Water runs every other day here at the house. It usually starts running sometime around 4am or 5am and runs until 8am or 9am and sometimes til 10am. This is fairly consistent and so we’ve come to depend on the water running at that time. Once back in May it didn’t run in the morning so I did not get a shower with running water that morning. When I came back from school I turned on the faucet and left it on so if the water began to run I’d hear it. It started to fall after lunch so we really didn’t have to wait that long.
Last Friday I went to the beach and we since had running water on Thursday I knew that we’d have running water on Saturday. So I scooped up water from the outside pila (cement basin) into a guacal (plastic tub) and added the rinso (detergent) to let my clothes soak overnight. They were full of sand and smelled like the ocean (remember, people swim in their clothes). I used a considerable amount of water from my own pila to take a shower. Like my clothes, I too was covered in sand and smelled like the ocean; not something I wanted to take to bed with me. There wasn’t a lot of water left in my pila by the time I’d finished. Not a big deal, there’d be water tomorrow.
Wrong! Saturday morning came but the running water did not. When this happens there’s not a whole lot you can do. You just have to wait until the water starts running again. We figured that the water would either come later that day, tomorrow, or not until Monday. But I really didn’t want my clothes sitting in the dirty water all weekend. So I dumped out the water and hung them over the shower rod in my bathroom. I didn’t have enough water to do laundry and since we weren’t for sure when the water would run again I decided against trying to wash my clothes.
Thankfully (at least in this situation), it’s the rainy season. It was overcast and I figured that it would be raining sometime soon. So I hung all my wet, soapy clothes outside so if it did rain then the sand and soap would get somewhat rinsed off. I went back in the house and told the ladies that they needed to do a rain dance. They actually sang a short song, and about an hour later it started to rain. Yay!
Several of the pilas at the house were very low and I wasn’t for sure how much water the ladies had in their pila. I saw the rain pouring down outside and thought about the floods of 1993 in Iowa. During that time, most of the city of Des Moines went without water for 12 days. And it wasn’t until 7 days after that that the water was declared potable. When we were without running water we collected rain water in buckets, garbage cans, and pots right outside our house. This is what we used to bathe, flush toilets, and do some cleaning. We bought water to drink and used a lot of disposable dishes.
After thinking about that I went outside to put guacals in the yard to collect rain water. We could use it for flushing toilets, bathe, and maybe use it to clean dishes as well. After setting up several guacals I went up to Kathy’s office to talk about the water situation. We talked about the flooding in Iowa and collecting water. We compared our lives during those short 12 days without running water to the people here who have never had running water in their homes. Some people may never have running water in their homes.
Many families collect rain water in big, black water tanks (if they’re lucky). The families in the canton of Santa Cruz just got water tanks this year in later March. People in the caserío of La Llanes don’t have big water tanks so they use the few barrels they have. If people in the cantons are fortunate enough to have a metal roof they can create a gutter made from bamboo or metal that runs from their roof to the water tank. That means that before the water falls into the tank it becomes saturated with anything sitting on the roof (dirt, leaves, bird droppings, etc.) Hence the importance of the water filters in the communities.
Several communities have a running water source (a pump) located somewhere in their canton. The water pump usually draws water from a nearby stream or river. Of course, the people in the community still have to walk to the water pump, fill up their cántaro (plastic jug), and carry it back to their house. Sometimes the water runs daily and other times it runs only a couple times a month. For example, the canton of Santa Cruz has running water but it only runs once and month with inconsistent timing. But now they have water tanks to collect rain water as well so they don’t have to rely on the water pump.
If you don’t have a running water pump then you have to walk to a stream, river, or a similar source to collect water. You scoop up the water in your cántaro and carry it home. This is also what some people do during the dry season since there is no rain water to collect in their tanks. Even if there is a water pump located in the canton people often to walk to a river or stream to collect water because the water from the pump may not run for several days (or weeks).
I know I’ve written before about the water situation in El Salvador. When things happen, such as the water not running here at the house, I try to take some time to remind myself of how fortunate I am. I have been blessed with many necessities that others do not have.
Comic relief: The water didn’t run Saturday or Sunday either but it did run on Monday. So I finally got around to washing my clothes. I had my dirty, ocean clothes as well as others that I needed to do. It took me a good hour to get everything clean. I finished washing my clothes and was just hanging up the last shirt on the clothesline when a passing bird went to the bathroom on me. It got all over my arm and the shirt I was wearing. I walked into Kathy’s office to tell her what happened and she started laughing. Oh boy. I sighed and went to change my clothes so I could wash the bird poo off my shirt.
The almost emply main pila
Collecting rain water
Collecting water from the roof in gaucals
Another large barrel by the ladies area
A beautiful sight
We used all the buckets we had
Chelita wants inside Kathy's office
Barbara's guacal is full
A little river in the yard
There are my clothes
Cecilia cleaning out the pila