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Water, such a luxury.

There probably aren’t too many people who would think of water as a luxury.  Most consider it vital but have such easy access to it they don’t give it much thought (except some Californians).  And  everyone knows there are parts of the world where access to clean water is an issue.  And, even though, I have lived in a country where clean water is not available to 15% of the population, I have been able to afford it.  My cistern, tanks and swimming pool have been replenished with a phone call to bring a truck to the house.

According to Wikipedia, in 2010, 85% of the population in Peru had access to water.  It was estimated 83% of urban dwellers had water piped into their home while only 46% of rural dwellers had such service.  Improvements in the delivery of water have improved since 2010, but most improvements have been in urban areas.  Water quality varies widely but is not generally potable throughout the country.  Water may not flow 24 hours a day either.  In Los Organos people may have to open valves in the middle of the night to fill their cisterns or tanks while water is flowing.  If they do not have cisterns, they fill whatever tanks, buckets, cans or containers they have when trucks come through neighborhoods.


In late February of this year, heavy rains made the road to our house impassable.  This meant we couldn’t call for a truck of water and had no way of getting water to the house. We were able to buy 21 liter bottles of drinking water, but had to use water from the pool for everything else: bathing, flushing, doing dishes, laundry and watering the garden.  We left for a trip to the states in mid-February and returned in late March.  Throughout this time, it continued to rain and conditions continued to deteriorate.  We did miss the worst of it.

Once home, we were able to access the situation.  There was minimal damage to the house; just a bit of water in the house which had seeped in through the walls and windows.  Part of our retaining wall out front had collapsed.  Fortunately the wall at the end of the pool held.  Another wall built to terrace the garden also collapsed.  For the most part, we fared rather well.  Except when it came to our driveway and road.


This was what our driveway looked like when we arrived home.  Doug was able to stand in the bottom and the “island” was chest high.  The lower part was pure mud which washed down from above.  You would sink up to your ankles trying to walk across it.  Much of the road between Ñuro and our house was similarly destroyed.

IMG_1133During the first week of returning home, we had to walk the 3 kilometers to the pier in Ñuro.  From there, we retrieved our truck and drove into town for supplies and groceries.  On the reverse trip, all supplies and groceries had to be packed home on foot.  For the first few days, this might have seemed like an adventure but the novelty wore off quickly.  We were able to locate an ATV for sale a week later and bought it.  Even though much of the road was impassable for a vehicle, the ATV could navigate it.  It wasn´t a cushy ride by any means, and we mostly traveled on the beach.  At least this allowed us to make the trip in less time and to carry more back.

Our primary concern remained getting access to clean water.

Doug approached various land owners along the road to see if they would share the cost of getting the road fixed.  None were interested.  We don’t have any neighbors that live here full time; they are here only for vacations.  Living elsewhere, they were in no hurry to get things done.  They could wait for the government or the oil companies, which use the road, to fix it.

After about ten days of sunshine and no rain, the road dried out.  With the 4-wheel drive pick-up we were able to drive to and from the property, but not up to the house.  Again, this was akin to a rodeo ride on a bucking bronc and required bobble head flexibility.

In mid-March, Doug hired a front loader machine to fix the driveway from the road to the house.  The operator was quite good but it still took him 4.5 hours to get the driveway workable.

Doug then rented the front loader and went down the road to fix some of the worst spots.  Unfortunately, he had only gone about 300 meters when the fuel pump quit and the U-joint broke apart.  So, there the machine sat; in the middle of the road.  It wasn’t going anywhere for a while.

Finally on the 20th of April, machinery and trucks began working on the road.  I suspect they were hired by the petroleum companies, but I’m not entirely sure.  I didn’t really care.  I was excited the work was being done.  Two days later, they had the road repaired.  Now, repaired is a relative term…think rough logging road and you can imagine what we ended up with.

Sunday, the 22nd of April, was a red banner day; one to celebrate!  We finally got a truck full of water to the house and now have a full cistern and water tanks.  I was able to shower with clean water coming out of the shower head; it was the first in what seemed like a very long time.  It was luxurious!  Five gallon buckets distributed throughout the house for flushing, dishes, etc. are now being put away.  The pool level is down about 18 inches, but filling it back up will have to wait for another time.

