On trek our water was from rivers, which we washed in using biodegradable travel wash, or purified to drink. On static sites, our water was from a water tank, which we had to monitor so as not to waste water (remembering to turn it off before we left jungle camp, but also ensuring there was enough water in the tank for our return at the end of the day). We became water tank savvy as we got used to knowing how much water would be needed to fill up our large 25-litre jerry cans for purification and drinking, for our ‘showers’ (bucket over the head, my dear) and for our ‘three bowls’.
The three bowl system was set up to reduce the risk of any illness spreading throughout the group or infections from animals and insects. Before cooking, three large bowls were filled with just enough water for use: the first was used with washing gel to get food debris off our cooking utensils and cutlery, the second was a ‘rinse bowl’ of purified water and the third was water with bleach in it to kill bacteria. After meals we would ‘three-bowl’ (bowl #1, 2, 3 in that order), but before meals we would simply ‘two-bowl’, which meant putting your cutlery in the bleach bowl and then rinsing it off (bowl #3, 2).
Sometimes when it was very hot or there was a problem with the water pipe further down, we would not have any water available for a day or so. We quickly learnt about the importance of water conservation and realised how much we take for granted having running water at home.