the potable (poh-tah-bull) meaning "drinkable".
Here in Bagram, and just about anywhere else in Afghanistan, Soldiers are strictly forbidden to drink alcohol and while the local water may be potent, it's certainly not potable.
All our potable water comes in half-liter plastic bottles which are ubiquitous (look it up) here as the rocks and dust.
While individual bottles are available in every mess hall, also outside of almost every living quarters, work place, and various random spots, you will find a bus stop like structure housing a six-foot high stack of grab-and-go plastic-wrapped 12-packs - depending on the location, sometimes the stack is just plunked down in the open air. As the palletized stacks get consumed, about every two-weeks or so, a truck (civilian contractor) comes by with a new load.
So there is plenty of potable drinking water; although the plain Jane flavor can get boring which is why many Soldiers' Care Package wish lists include those little sleeves of flavored drink mixes for their bottled water.
But what about water for bathing, brushing and shaving?
Well, like just about every other consumable item that makes life possible here, if not wholly bearable, it is trucked in on a fairly regular basis by, you guessed it, a civilian contractor, and stored on site.
Sometimes the storage container is a ginormous heavy-plastic bag that looks like Godzilla's own old fashioned hot water bottle but where we live there are up-right water tanks.
If you look closely at the picture above of our water tanks, you should be able to read "Disinfected Non Potable Water"; which means heavily chemically treated to kill bacteria - depending on how "fresh" the water is, it can smell like you are taking a shower in rotten eggs.
When we (sulphur) shower, wash our hands, flush the toilets (thank goodness we have 'indoor' toilets!) the water comes from those tanks - so, on the rare occasion, when those tanks go empty, so does the wash basin taps, etc., until the "Non Potable" truck comes and does a refill.
What goes empty much more often and seems to take even longer to refill, is the much smaller tanks within the shower areas where the water is heated for our sinks and showers. With a whole bunch of Soldiers shaving and showering each morning, if you do not get yours at the right time, you can end up doing the chilly willy dance.
Just like back home where you have people who seem to feel parking space lines are just suggestions and selfishly straddle, we do have a small minority of Soldiers who feel it is okay to full steam ahead on their showers.
Most Soldiers, however, do what my ex-Navy Dad called a "Destroyer" shower: Get in; get wet; turn off the water; get soapy; turn the water on; get rinsed; turn the water off and; get out.
Personally, I do my best to be quick about my shower and use minimal amount of hot water when shaving. But, I'll tell you, man, oh man, I can't wait to get back to the States and be a real water hog.