As with most luxuries, you pay for them.  Water has always been by far our most expensive monthly bill.  Unfortunately, with all the effects of the rains and mudslides, the cost is now 25% higher.  We are becoming champions on conserving water.

This year, Peru experienced heavy rains.  We average two to three inches of rain per year on the north coast; not surprising as it is a desert.  Since January 1, Piura province has had 25 inches of rain.  Most storms dumped 1-2 inches of rain per hour while the worst storms dumped 5 inches per hour.  (Global Precipitation Measurement mission of NASA)  Rains in the interior were equally strong and resulted in massive floods and numerous landslides down river.  In late January, landslides blocked the Pan-American highway, which is the supply route to the north of the country from Lima.  By March, the highway was cut off in Trujillo and Chiclayo.

Yes, it was bad!

We live outside of the village of El Ñuro, which is within jurisdiction of the town of Los Organos.  The paved road ends at the pier in Ñuro and our home is three kilometers further on via a dirt road.  The soil has a high clay content so when it rains it becomes a sloppy slippery mess, often impassable after even a half inch of rain.  It usually dries out sufficiently with a day of sunshine.  Normally we have one or two days during the rainy season (January-April) when we can’t drive into town.  This year was different.  Rains began in December and have continued into April.  In mid-February, the road to our house became impassable due to landslides and wash outs.


Quebrada Puerto Rico

On the 8th of February, heavy rains flooded the quebrada next to our property and threatened to flood buildings below.  The photo is taken from our home.  The  quebrada normally drained out to the beach through a 10 foot diameter drainage pipe under the road.  However, a year ago, the pipe collapsed and the resulting hole had been filled with rocks and dirt.


Yes, that’s Doug in the hole left after the pipe’s collapse.

The owners of the property below needed to reopen the drainage to prevent further flooding.  They did so, and thus left a gully across the road.  We were able to get our pick-up on the far side so we could still get in to town and back.   It meant we had to pack stuff up to the house on foot, but it was do-able.


We left for a trip to the states on the 18th of February and returned on the 26th of March.  We missed the majority of the storms, but certainly experienced the aftermath.

We were unable to drive home as the road between Ñuro and the road to the house was destroyed.


Even walking was problematic.



We had to walk home along the beach carrying our luggage from our trip.  Thank heavens for Juana and Sanchez who came to help….  Stormy too.  This walk was a bit surreal…. it was so quiet and amidst all the destruction, there were thousands of little red crabs scurrying along the beach.  In its own way, it was all very beautiful.  Certainly the usually brown hills surrounding this area looked more like a jungle without the forest.

IMG_1090Even through all of this, we felt fortunate.  Our home survived with minimal damage.  Many throughout Peru had lost their homes.  Our biggest issue was getting access to clean water.  We live completely off the grid.  Power is supplied by solar panels.  Water is delivered to us by trucks which fill our cistern.  With the road destroyed, trucks weren’t going to be able to get to us.  More on this next.

Birds all around!  As I headed into my studio today, I found a house wren perched on my loom.  I have no clue how he got inside but he looked quite content.  I had to walk through the studio to open the doors which frightened him up into the rafters.  I grabbed a broom and tried to gently nudge him toward the door but he had other ideas.  Stormy, our dalmatian, became curious and came to help.  I was finally able to get the bird out without Stormy taking it on as a toy.

So, now back to moving the hummingbird project into the studio.  Once I had the image finalized on the computer, I printed it out.  I had to “tile” the image in Photoshop Elements to print it using my home computer.  I ended up with 12 pages to tape together.  It’s in black and white as my printer doesn’t do colors.


I drew lines with a sharpie to delineate different colors.  I usually start with the lightest colors and proceed from there.  This can get tricky as some pieces are tiny.  I go ahead and mark them at this point, and decided if and how I will put them in with fabric later.  The grey scale is great at showing value, but colors having the same value won’t show up as being different from one another.  I keep a color copy of the posterized image close at hand so I can add lines delineating these colors as well.

