The military takes personal hydration very seriously in desert climates such as the Middle East and Southwest Asia. The health risks associated with dehydration are serious and can result in degradation of operational strength and effectiveness. In many locales including Afghanistan, reliable sources of clean water and the infrastructures required to facilitate their delivery do not exist. The military tackles this problem the same way many other issues are addressed – with commercial contracts.
The contract water provisioning model is common throughout the region. The process begins with a local provider who sends truckloads of palletized cases of water bottles to the compound as demand dictates. The pallets are then distributed throughout the compound where they are gradually depleted over the course of days as people carry away the individual cases.
Here on the KAIA compound, the water supplier is a Coca-Cola licensed bottler in Kabul. The product is of decent quality and is comparable to bottled water products sold in the States. Individual bottles are shrink-wrapped into cases of a dozen which are easily carried, stowed or transported as needed. This water supply is continuous and free for the taking. As a result, cases and bottles find their way into every nook and cranny conceivable. They’re found in offices, living quarters, vehicles, aircraft, mini-fridges, backpacks, coat pockets, recreational spaces, dining facilities, and anywhere else on the compound one can imagine.
In addition to drinking, bottled water has many other uses on KAIA. Tap water on the compound isn’t potable, so bottled water is utilized for brushing teeth, brewing coffee or tea, nuking cups of noodles, and any other application in which the water will be consumed. Bottled water is also the most convenient way to knock the dirt off things. Within a week, enough dirt can accumulate on a vehicle to make it difficult to see out of the windows. There basically isn’t anywhere to get vehicles cleaned on KAIA, so it’s bottled water to the rescue. Cases of water are often used as makeshift construction material. Among other things, they’re very useful as replacement furniture legs, shelving supports, coffee tables and doorstops. One is limited only by his ingenuity.
All this consumption creates considerable waste. The empty bottles have to go somewhere, and with the recycling program on KAIA being anemic at best, it’s an unfortunate likelihood most will wind up in an Afghan landfill. More unfortunate still, plastic bottle waste constitutes a mere fraction of the garbage generated by the several thousand residents on the compound.