Sunday, March 15, 2009

Water day.

Here at the lake one would think there is an endless supply of water. Do not be fooled. Sure the Mayans use it to wash clothes and themselves for that matter, but the water madness does not end there.

We have "water days" in San Pedro. What this means is that the water runs, via plumbing, to our house three days a week for about an hour and a half at a time when the Mayan gods open the flood gates. Sunday, Tuesday and Friday mornings between 8-10am the water magically turns on and fills our sinks and tanks until the next time.

"Sinks and tanks?" you ask. Yes, sinks and tanks. As previously mentioned, all residents of San Pedro have a huge water tank on the roof or somewhere above our heads to work with the force of gravity. All residents of San Pedro(and Guatemala for that matter)also have a very large "laundry sink" for much more than just laundry. Tooth brushing, dish washing, leg shaving, foot washing and even hand washing happen in this "laundry sink". This sink consists of a large tank, maybe about 100 gallons more or less, and a concrete washboard with a drain. A picture is worth 1000 words in this case. Too bad I don´t post pictures. Someday, perhaps.

These laundry sinks do not have running water except water day. How we use the water in these giant concrete bathtub-lookin´ things, after blessed water day, is to scoop up the water in a bowl or whatever and pour it over whatever is being washed into the washboard basin part of the sink. This includes rinsing laundry after is has soaked in a bucket with soap. Pour, squeeze, pour, squeeze is something of the routine with laundry. The amount of water saved by these techniques is mind blowing. I wash my hands with about a pint or two of water. Brush my teeth with about the same amount. And I am kinda addicted to washing laundry by hand. I have the cleanest clothes of my life right now.

As for the tank on the roof, that is a different story. The laundry sink is only for sink purposes. We have to shower somehow(refer to "emails to brothers" post for more information on Guatemalan showers). The tank on the roof presents a few more problems. Sure it´s wonderful to have our water come down the pipes for our personal use. But getting that damn water UP a pipe to the 3rd floor is a crap shoot. Being that many people in San Pedro are recieving water at the same time, there is usually not enough pressure to pump water through Guatemalan plumbing up to the 3rd floor. We get water on the roof usually only on Sunday and Tuesday, for about 20-30 minutes, if we are lucky. This is to say our water runs for 1 hour per week. Beat that!

However, what this means is that water can be stressful. Believe it people, most folks in the world probably don´t have the water luxuries we have in our house in San Pedro, and trust me, none of you would think it a luxury(except my sis in Africa, shout out to Weez and the bucket bath). We never totally empty the laundry sink between water days, and the huge tank on the roof is never "empty". But the panic will set in if water skips two days in a row and the tank is going below half or so. All we can do is cross our fingers, or buy a water pump, and we aren´t buying a water pump. If the Mayans can bathe and do laundry in the lake, damnit so can I. So in the end, the lake does give something resembling an endless supply of water.

None of this water is for drinking either. We buy filtered lake water from a hotel here with an amazing water filtration system for 90cents for a 5 gallon bottle. We use the filtered water for everything from coffee making to cooking to washing vegetables. Also carrying a 5 gallon bottle of water through town makes me look tough.

Be oh so thankful folks. Pure running water 24/7 is not the norm in the world. So next time you let the sink run for nothing, turn it off, it´s messing up my pressure on the roof.


  1. Right now I am savoring the sound of my dishwasher in the background. Thanks for the perspective.

  2. lewis black does a rant on bottled water. it is a huge pet peeve of his that people carry bottled water with them like they are crossing a never ending desert, when they are simple walking to a car, crossing a street or sitting in their family room. We all have TAPS and RUNNING WATER for heaven's sake and whenever we want water we can just go turn it on.
    Even if we are locked out of our own house and get thirsty,...we can drink from a hose! People here are NUTS, so thanks for letting us know, water is better than gold (well, chances of getting water are probably better than the chances of any of us Hansen's getting gold) Lessons in geography and lifestyles are just good reminders that Colorado is still the BEST.