Back view of the campus with the tank standing tall and proud.

Back view of the campus with the tank standing tall and proud.

“The house has electricity and running water.”  That’s what we heard on the conference call with Peace Corps a few days before leaving for South Africa.  Both are technically true.  The living room has electricity, but I’m using candles in my bedroom.  When the water tank is full and the valve is open, the house does have running water.  But there’s a leak, so the valve is only open long enough for us to fill our buckets for the day.

The water tank is a thing of beauty.  This hulking mass of green plastic is visible from far, serving as a homing beacon when I go for long hikes.  It is filled with a large municipal truck by students and teachers climbing the tower with hoses.  A highly entertaining enterprise.

Filing up the tank.  We actually got out lawn chairs to take in the show.

Filing up the tank. We actually got out lawn chairs to take in the show.

When the tank runs out, we use the pump for the borehole.  The water is sweet and cold.  It’s not a long walk, but it’s not a short walk, either.  We also compete with students (and pigs) for position at the pump, so Colonel Tom prefers to fetch water in the evening.  I cannot yet balance a bucket on my head, so I haul two buckets at a time to stay balanced.

This little piggy had whatever the kids washed off from their lunch plates.

This little piggy had whatever the kids washed off from their lunch plates.

Our tank was last filled on Sunday.  About 24 hours later, I heard a large booming SPLASH and peeked out my window to see our tank split in three pieces and a river of precious water running across the school yard.  It was spectacular.  The students cheered.

The demise of the water tower.

The demise of the water tower.

We have three hypotheses for the destruction of the water tower:
1) Lightning stuck the tank and split it.
2) There was a small fracture in the tank and it split under the pressure of being newly full (physics students will remember the “notch effect”).
3) The tank was not positioned squarely on the tower and being in a state of unstable equilibrium, it eventually toppled over.

I have dismissed #1. While there was a thunderstorm going on, there was no thunder at the time of the strike.  It would have been exceptionally loud.  Also, there is no evidence of lightning strike on the tank pieces.

I am debating between #2 and #3.  In general, the tank appears to be in good shape (aside from being in three pieces), so I wouldn’t expect a fracture.  The tank was certainly left in a precarious position, but how did the bottom end up on the opposite side of the tower from the top?  I need more evidence.
We are lucky no one was opening the valve at the time.  We are lucky no kids were nearby when it fell.  We are lucky the pigs weren’t napping beside the tower.  There’s talk of a new tank.  I have my fingers crossed for a ground installation so we can connect our gutters to it.  In the meantime, the boys and I are getting our upper body workouts.

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