Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Water Consciousness?

(The sunsets continue to be intense and remarkable, even though the clouds pass us by.)

Water continues to be a critical problem here in Santander, Colombia. This northeastern section of this South American country has not had a drop of rain in over five weeks. A long time ago when I lived on a sailboat, we ran out of water and I remember how scary it feels to think there may be nothing to drink.

In the midst of this ‘aqua’ crisis, I am astounded at how limited the ‘water consciousness’ is in the population. People do not think about how to re-use water. They don’t save water from the shower to put on plants and they have not learned how to wash using non-toxic cleaners, so if they did put it on plants, the plants would probably die anyhow.

When I was on the sailboat I learned how to wash all the dishes for three people in less than a quart of water and then that water was used in another place before it was considered too dirty to use again. When I tried to teach some Colombian children who were visiting our campo kids on how to save water, they looked at me as if I was from another planet. But when I showed them the results of their shower (more than 5 gallons! each!) saved in a bucket, their eyes got large. I then poured it around the base of a fruit tree to show them how it can be used again. I wonder if any of them told their parents about their ‘sleepover’ at the campo and the strange gringa who collected their shower water.

It’s even a stretch to get the campo residents to be more water conscious... and that makes me a member of the Water Police as I keep trying to convey in a variety of ways that every gallon wasted is a gallon that doesn’t get on the plants to help them grow.

Last week we had to go to Bucaramunga to get our visas extended because we were only allowed 60 days and since our departure date is after that limit, we needed to be 'approved' to stay those extra days. It is also a process which paves the way for our 'retirement' visas, so we didn't want to cause any disruptions. This photo is of the Chicamonga Canyon and you can see how dry it is. Notice the road which weaves left and right up the mountainside... it's like that most of the way between San Gil and Bucaramanga which is why it takes around two and a half hours to drive a distance that takes only 30 minutes by plane.

We have met some interesting people in the last few weeks, one of whom is from Austria and is extremely water-savvy. He has developed his own water collection and storage system in a house in Barichara. We had dinner there and discussed this system and then he came out to the campo to give us some pointers on things we can do to improve our water processing and storage systems. He told us that the Powers That Be in Barichara have been told there is considerable underground water to access, but apparently this water was contaminated several decades ago and they are reluctant to open up the wells - even to check and determine what the contaminants are and if they can be filtered out.

And we were told there are individuals who live next to the river that supplies some of the local water and those people have either altered the river flow or changed the riverbanks so that if the water levels rise, those banks will not resist and could bring a lot of dirt downstream. What is most offensive about this situation is that the offenders are very highly educated and should certainly know better.

All in all, in my humble opinion, until the water consciousness is raised here, the water levels will stay low. Water has been proven to be sensitive to emotional energy and perhaps it doesn’t like how it is being treated here.

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