BEIRUT: “Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.” Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge may have been thinking about sailors when he wrote “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” but this now famous line could just as easily apply to residents in Lebanon during certain desperate times. About a third of the country’s border is with the Mediterranean Sea, and the country boasts several large rivers and (normally) enjoys plentiful rainfall.
But for various reasons, water shortages remain a fact of life for people across Lebanon, forcing them to resort to everything from bucket showers to DIY recycling schemes.
“When I get really desperate, I boil a kettle of water and mix it with a bit of cold water, put the whole thing in a bucket and just use that to shower,” said Nour, a student from Jbeil.
Making maximum use of the few hours every couple of days that the government tap works quickly becomes an art, with many residents keeping large water bottles, buckets, bins and even plastic bag-lined flower pots on hand ready to be filled up for various house chores.
Filling a large bowl or bucket with water is generally agreed to be the best method to do all the washing up. Rinsing can be done en masse by arranging items on the dish rack and then spritzing with clean water.
Clothes remain the trickiest to wash without much water, although a tri-bucket system and some soap will go a long way if you’re not afraid of rubbing your hands a little raw. Airing out clothes by hanging them off a breezy balcony can do wonders if the problem is to do with smell rather than stains.
For showers, a bucket plus a small mug should work just fine. Or, if you’re feeling particularly handy, you can tie a watering can up over your normal shower.
For those without watering cans, empty cat litter or detergent bottles can serve a similar purpose with a bit of nifty customizing. This water can also be recycled for the toilet if you’re very careful.
If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, just outsource the problem.
In Lebanon, there are actually a number of places where you can just pay to use someone else’s water.
“I simply go to the hairdresser to get a blow dry,” said Jana Daghestani, a fashion designer from Beirut.
“I’ve used the outdoor showers at beach clubs to wash my hair before,” said Caroline Anning, a journalist who lived in Lebanon a few years ago.
Other places to tap include gyms, swimming pools, spas and, if you’re male, hammams.
Of course, years of such tricks can become exhausting and expensive, especially for those with small children. For Carla Sayegh Hilton, mother to two kids under 5, it all became too much.
When asked how she coped with the water shortages, Hilton replied jokingly: “Does emigration count?”