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.
During 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.