I decided to focus on the hand first and the hummingbird later.

Now comes my favorite part; choosing the fabrics!  There is something so satisfying about handling batik fabrics.  And something therapeutic about playing with colors.

I figure out what color families I will be needing.  In this case:  greys, pinks, greens and tans/browns.  I have my fabrics sorted into bins; each bin contains a color family which contains varying values of the same color.   I will pull these bins out and pull out any fabric that I think might work color-wise with my design.  I will often end up with thirty or forty fabrics on the table.  Then I will finalize color selection according to the number of shades I need and how they complement each other.  In this case, I used the colored poster on my iPad to determine colors.  The posterizing can change the color a bit but, in this case, that was helpful as finding flesh colors wasn’t required.

This is what I ended up with for fabric for the hand.  Looking at these fabrics, I couldn’t quite see a “hand.”  This had been my problem with this project from the beginning.  I just wasn’t 100% convinced these would morph into a hand.  But I knew I had to take the leap or this quilt was not going to happen.


Each fabric was arranged according to value within it’s color family and each was assigned a number.  I went back to my pattern and located where each would go and labeled it by number.  (Remember painting by number?)  Finally, I covered the pattern with a sheet of mylar and traced the outlines and numbers.  This will help me with placing elements onto the foundation.


I dyed a piece of fabric for the background.  It is almost solid black, but has a bit of dark blue swirled into it.  (More on dyeing fabric in another post.)  I cut this into a rectangle several inches larger than I wanted the quilt to be before adding any borders.  I’ll use this as my foundation.

Next step?  I’ll begin “painting” the hand with fabric.


The Hummingbird.

Every project starts with an idea.  That’s the easy part.  I have lots of ideas.  I keep a folder of photos, ideas and what-not that provide inspiration.  I see ideas everywhere.  The challenge is transforming the idea into a quilt.

Four years ago, this hummingbird was inside the building where my son, Blaine, was working.  The bird was trying to get out a window.  He managed to catch it and took it outside to release it.  It was at this point, his friend Bob grabbed his camera.  As Blaine opened his hand, the bird stayed there for a few seconds before flying away.

When Blaine sent me this picture, he suggested it would make a great quilt.  I put the photo into my ideas folder, not knowing what I would do with it.  Soon thereafter, he proposed to his girlfriend.  I then pulled the photo out as I thought it would make the perfect wedding gift.

I’ve thought about this project for over three years.  (And Blaine is still not married, but still engaged.)  It has percolated, kept me awake at night and been a challenge to meet.

First, and foremost, flesh colors are next to impossible to find in fabric.  When I couldn’t find the right colors in any fabric store, I resorted to trying to dye my own.  I used all sorts of materials; things from commercial dyes to coffee and tea.  Many yards of fabric later, I had some browns and pinks of various hues and values, but nothing fleshy.

I was introduced to Photoshop Elements about this time.  One feature of the program is “posterizing” your photos.  Basically, it takes your photos and converts it into an image with a limited number of different tones.

My sister, Do, suggested I do the hand in grey scale.  This was intriguing (and, honestly, out of my comfort zone) but I thought it might highlight the hummingbird. The bird’s bright colors would contrast with the monochromatic hand.  So I began to collect fabrics in all values of greys and black.  Months went by as this was percolating, but I never got to the point of commitment.  So there it stalled, yet again.


Not too long ago, Blaine reminded me he was still waiting for his quilt.  (My response?  I am still waiting for the wedding!)  So, I decided to get back to the hummingbird.  I went back to the original photo and posterized it in color.  I played around with cropping the photo trying to decide how much of the hand I was going to include (or get away with eliminating?).  Here is the final result:

hummingbird posterized 5

I felt like I could work with this image.  Since the colors weren’t strictly flesh coloured, I had better luck finding or dyeing fabrics to work.

This leads me into Part 2; Moving into the studio and preparing to quilt.  Stay tuned.

Blogging Anew


After a few years of hit or miss posts, I’ve decided to return to blogging.

