Water bearing is the practise of non-participants in an activity bringing water to those actively participating.
- Feminae quoque nostrae in illa die fuerunt nobis in maxilo refugio, quae afferebant ad bibendum aquam nostris peliatoribus, et fortiter semper confortabant illos, pugnantes et defendentes.
- Liber III, Gesta Francorum et aliorum Hierosolimitanorum
Roughly: "The women were of great assistance that day, for they brought water for the warriors to drink, and bravely encouraged the fighters and defenders."
Waterbearing in the SCA
During wars and tourneys, fighters often risk dehydration. To prevent this, people bring water to the fighters. These people are often the fighter's consort, or of the same household or group as the fighters, or members of the local Waterbearer's Guild. There have been many ingenious ways developed of getting water to weary fighters. Some waterbearers carry large water barrels carried on their backs with plastic tubing for straws, others carry a box with compartments filled with smaller waterbottles, each bearing the name of the fighter who the bottle belongs to.
Often, water bearers also carry snacks to fighters, generally salty ones (pickles, peanuts, and crackers being good examples), in order to help the fighters maintain electrolyte balance, or sweet ones (oranges, grapes, melon). The extra salt in the snacks helps replace the salt lost in the fighters' sweat, and the sweet ones can provide needed sugars and energy.
Waterbearing is broken down into Partisan and Non-Partisan service. Partisan waterbearing is an individual providing service to a specific group, and no other. Non-Partisan waterbearing is providing service to any in need: combatants, marshallate, heralds, onlookers, etc. Some Kingdoms have adopted rules forbidding Partisan waterbearing of any kind.
Waterbearing can also be broken down into Contact and Non-Contact methods. Contact waterbearing involves direct contact between the mouth of the person drinking and the water container. This is most often seen in war scenarios where water supplies are being provided in large milk jugs equipped with plastic tubing 'straws.' Non-contact waterbearing provides a means of refreshment in which no deliberate contact is permitted, and in the case of accidental contact (contamination), the equipment is immediately removed from the field and sanitized. Non-contact waterbearing utilizes sport-topped bottles, or bottles with projection-straws, so that water can be given without direct mouth to mouth contact. Some Kingdoms have adopted rules requiring all Waterbearing Guilds to provide Non-Contact waterbearing.
While Waterbearing can be as simple as one person with a bucket full of water bottles, it can also be extremely complex. During war scenarios, upwards of 100 waterbearers can be supporting multiple fields of combat, providing nourishment and hydration to the opposing armies.
Your friendly neighbourhood Chirurgeon reminds you to have your own water bottle (or make sure your waterbearer is practicing non-contact waterbearing), to avoid sharing nasty diseases (including viral hepatitis, bacterial gastroenteritis, herpes/cold sores, etc).