I'm about to go out and pay the water tax. Since there's no water coming through the pipes, and hasn't been for most of the time we have lived here, I asked once what would happen if we didn't pay. Immediately the answer came: we'll cut off your sewage line. Very clever of them, to combine the two departments.

The emblem of our city should be a plastic water pot. When the newspapers want something colourful, they print a picture of the pots lined up, waiting for the water lorry. Since the last monsoon failed, there are more and more of them.

If we write a letter to the Corporation, they will send a water lorry around every night so that we can fill as many buckets as we can, without any charge beyond tipping the drivers. We see the lorries filling up all day long at the big, ugly water department that has come up nearby. Because there's not enough water to release into the underground mains, lorries drive from neighbourhood to neighbourhood: using precious petrol, often leaking water, tearing up the roads, doling out water by the bucketful.

Whether there is water in the mains or whether you buy water by the truckload, you need an underground tank to collect it. Ours holds 12,000 ltrs, the size of a truckload. You also need an electric pump, to pump the water up to your roof tank.

We buy truckloads of water from a private corporation, but lately the water has been as salty as our own well water. (We use the well water only for watering the garden, because we tested it, and it was declared unpotable... If our open well dries up, as has happened in many parts of the city, we will have to drill a deep borewell.) The other day I rejected a load, and phoned the company. I told the man who answered, "I want only sweet water, and you have sent me salt water." He pretended to be surprised. "Oh, you want sweet water? Okay, next time." I said, "No, not next time. Send me sweet water NOW." The driver got on the phone to find out what he should do with the load I had rejected. I heard him say, "Okay, I'll take it to the school." They get the water from private wells on the outskirts of the city, but these are getting increasingly saline because of sea water incursion, due to over-drawing of the groundwater.

Sometimes we buy 25-litre carboys of drinking water. We also have a machine called an Aquaguard, which is ubiquitous for anyone who can afford it. It has a charcoal filter, and it irradiates the water with ultraviolet rays. It kills bacteria, but doesn't filter out the salts and dissolved solids. There are many more parts per million of the latter than the standards set out for drinking water; so we are contemplating buying a reverse osmosis machine. That will sit on the kitchen counter, hooked up to the water pipe, and give us five litres per hour of what is called mineral water - actually 'reduced-minerals' water. We could also purchase a water-softening machine that would treat the water that we pump up to our roof tank; but we've decided that we can make do with bathing in our hard water.

One day I'll talk about what it takes to have fairly steady and reliable electricity! It's so expensive here, to live what the West considers a middle-class life.

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