Initially I started to blog to share my experiences as my husband and I moved to the north coast of Peru with family and friends we left in the U.S.   I can be a bit long-winded when telling a story, so felt Facebook wasn’t the right platform.  I also didn’t want to send out mass e-mails fearing not everyone I thought would be interested, would be.  With the blog, I can tell my stories and if people are interested, they can tune in.  If not, …  well, that’s ok too.

I quit blogging a few a years ago; mostly because I felt more burdened by the sense I should post than enjoying it.  By that time, we had been in Peru 5 years.  I continued experiencing new adventures, but the story telling became less important.  I posted a few things in the interim years:  when I was working on a project for a class on sustainability or when the local water reservoir collapsed and water became scarce or altogether unavailable in our area.  Those posts were important to me and yet I knew few people ever read them.  My postings had been so few and far in between, my readers had moved on to other things.

Lately, I’ve felt the urge to blog anew.  I have several things in mind:

Flooding in Piura

I continue to have stories to tell about Peru.  This past winter Peru suffered through torrential rains which caused mass flooding, mud slides and huge losses of property and life.  We live in the midst of this.  We feel lucky not to have suffered more damage than we have here at the house but we are having to deal with issues created by the rains….  the most pressing being water.


Over the last several years, I have immersed myself in quilting and other finer arts.  Most of my quilts have a story behind them.  Blogging will give me an opportunity to tell these stories.

Also, the process of quilting has been a journey of discovery for me.  Local resources are non-existent for this craft.  Patchwork is known here, but art quilts are not.  This is wonderful when people see my work and are amazed; and remark how they’ve never seen anything like it.  On the other hand, I’ve had to scour the internet and the US bookstores for methodology and ideas.  My sister, Do, an accomplished and immensely talented quilter has offered immense support and help.  I get 99% of my materials from the states and bring them here.  The bottom line is that I am self-taught; and maybe some of my “discoveries” along the way might be helpful or interesting to someone else.


I will also be offering some quilts for sale.  I’ve been asked to do an exhibition at a restaurant in Piura.  This has launched me into thinking about quilts for sale.

My focus in blogging then will be the quilting; the stories behind them and techniques I’ve discovered which enrich my work.  But also the telling of stories about my life on the north coast of Peru.  I’ll aim for one post a week.  I hope this will be interest to others and that this will be a good format for sharing.  I also hope readers will respond, add their thoughts and interact as they read and follow my continuing journey.

Water delivery

For the majority of us, we can just open a faucet in our kitchen, bathroom or wherever and get water.  We also know, intellectually, that there are many people in this world who do not have easy access to water.  Yesterday we came across this scene in the town of Los Organos (where we do our grocery shopping).  You can see the water truck filling barrels and 5 gallon buckets in front of people’s homes.  Some who are fortunate enough to have a small pump will then pump water into their homes.  Others will carry water in as needed in smaller containers.  Hotels and some homes have larger storage tanks or cisterns.
IMG_0448In January of this year, a large reservoir in Mancora  collapsed.  This reservoir provided much of the water piped into Mancora as well as Vichayito, Los Organos and El Nuro.  Now it is being delivered by trucks.

Finding information on what the government is doing about replacing the reservoir or working toward an alternative solution is difficult.  The web site for the water company hasn’t been updated for a few years.  The newspaper last month had a small blurb about a petition to replace all the officials of the water company.  Rumors are rampant, but no one seems to have any official or accurate information.

I put together a Keynote presentation as my final project.  You can access it using this link:

Hope you enjoy it!

As I continue to investigate the state of water in Peru and the sustainability of current practices, I am struck by how government has stalled forward progress.  Here’s a broad summary:

1981-  President Fernando Belaunde Terry merged water and sanitation services into the National Service of Water and Sewage Supply (SENAPA).  SENAPA consisted of 15 constituent companies and 10 operational units.  200 cities (20%) were not included and were responsible for administering their own services.

1985-1990-  President Alan Garcia pass a law transferring responsibility for rural water and sanitation functions to regional governments.  However, with the change in government in 1990, these changes never materialized.

Garcia also transferred all SENAPA companies and operational units to municipalities.  Going forward, SENAPA was only to give technical assistance.  This was also not implemented.

