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Advice on Drinking Tap & Bottled Water in Gambia
Travel Advice     Travellers' Diarrhoea      Food & Drink Safety
At first, drinking the tap water is not advisable—as the water does not go through the same purification process as in the EU, diarrhoea can occur in people who have not yet built up immunity to bacteria or other impurities in the water.

It is best to buy bottled water or to boil tap water for at least 2 minutes to make the water suitable for consumption.

After about two months, you probably can safely start drinking the water, in small amounts at first, as most likely your body has adjusted through exposure to the water while brushing teeth, showering, and eating foods cooked with water not fully boiled. However, to limit health risks, never drink water from anything but the tap or covered cement wells.

The cheapest safe water option is to buy 500 ml bottles of Naturelle water. (Naturelle is a water purification and bottling company called Gamwater located in Kanifing.) You can buy these or similar bottles individually from most local shops. If you are buying in bulk, some local shops sell cases of bottles—a fantastic deal, considering 1.5 litre bottles of the same stuff individually costs disproportionately higher. If you do buy bottles, never throw them away—to Gambians, empty bottles are prized commodities for storing water, palm oil, palm wine, and other liquids.

If you get tired of drinking plain water all of the time, you can buy small packets of power drink mix from local shops or the supermarkets. One popular brand is Foster Clarks, which comes in a variety of flavours, including orange, strawberry, mango, pineapple, mixed berry, cola, et al. Local shops usually will have only two or three flavours—go to supermarkets for the whole gamut.

If you want water and want to say it in Wolof then the word for water is "Ndohh".

The water supply already at present is a major problem for the urban areas of Gambia's Kombos. The level of the ground water is constantly sinking and there have been water shortages for a number of years. This mainly is due to enormous use of water for tourism facilities. In the Senegambia Hotel, in 1986, the water consumption per bed amounted to 500 litres a day!

The situation will only be improved by drilling new bore holes and constructing more overhead water tanks at Kotu South. But again, this may not be realized in the immediate future. Therefore, considering the present water supply and ecological implications, all allocated and future projects have to be carefully and critically scrutinised before they are approved or implemented.

Total water withdrawal was 31.8 million m3 in the year 2000. The largest user was agriculture with 21.3 million m3/year (67%, followed by the domestic sector with 6.9 million m3/year (22 per cent) and industry with 3.6 million m3/year (11%).

Surface water is rarely used as a source of potable water in the Gambia, because of the persistently saline conditions which exist in the lower reaches of the River Gambia and its tributaries, where the main urban areas and tourism facilities are located. The potable demand for residential areas, tourism, industry, livestock and irrigation watering is supplied by groundwater sources.


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