How Do You Get Your Water?

How Do You Get Your Water?

This post is part of a series written from my time in Sri Lanka visiting Dr. Bronner’s Fair Trade coconut oil project, Serendipol, during July 2014.

It’s funny how something I take for granted sounds utterly bizarre when I explain it to someone else. Case in point: a conversation I had in Sri Lanka about water where I learned I take the entirety of populated southern California for granted.

In Sri Lanka, water falls from the sky. Water also bubbles up from the ground. Houses have wells. Rivers are numerous. These are concepts that are pretty foreign to my desert mind.

So here’s the conversation:

“How deep do you have to dig a well before you hit water?” I asked.

“About 20 or 30 feet.”

“Wow! That’s really shallow. Where we live you would have to dig about 6 or 700 feet before you hit water. And then it would be too alkaline to use for irrigation. And it would cost about $20,000, so individuals don’t have them.”

“Do you have lakes?”

“Manmade ones, but they don’t provide enough water.”

“Do you have rivers?”


“Does it rain?”

“It hasn’t for many months now.”

“Then where do you get your water?”

“Well, we build aquaducts through the desert to bring water from hundreds of miles away from the Colorado River and northern California. A lot of it evaporates along the way. And a lot of it mysteriously disappears. We also desalinate the ocean, but that’s still pretty expensive. There’s a lot of arguing about water rights.”

“Why was the city built where there was no water?”

—- Long pause —-

“Well, the weather’s nice.”

I was feeling pretty confounded by this point. They didn’t really have anything to say about that either. We changed the subject. But I still don’t know why we built a metropolis in the middle of the desert. But then, Las Vegas is even more unlikely, so that makes me feel a little better.

All in all, though, this is one of the fabulous things about travel. I get a whole new perspective on my own way of life. I see that the way I do things is not the only way to do things. Sometimes I see a better way, sometimes not. Most of the time I find that there is no better or worse. There’s just different. And that’s the best of all.

Water Well in Kaliyapitiya
Here’s the well at our bungalow in Kaliyapitiya.

River in Kaliyapitiya
A wealth of rivers crisscross the island fueling every shade of growing green imaginable.

Further reading

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Sister Wives says:

I was Reading your page, and it said your are a sister wife, I have always been very interested in Polygamy and been Reading Many Articles about it. My Dream would be to have me and 2 wives living off grid and being able to produce our own soap, food, water etc. Thanks for sharing all of this great information with us all!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi there – I’m glad the information is helpful! To clarify my statement that I am “sister, wife, and daughter to those who run Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps” from my About Me page, I meant that the company is run by both of my brothers, as well as my husband and my mom, among many other talented people. I do apologize for the confusion.

alison says:

Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Every American should be exposed to this issue. I’d like to think that it would educate in the way of changing people’s habits of waste and inefficiency. There is also the big issue of water contamination/poisoning; I think it goes together.

Lynda says:

I enjoyed this post – thanks for sharing your trip.
I’ve done a lot of backpacking, camping, bicycle camping, etc (started in my youth) and there is nothing like hauling your own water and/or needing to find a water source while backpacking to make a person really appreciate the value of plentiful, easily accessible, running water. That and the comfort of a bathroom 🙂
Simple/daily tasks all throughout the day create so much water waste. I think that if every USA citizen that has that luxury were to have to live without it for a month or two we’d have no problem passing a water conservation initiative. I know that I can’t brush my teeth without turning off the water because I’m counting how many gallons could be wasted by leaving the water running. And sooo many people do that.

Janet in Rochester says:

Your Sri Lankan friend asked an excellent – and logical – question. In most of the world, people live near a source of water. That LA and Las Vegas were built where they were doesn’t really make much sense. Hopefully the changes needed there will be made before too long, or they may end up in the history books – as two of the world’s largest ghost towns.

About Lisa Bronner

My grandfather was Dr. Bronner, my family makes soap, and I share ways to use it plus tips on greener living.

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