1990-2000-  President Alberto Fujimori moved toward commercializing and decentralizing water and sanitation services.  In 1992, he placed SENAPA under direct control of the president and created the National Water and Sewage Program (PRONAP).  In 1994, EPS was created.  EPS was a municipal utility that was legally and financially separate from the municipality.  The National Superintendence of Sanitation Services (SUNASS) was created.  However, no public-private partnership in water supply or sanitation was put in place during the Fujimori government.

2005-  The first water/sanitation concession was awarded in Tumbes while Alejandro Toledo was president.

2006-2011-  President Alan Garcia initiated “Agua Para Todos” and vowed to have water available to all before the end of his administration.  In 2006-2007 nine small towns (5,000-25,000 population) introduced a model program for water and sanitation services.  This model moved the decision making to the communities who would hire specialized operators overseen by a community based supervisory board.  After municipal elections in 2007, three new mayors abandoned the project and returned to the old model.  The other 6 cities continue to operate with specialized operators.

2011-2015  President Ollanta Humala has initiated construction on several large projects developing the infrastructure for water and sanitation in some areas.  One such project is in Callao, the major port of Lima.

It seems like each administration has developed and followed its own path.  Improvements overall certainly have been made, but many projects have just been abandoned.  Presidential elections occur every five years, as do local elections for mayors.  In 1999 it was estimated that EPS changed general managers on average every 17 months.  With this kind of turn over, how can there be a clearly defined plan to deliver water and sanitation services to all?
IMG_0345Here is a local example.  If you look closely, you can see a water reservoir situated on the hill on the right.  In the foreground you also see a water reservoir.  The one on the hill was built by a mayor who was in office around seven years ago.  The one in the foreground was built by his successor.  I was told that when the successor was asked why he didn’t complete the work on the first reservoir, he said it wasn’t his project.  Since it wasn’t his project, he didn’t want anything to do with it and he built his own.  As far as I know, there isn’t anything wrong with the first one.

Continuo a investigar el estado de agua en Perú y la sostenibilidad de los sistemas actual, pienso cómo el gobierno se ha estancado el progreso hacia adelante.  Acá es un resumen:

1981-  El presidente Fernando Belaúnde Terry combinó servicios de agua y saneamiento en SENAPA.  SENAPA consistió de 15 empresas y 10 unidades de operaciones.  200 ciudades no fueron incluidos y fueron responsables de la administración de sus propios servicios.

1985-1990-  Presidente Alan Garcia inicio una ley que transferió responsabilidad para servicios de agua y saneamiento rural a gobierno regional.  Pero, con el cambio de gobierno en 1990, estos cambios no pasaron. Presidente Garcia también tranferió todo de las empresas de SENAPA a las municipalidades.  SENAPA estaría responsable solo para ayuda técnica.  Esto también no paso.

1990-2000-  Presidente Alberto Fujimori quería comercializar y descentralizar servicios de agua y saneamiento.  En 1992, puso SENAPA baja control directo del presidente y creyó PRONAP.  En 1994, EPS creyó.  EPS era una cámara municipal que era  legalmente y financieramente independiente del municipalidad.  SUNASS creyó.  Sin embargo, ninguna asociación publica-privada estabilizó para servicios de agua y saneamiento durante la presidencia de Fujimori.

2005-  La primera concesión era concedido en Tumbes durante la presidencia de Alejandro Toledo.

2006-2011-  El presidente Alan Garcia empezó Agua Para Todos y prometió que toda la gente tendrián agua antes que terminó su administración.  En 2006 y 2007 nueve pueblos de 5-25 mil introdujeron un programa model para agua y saneamiento.  Esto model se mueve la proceso de decisiones a la comunidad.  La comunidad contratar a operadores especializados supervisados por cominitario consejo de supervisión basada.  Después de elecciones municipal, tres nuevos alcaldes abandonaron el proyecto.  Los otros seis pueblo continuaron.

Aparece que cada gobierno elaboró y inició sus propios proyectos.  Claro que hay mejora de servicios durante los últimos veinte años, pero muchos proyectos estaban abandonados.  En 1999 estimaba que EPS cambio sus gerentes cada 17 meses. Con tantos cambios de administración, ¿como puede ser un plan decisivo para entregar agua y saneamiento a todos?


