Water Run

Water Point, Pagosa Spring, CO

You’re in the middle of the shower with a good lather built in your hair.  It’s time to rinse off so you back into the deliciously warm water.  And it stops!

What do you do?  Call the water company?  Check your well?

No.  You remember today was supposed to be water run day. Or maybe it was supposed to be yesterday?

Approximately 84.36% of all American home receive their water from a community run water system.  15% of American homes have self-operated well systems.  The remainder .64% households in America , 1.7 million people, have to look for other alternatives to getting water to their homes, such as filtering stream or river water or going to a community-run water point[1].  The percentage of Americans without piped water to their home is so low that most international health and socioeconomic development institutions, such as WHO and UNICEF, round the 99.36% up to 100%.  Almost 2 million Americans fall through the cracks due to statistics while we, the American taxpayers, pay for other countries to have the services we consider not only normal, but necessary for a healthy lifestyle!

Currently I live in Aspen Springs, a small rural community just outside of Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  We are one of the 770,000 households who do not have piped water to their land nor have a well.  What we have is an eighteen hundred gallon cistern buried in the ground that must be filled regularly in order for us to have water to drink, take showers or wash our clothes.

You get used to the system.  For us it is on a three day cycle.   Once every three days, we take our water truck to the water point and fill up the 300 gallon tank that is firmly placed in the back of the truck and secured with thick straps.  This habit maintains our cistern at a full level.

Dad and I have worked out a very good routine once we get to the water point.  I climb into the back of the truck, remove the cap on the water tank and grab the extremely heavy hose that will carry our water which dad has been getting ready for me.  Once I have the hose securely in the tank, Dad puts the money into the vending slot and out comes our water.  When the tank is filled, dad returns the hose, I replace the cap on the water tank and we head up the mountain with our water supply.

During the winter months just getting the water to the house can be rather tricky.  First, water is heavy.  One gallon of water weighs approximately 8.35 pounds.  So, the 300 gallons that we carry weighs over 2500 pounds. Then you have the weather issues that winter presents.  During the winter, a four wheel drive vehicle is a must; but even four wheel drive will not guarantee a safe trip home.  The roads in Aspen Springs are notorious for building up ice plus there are many curves and steep inclines.  We live one mile and three steep hills from the highway and have had to be towed off Evergreen Hill (pictured) once this year when our four wheel drive did not make the incline over the ice.

Once home, a hose is connected to the tank that allows a gravity-feed of water to our cistern.  It takes around thirty minutes for the three hundred gallons of water to drain into our cistern.  After the tank is drained, we unhook the hose and park the truck till the next water run day.

The next time you turn on your washer, start your dishwasher or take a shower, think about the 1.7 million Americans who do not have the luxury of a consistent water supply.  Imagine having to add the time into your day that it takes to filter water or tote water from a water point and consider yourself fortunate.

[1] Rural Community Assistance Partnership, Still Living Without the basics in the 21st Century, nd, http://win-water.org/reports/RCAP_full_final.pdf, accessed March 2012.

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