There are two similar interpretations:
The first one is that elephants drink huge sums of water in a day, and to carry all of this water is metaphorical to carrying a huge burden, like the one carried by Jacob and Marlena in the book.
My second interpretation comes from the beginning of the book, where Jacob meets August on the train for the first time. When asked for a job, August lies to Jacob about an available job that requires bringing water to the elephants. This fib by August foreshadows that these main characters all have their deceptions.