Hay un ejemplo acá en Organos.  En esta photo hay dos embalses de agua.  Uno arriba, otro debajo.  El alcalde construyó el nuevo debajo.  Eligió a construir un de nuevo y no utilizó lo que era construido. ¿Por que?  Dijo que no es su propio proyecto.

In week 2 of my class Developing a Personal Ethic for Sustainability, our assignment is to identify a local sustainability issue.  I’m to think about my own context and select an issue I would like to explore further.  Two issues immediately came to mind:  water and plastic.

I thought I would focus on water first.  I’ve been surfing the web researching the issue and most of the statistics I quote here are from the Wikipedia article “Water Supply and Sanitation in Peru.”

Water, as I’ve said before, is a huge issue here.  For us, it is expensive to get potable water to the house and the quality isn’t what we consider drinkable.  Fortunately, we are able to buy the water and can filter or buy drinking water as well.  We do try to conserve, have a grey water system recycling household water to the garden, and reuse water vacuumed from the pool during cleaning.  That’s on a personal level.

Regions of Peru

The water issue in Peru, and specifically in the North Coast where we live, is very complex.  On average, water is abundant but it is unequally distributed across the country and from season to season.  It is most abundant in the forested and mountainous regions which are the most sparsely populated.  These regions, part of the Atlantic Watershed, provide water for the rest of the country.  Two thirds of the population of Peru live in major cities along the coast.  Lima with 8.6 million (2010) is the second largest city located on a desert. (Cairo being first with 12 million.)

Quelccaya Ice CapTwo thirds of all tropical glaciers are located in Peru.  These are rapidly melting due to climate change resulting in irregular river flow, floods and droughts.  Quelccaya Glacier is the largest ice cap in the Peruvian Andes.  It has shrunk 30% in the last 30 years.

I found these statistics to be of interest:

  • It has been estimated that 85% of the population in Peru have access to water.
  • 83% of urban dwellers have water piped while only 46% of rural dwellers do.
  • 81% of urban dwellers have improved sanitation while 37% of the rural population do.
  • 28% of the rural population, including our local village of El Nuro, have no sanitation services and use the open fields surrounding them.
  • In 2008, water flowed (assuming it was piped) for an average of 18 hours per day in the mountains, 10 hours a day in Lima, and 8 hours a day along the remaining coast.  In the village of El Nuro, there is no piped water.  It is all delivered by truck.  In Los Organos, it is not always flowing through the pipes.  It is common for some of our friends to go for several days without piped water.

These are the challenges outlined for Peru:

Source:  Wikipedia, Water Supply and Sanitation in Peru; 2012 National Water Resources Policy and Strategy (PENRH)

  • insufficient service coverage;  Peru will have to meet an increase in water demand caused by population growth and economic development.  The population in Peru is estimated to be 36 million (75% in urban areas) in 2025.  GDP grew by 6.9% in 2011 and is expected to grow at a similar rate.
  • poor service quality which puts public health at risk
  • deficient sustainability of built systems.  Many of the systems in place have not been maintained and are not efficient.
  • tariffs do not cover investment and operational costs or maintenance of services
  • institutional and financial weakness
  • inequitable water resources throughout the country; most is available in the forested and mountainous regions, not where most of the population lives.  The phenomena of El Nino and La Nina generally bring more rainfall than normal.  These phenomena also cause ever more extreme climate events such as severe flooding and droughts.
  • deteriorating water quality.  Industrial activity and waste produced by the increasing population have contributed to declining quality of groundwater and surface water.

Para la secundo semana de mi clase “El desarrollo de una Ética Personal para Sostenibilidad,¨ nuestra tarea es identificar una cuestión local de sostenibilidad.  Tengo que pensar de mi contexto a elegir una cuestión que quiero investigar.  Pensaba de dos cuestiones inmediatamente:  agua y plástico.

Voy a centrarme en agua primero.  Leía informes por el internet.  Hay dos que cito.  Wikipedia, ¨Water Supply and Sanitation in Peru¨  (Suministro de Agua y Saneamiento en Peru) y PENRH, 2012.

