Friday, June 29, 2007

No Water


Here in Rio Branco the dry season, which lasts from about May to November, brings with it a scarcity of water. I know what you're thinking: how can you lack for water in the Amazon? After all, the river Acre gets visibly lower, but nothing close to dry. What gives?

The guy holding the ladder, who operates one of the many trucks known as "pipas," or pipes, which ply the streets of Rio Branco, explained to me that when the river gets below the level of the city's stationary water pumps the water authorities have to rely on floating pumps that have much smaller capacity.

This sounded much more authoritative than anything else I'd heard.

What we still weren't sure about was why our neighbors' tanks, visible behind ours, had been overflowing the day before this picture was taken, while our taps were dry as a bone for three days. (We were reduced to taking sponge baths with bottled water in a basin.) It may have had to do with the height of our tanks. This provides nice water pressure in the house, but that matters little when you have no water.

We were growing frustrated, so we'd spent the morning trying to get a truck to come out. The only number I had just rang and rang, and a friend of a friend who operates a truck was leasing it to the government. On my way home, though, I saw one of the pipas backing up on the street just around the corner, and asked him to come over when they were done.

It wasn't clear how they were going to get the water into our tanks, but I figured they must have some technique...little did I know! The guy on top of the ladder held himself in place while the other went and got the hose. The first guy held in between his feet while it filled the tanks. By the time he had to come down his feet had fallen asleep.

The cost? About fifteen dollars for two thousand liters. And it doesn't have the sulphur smell of the city's processed water.
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