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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Water Supplies

Water Supplies

Lack of water constituted probably the greatest problem of desert warfare. In the coastal area the presence of salt as well as fresh water underground made it useless to sink wells. The main source of water for the force was by water train from Alexandria. Roman aqueducts, repaired and developed by the engineers, at Mersa Matruh, Maaten Baggush, and Burbeita supplemented the supply. Later, pipelines were laid from the aqueducts to new water points. The water thus obtained was good and easily rendered sterile, but unfortunately the amount available was limited by the fact that over-pumping at once produced salinity.

There was a further difficulty of distribution to forward and dispersed troops, for whom insufficient water carts and containers page 65 were available. Water drawn for New Zealand troops was chlorinated at the water point before distribution. The ration was one and a half gallons a day for all purposes, three-quarters of a gallon being used for cooking and three-quarters for drinking and washing. This was adequate provided there was no waste. Some units washed their clothes each week in water saved from the daily allowance, whilst others sent their clothes to a military laundry in Alexandria.