Agua es una cuestión muy grave acá.  A nosotros, tenemos que comprar camiones de agua potable que son carros.  La calidad de la agua no es puro y necesitamos comprar agua de mesa también.  Afortunadamente, podemos hacerlo.  Tratamos a conservar y tenemos una sistema para reciclar agua de la cocina y duchas para el jardín.  Eso es un nivel personal.

Regions of Peru

La cuestión de agua en Peru, en el norte específicamente, es muy complicado.  Como media, agua es abundante pero no es disponible igualmente en todos partes del Perú.  También no es igual en todos los estaciones.  Agua es mas abundante en los bosques, la selva y las montañas.  Estas zonas suministrar agua al resto de Perú.  Dos terceros del población vive en ciudades major en la costa.  Lima con 8.6 millones (2010) es la segunda ciudad más grande ubicada en un desierto. (Cairo es primero con 12 millones.)

Quelccaya Ice CapDos terceros del los glaciares tropical están ubicados en Perú.  Estos se están derritiendo por motivo de Cambio Climático que resultan en varios niveles de ríos, inundaciones, y sequías.  Quelccaya Glaciar es la glaciar más grande en Los Andes de Perú.  Se encogía 30% en los últimos 30 años.

Estos estadísticos son de interés:

  • Aproximadamente 85% de la población de Perú tiene acceso de agua.
  • 83% de la población urbana tiene agua entregada en casa, y 46% de la población rural lo tiene.
  • 81% de la población urbana tiene sistema saneamiento y 37% de la población rural la tiene.
  • 28% de la población rural, incluido nuestro pueble del Ñuro, no tiene servicios saneamiento.
  • En 2008, la gente en las montañas tenia agua para 18 horas diaria.  La gente en Lima tenia agua para 10 horas diarias, y la gente en otro partes de la costa tenia 8 horas diaria.  En El Ñuro, no hay servicio de agua.  En Los Organos, a veces había días sin agua.

Estos son los retos para Perú:

  • cobertura insuficiente.  Perú va a tener una exigencia de agua para una población que crecer y para desarrollo industrial.  La población de Perú puede ser 36 millones en 2025 con 75% ubicado en las ciudades.  La economía creció 6.9% en 2011 y puede continuar así.
  • calidad mala del servicio que dañe la salud publica.
  • sistemas deficientes no son sostenible.
  • tarifas no suficiente para cobrar gastos de inversion o mantenimiento de servicios.
  • recursos de agua no son igual en las varias zonas de Peru.
  • calidad de agua se deteriora por motivo de actividad industrial y una población que aumentar.


Yesterday I began an on-line course called Learning for Sustainability; Developing a Personal Ethic from the University of Edinburg.  This is the second MOOC (Mass On-line Offering Course) I’ve taking on Sustainability through Coursera.

I’ve always been interested in conserving resources and eating naturally, but have more recently realized I didn’t know, and didn’t think about, what went into getting that food or service to my home.  For example, red meat production needs a large carbon footprint.  It’s not just the meat we get from the animal, but all the feed that the animal consumed, the production of the feed, the fuel required by the farm equipment…. and on it goes.

Doug and I also use solar panels to power our home.  We live in a rural area where there is no power grid.  I’ve always felt really good about using solar, a renewable source.  But, again, never really thought about the processes that went into making the panels themselves or the converter and gauges that go along with it.

Our first assignment was to talk about what we had for breakfast.  We were not only to list what we had but to comment on where it had come from.  I am sharing my response here.  Two reasons.  First, I would love to get feedback from any readers on the subject and hear what choices you make to live more sustainably.  Second, I think most people in this class already practice living sustainably and I’m sure I will learn a lot from them.  I would like to open the discussion to a broader audience and hope to do so through my blog.  I believe education and discussion is key to moving our world toward more sustainable practices.  So, here is my response:

Greetings!  I’m Karen and live on the north coast of Peru.  The coast of Peru is a desert, so not much grows here.  The region has an average rainfall of 4 inches, which usually falls during March.  The ground contains a lot of clay and has a high salt content as we are right on the ocean.

