing works at the Ggaba plant.Please use water sparingly.KYALIWAJALA” 🙂 that completes my explanation (c).


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