One year we were on Taquile during a dry April and into May and the nearby water wells dried up. We helped carry water in heavy jugs on our backs for a long distance for cooking and washing dishes. When I returned to my hot and cold running water in Colorado it took me many months of sweet gratitude every time I turned a faucet until again I could take this blessing for granted.
Using funds from the entry fees that tourists pay to come to Taquile Island (a UNESCO World Cultural Site), the community of Taquile is implementing a big clean water project. Our son, Silvano, was on the town council when they made the plans and he led the argument to use solar power instead of a fossil fuel pump. They've hired some engineers and will have three tank and pumping stations to get water to a very high point about a mile and a half from the well. It will provide neighborhood faucets of clean well water throughout the south end of the island.
Please click on these pictures to see them large.
Picture: a line of people, many in colorful red sweaters or hats, a mile and a half long, snaking up the hill and down the ridge.
Listen: Chip, Chip, Chip, Bang, Clink, Chip: Metal on metal against rock.
Community members received nominal pay to dig the trenches to bury pipe. I was told that 900 people showed up to dig and break rock. Every two people in our sector were assigned 5 meters to dig to a 40cm depth (15 feet and about 16 inches). Most of the section assigned to Sam and me was dirt with soft sandstone underneath, but one huge rock presented a challenge. Silvano helped out with an 16 pound mallet and 2 inch chisel and the men just plain busted the rock into pieces. The rock was a hard sandstone and on the border with the next group up from us so it was a joint effort. We finished early so Sam went up to help in a super rocky section uphill and I moved down hill to Silvano and Ruperta's sandy section. Some rocks were much harder, maybe a granite and they gave up short of the 18 inches, the depth not as important in non-agricultural areas. We worked in the very first section, Huayllano, and finished all our trenches on the first day.
Day 2, rainy and therefore a slow start. The men hiked down to the shore and carried huge rolls of the heavy plastic pipe up to the trenches.
|Carrying the heavy pipe up all the terraces was creative hard work.|
|Nice loops: This group moved the tubo by separating the loops; easier to climb over rock walls and up terraces.|
Since our group was the first next to the planned solar installation and the tank, we fed the pipes into the proper position and were able to start connecting them right away. It started to rain; we were all connected, so our whole sectore quickly buried the pipe and finished the job before lunch.
|That is Silvano at the middle top, making connections.|
Then we hiked up the line and dug a section to the second and then the third pumping station. Sam and I ended up walking to the top of the whole project. Many of the other groups were still digging and connecting and hauling pipe. Sam helped lift one big roll of pipe up over rock walls and terraces, and then unwind it and we both helped pull it into position. The workers there were really appreciative.
Postscript, Completion by mid April:
Two big arrays: One pumps clean water from a year-'round well near the lake up to the big tank and the second array pumps up to a series of three tank stations. Total power 45-185 W panels for a total of 8.3 kilowatts, pumping about 60 liters per minute. From the tanks the water is gravity-fed to neighborhood faucets serving about 2/3 of the island. The system is battery-free and only pumps when the sun is shining. Since people collect rainwater from their roofs they don't really need this water during the rainy season.
April was dry, and we had water to a faucet just above the house. Silvano would fill a tank and then siphon to fill all the tanks at the house.