One proponent of sustainability is buying locally.  I was thinking about what “local” meant and how far afield one needs to go to find food.  For my purposes, I will define local as the north of Peru with Trujillo being the southern limit.  Anything traveling by road here from Trujillo will travel at least 9 hours and we are 2 hours from the Ecuadorian border.  However, crops like coffee or tea which are grown in the hills and mountains east of here are shipped to Lima (about 18 hours) for processing.  Once processed, they are then shipped throughout Peru and exported to other countries.  I don’t think I can call the coffee I drink as being local even though it may be grown in the north close to my home.

I live in a rural area and don’t have supermarkets available close by.  All of our food comes out of the local market which resembles a farmer’s market you’d find in the states.  Once a month we travel to the city of Piura and will buy a few items from a large chain grocery there.  However, we find the produce is not as tasty or as inexpensive as the local market.

Fish is a staple here and is caught fresh every day.  Tuna, swordfish, Mero, shark and scores of smaller fish lower on the food chain are usually available.  All manner of seafood such as octopus, shrimp, calamari, crab, and clams are also fresh daily.

Chicken. pork and goat meat is available.  The pork and goat meat is locally raised and slaughtered locally.  Pork and goat are generally only available once a week.  Peruvian beef is terrible and what we find in our market is probably raised in Peru.  Beef is imported from Argentina and the US but generally only restaurants and large chain grocery stores have it available.  I suspect the chicken comes from large poultry farm operations south of Trujillo.  My guess is these farms resemble the large poultry operations in other countries where the chickens are grown in crowed conditions and fed antibiotics and growth hormones.  There are some local chickens raised by families in the village, but they are used by the family for subsistence.

Fruits and vegetables generally come from the hills and mountains southeast of us and travel 5 to 6 hours by car or truck twice a week.  Although they are fresh, it is impossible to know whether they are organic or not.  My guess is that most of the chakra farms are organic. I think some of the local venders believe organic to mean it was grown on a “chakra” which is a country family farm as opposed to a large corporate operation.  This does not preclude the chakra farmers from using pesticides or other chemicals.

Dry goods are also trucked in from the larger cities; things like pasta, rice, wheat, beans and lentils are Peruvian.  I buy olive oil, from the south of Peru, from this vendor as well.  The dry goods stall will also have limited supplies of brand name products like Quaker Oats, Jiffy peanut butter.

So, to the question about breakfast….I had oatmeal with apples, soy milk and coffee for breakfast.  The oatmeal is definitely not local as it is Quaker brand and is distributed out of Chile.  The package doesn’t tell me where the oats were grown and harvested.   The apples also come from Chile.  Both the soy milk and the coffee are Peruvian products.

I try to consume only fresh foods available in the market.  I stew my own tomatoes, make my own stock for cooking and rarely buy anything canned or processed.  I think the soy milk is probably the most processed thing I buy.  If I could find a source for soy beans, I might try to make my own.

I am fortunate to live where there is fresh fish, fruits and vegetables of all kinds available year round.
The use of plastic bags here is so prevalent and the lack of environmental awareness regarding the plastic has been hard to deal with.  I try to take my own bags to the market, but they still want to put things into the plastic before it goes into my bag.  Some of the vendors are catching on that I don’t want the plastic bag and will load my bag instead.

Our biggest issue, by far, is water.  It is also our biggest living expense.  We buy a truck of water every 10 days or so for S/.400 (about $130).  The last statistic I heard was that 30% of Peruvians lack access to clean water.  All of our water is trucked to us and stored in a cistern.  It is then pumped up to two elevated tanks that provide gravity fed water to the house.  Even though we buy “potable” water, it isn’t pure enough to drink.  I do not have the luxury of turning on the tap and having clean water.    Therefore, we also have to buy drinking water.  We buy large 21 liter bottles of drinking water which are refilled each week or so.

Even though I try to make good choices, I’m thinking that I am somewhat limited in my choices for living sustainably.  I’d like to have a smaller sustainability footprint, but some things that we need just aren’t available to me.  Food must travel to get here and water only comes by truck.