Season of Yellow Canisters

Season of Yellow Canisters

We had gotten used with living at Antonio Plaza – thats how our house was called at Nkrumah Flats area. We also got used with the yellow canisters that were standing in our bathroom filled with water – incase there would be shortage.

Yes – in Ghana you dont get running water every day. The tap that supplies the water to houses is open on certain times only and thats when its filling a polytank that stands on the roof. Or whatever other high place. It has to be placed high for better flow of the water. So when the man pipe is not flowing you get water from polytank. When the polytank was empty, you used what you had stored in the canisters. We had needed to use the water from canisters few times and as soon as the water was running from pipe we re-filled the canisters.

Damn neighbors

The yellow canisters in our bathroom where not ours. We has borrowed them from friendly neighbor based on her advice to collect water.

One morning our neigbors asked if they can use our bathroom. They had their own bathroom in the opposite end of the house but for some reason they needed access to ours that day. We did not asked any questions and unloced the door for them. Remember – we were having the “supposed to be shared” type of bathroom so the access was not from our appartment but from the house general corridor.

People, supposingly all familymembers of our neighbor, were moving in and out from our bathroom all day – carrying conteiners of water. Apparently the polytank that was supplying their side of the house was empty and now they needed water from the polytank that was on our side.  Well – yes it was bit weird but we did not complain as we really had not had any serious problems with water supply earlier.

When they were done and I finally got access to our bathroom I noticed that they had taken our water storage – fine, the canisters belonged to them and we were supposed to give them back one day anyway. I was not too surprised that there was no water running from our tap. Now our Polytank was empty too. That upseted us cos we had no water storage. For emergency hygene procedures we used drinking water that day and then rushed to market as it was last time to buy our own water conteiners. All conteiners sold at market were yellow and oily from inside as in their previous lives they were storaging cooking oil. We bought 2 pieces of 25-litre conteiners and hoped to wash and fill them the next day when we expected the water tap to be running again.

The water problem became real

The next day tap was not running again. I went downstairs to check if I could get some water from garden hose.

“Dont you listen to the radio?” Asked an old man who was always sitting outside with his old noisy transistor radio.

“No I dont listen that noise!” I replied bit crankily as the garden hose also refused to give me any water.

“Well, if did listen you would know that there will not get any water here for weeks cos government has closed the tap!”

“Why the hell would they do that?”

“Dry season, there is shortage. They told about it in radio and asked everybody to fill their spare containers. Didnt you do that?”

“No I did not. Cos I dont listen this stupid radio and now I dont have water. And thos damn neighbors stole my spare water!” I was furious.

I ran to neighbors and continued shouting at them. They took my water and did not even warn to prepare for shortage. True the conteiners belonged to them but water inside those containers was MINE! MINE! MINE!!!!! And if they had warned me – I would have at least collected some water to my cooking pot.

Water business

No. I did not get MY water back. But they showed me way to a family in neighborhood who had their personal water well and who were selling water during the shortage.

So every few days we had to make our way to them to fill our water conteiners. They also provided option to take shower for money at they place. I used this paying for shower option for few times during the shortage weeks and while having a shower I washed some pieces of closings I had hidden in my purse. Good thing that in Africa clothes are small and can be hidden in purse so nobody would suspect I am trying to smuggle some dirty laundry to showering area.

I decorated my water canisters with some flowers and added my name on them so I would not confusem with others who also bought water from same place – cos as I mentioned earlier – all the canisters are yellow! We tended to leave the canisters in the morning to the water selling spot and then go to down to search for a job or business contacts and collected the canisters in the evening when returned to our neighborhood.

Season of Yellow canisters

While moving around in city we noticed people accessories with same yellow canisters. Who carried their canister on head, who had one in each hand. There were also something like “water taxi” moving around in wealthier areas. It was huge wooden charrot loaded with same yellow canisters with water.

It was season of “yellow canisters” and it lasted for two months.


  1. This just puts everything into perspective. Water is everything, without it we cannot survive. I can’t imagine what you have been going through.It must be so hard and it shows how hard it is if other people steel water from you.

  2. Wow, this article really makes you think. We use water every day and don’t think twice about it. We certainly take it for granted and I’m sure it was a life-changing experience for you to live in Ghana and see the water situation there.

  3. Interesting story. In Europe we take the access to water for granted. Your story shows me again how spoiled we are.

  4. I enjoyed your story. Many people, like me, take access to water for granted since it flows from our faucets. This story shows how serious this situation is when people are desperate enough to steal water.

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