Water (Drinking/Household)

No matter if I lived in a small village (qaryah) or a more affluent neighborhood, I have always experienced some problems with water, to some extent, in Egypt as well as here in Yemen.

The Water System

Here, most water is stored in a wyat—underground storage tank, (but I do see more and more above ground containers these days). Water is pumped from this large container/tank to smaller tanks that sit on the roof of the house.

How do you get household water?

You either get a water truck to deliver water or you may have hakumi (government water) that comes to you.

If you live in a villa (standalone house as opposed to a multi-family building), the water is pretty much on you, meaning you call the truck to bring you water. How long it lasts of course depends on your usage. When we lived in a villa by ourselves, I think we called the water truck about every two weeks. I think back then a truckful of water was about 1200 riyals (around $7) but its probably gobe up since then, that was about 2 years ago.

If you live in an apartment building, it can be a little more problematic depending on how the water is handled. If you pay monthly for water (if there’s a meter), its not as much of a problem and you may get a bill, pay it and that’s that (insha Allah) , but in some houses we have lived in, they collect water money every time the water ran out. So if someone didn’t have the money…….

Why does the water go out?

There are various reasons, among them:
1. The main tank needs refilling. Sometimes you just run out of water in the main storage tank and need water delivered.

2. The tank on the roof is empty. Sometimes its just a matter of turning on the pump to run the water up to the tank on the roof.

3. The pump breaks. In multi-family buildings the owner may collect money to get it fixed.

4. Another cause for us not having water was when they were working on the sewer system. (This was when we were on hakumi water). All over Sana’a, they were digging up roads and updating the current sewer system so the water was shut off for several days.

Tip for those planning on moving here or even to Egypt:

Store water.

We learned the hard way of the consequences when you don’t.

They have containers called “dibas” that are like the containers you use

when you run out of gas. They come in different sizes.

Get plenty and fill them up for when the water goes off (for whatever reason, no water in the wyat, pump breaking, etc.).

People also use the jugs from the water stations to store water.

And be sure to change the water often in these containers. It is not treated as well, if at all, like the water say in the states. You can see just how the quality of the water is if you leave clothes soaking in water for a few day :0 it begins to smell like sewage. And if water builds up in something like a dish drainer (for holding wet dishes after washing) it begins to grow ‘black stuff.”

Can you drink the water?

Most Yemenis buy bottled water for drinking.
Some types you can get here:

1. The Evian type bottled water (Nestle, Shamlan, Haddah, etc)

2. Water that they fill up in water stations (which most Yemenis seem to do). People and stores bring back the jugs for refilling. If you buy the jugs in a store, you initially buy a new jug and return it for a different one. These jugs go back to the water stations. They do steam the bottles there but some of them look very disgusting and you don’t know where they have been. One bottle we got had some qat floating in it, so we now try to stick with bottles that you don’t return/get filled up. Personally I think its better to get the manufactured bottled water as it and the containers are cleaner, insha Allah.

3. Water coolers/Water Cooler Jugs

The blue water cooler water containers can be found here and are popping up more and more.

At Shumaila Hari, a new filled one costs around 1400 riyals, while a smaller one is about 970 riyals. You exchange empty ones for filled ones at Shumaila Hari or at some smaller neighborhood grocery stores or water stations. I got the smaller one, pictured above, filled at a water station (or rather my son) for 200 riyals ($1).

You can get the water cooling/dispensing unit for the container for about 15,000-25,000 I think, or I found a nifty hand pump )see above) to get the water out at Shumaila Hari for about 1800 riyals. This hand pump is a little slanted because I think it was made for the bigger bottle, but it works well in the smaller one too.


I do cook with water from the tap, but its probably better not to do so.

A sister living in Saudi Arabia has some more information about water problems there as well as tips on how she makes the most of those waterless times on her blog–Life in Jeddah. The information pretty much applies and is useful for Yemen as well, insha Allah.


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  1. […] Water (Drinking/Household) […]

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