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.
Here’s the well at our bungalow in Kaliyapitiya.
A wealth of rivers crisscross the island fueling every shade of growing green imaginable.