Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Waiting for the Plumber

Here's the thing about water on St. Croix and most Caribbean islands - There isn't any.

Oh sure, we're surrounded by water - we're on an island, after all, and from almost any vantage point we get views of some of the most spectacularly blue waters on Earth. But it's like in the Coleridge poem:

Water, water everywhere,
and all the boards did shrink.
Water, water everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.

(Yes, I know most people think it's "but not a drop to drink." Tell them to look it up.)

But all that water is, of course, salt water. You can't drink it. St. Croix doesn't have any huge freshwater aquifer to drill for, no rolling rivers or reservoirs to draw from. We've got -

The rain. Virtually all the drinking water on St,. Croix falls from the sky, runs down your roof and is funneled into a cistern below the house. Then it's pumped up by your water pump and that's your water supply. So rain from time to time is a very good thing. (And by the way, rainwater doesn't have any minerals in it, so residents are advised to take a vitamin supplement with minerals. Just thought that was interesting.)

So fresh water is a pretty valuable commodity, and a Crucian takes pride and/or comfort in a large, brimming reservoir the way friends of mine back in Oregon take comfort and pride in a huge wood pile for the stove or fireplace.

This all comes to mind because there's something wrong with our pump today. We actually have two cisterns - one under the front porch and another under the kitchen, with pipes and valves to switch from one to the other. Between them we can probably store around 10,000 to 12,000 gallons of water. But the back one is empty, and the front one is kinda low. But more to the point, the pump is not drawing water out of the cistern (yes, I've checked, the valves are set for the front cistern, but thanks for the suggestion.)

To flush the toilets while waiting for the plumber (due in about another hour) I have to open the cistern (the concrete lid of the thing is heavy, maybe 80 pounds or more,) drop a bucket down on a rope to pull up a couple of gallons to pour into the tanks. Same for washing dishes last night.

It doesn't pay to look too closely into the reservoir. A big concrete space, and when they're empty a kind of creepy nothing. They are not particularly clean. The water is clear, but there's "stuff" in there. That's why we have a filter on the kitchen tap, and buy bottled water for drinking. Showers are short - Navy showers, where you get wet, turn off the water, soap up, turn on the water and rinse off. And you don't flush for just anything. In fact, there are actually restaurants down here with this little jingle posted on the walls:

In this land of fun and sun
We never flush for Number One.

Just to keep the poetic theme going.

I also suspect our gutters may be plugged, which would explain why the cisterns don't seem to charge the way I'd expect despite the fact that we've had a couple of good rainfalls. But that's a different problem for a different day and a different blog post.

Right now I'm just waiting for the plumber, because I tried everything I know and there's still no water running in the house.



Robin said...

Here's another little rhyme for you...Oh the price for living in paradise.

violet_ruby said...

Heh, heh. Here in Oz is a little saying, "if it's yellow let it mellow. if it's brown flush it down". Sometimes it's even posted in the loo. Methinks the "land of fun and sun", hmmm, a bit more poetic?