Sunday, April 23, 2017

Where Has All the Water Gone

I think about this blog sometimes... wistfully...

I really would like to get back to it.  I haven't run out of things to say, that's for sure.  We got a dog, I built a door and then ran out of money before we got it installed... then I ran out of more money.  And the store keeps me very busy, even if it doesn't appear to be making me rich yet.  It is decidedly not making me rich.  Nothing, lately, has made me rich.

And if I wanted to wax metaphorical about all the different ways one could be rich, I could wax on about how one could have a richness of time, which I most decidedly do not.  But the reality is I have exactly as much time in the day as you do, and as I was fond of saying in my idle youth I took my retirement at the beginning of my adult life, and now I must pay the piper.  Various pipers, it would seem.  Retirement is something I can guffaw about if I don't want to let myself get dejected.

But enough about all that, let's talk a bit about water.  Or the lack of it.  And the excess of it.  Water in Salvador is both precious and a waste product that literally cannot be gotten rid of quickly enough.  And sometimes the two states intersect, as they have this week.

When I lived out in the bairro of Paripe for a year I got pretty used to the fact that the pipes would run dry periodically, and no water would flow for a day or more.  Since we didn't have storage tanks for the water we were pretty aware of it.  It happens where we live now too, but we've got 1500 liters of storage, so generally we're fine for a couple of days, and we don't even notice.

Well.  A couple of days.  They shut off the water on Wednesday for a couple of days, for pretty much the whole city.  A big water main project was to be worked on, something about routing water from one dam to another due to the severe drought that's been going on here.  A severe drought, over a long time frame, but that doesn't mean we don't get extreme, severe downpours from time to time.  A couple weeks ago I took this picture:


Now what looks like a couple really badly parked cars were actually three cars that got floated down the hill in the intense runoff from a storm.  Like I said, they can't get rid of the water fast enough.  It doesn't help that everyone wants to pave over their lawns and all the drainage gets blocked with trash, or grates are deliberately covered by people to keep rats from coming up out of the sewers... the week previous, I had to remove my shoes at this exact spot and wade through water that came half way up my shins in order to get to work.

So they shut off the water for two days to dig up some pipes and wouldn't you know it, we got a couple of days of insane downpours, which caused a delay in the work, and now it's Saturday night and we only have water downstairs (water... downstairs?  Don't worry, I'll explain that in a second).  How ironic is that?  They do some work to help deal with the drought and the whole thing gets bolloxed by a biblical amount of rain.  If you're thinking there's something not quite right about this equation, like maybe you're one of those people who thinks it's insane to flush your toilet with potable water rather than repurposed rainwater that might otherwise be floating someone's car down the street, you'd be very, very right.  It's nuts.  Not just in Brazil.  It's nuts everywhere.

Anyhow, I can't say much about that because I've been meaning to install a rainwater capture system for years and haven't seemed able to get around to it, but like I said earlier, I don't have a lot of time.  It's on the list I tell you!!  It's just people keep putting things like dogs and homework and cans of spray paint on other more demanding and more pertinent lists.

So this morning I'm being the optimist I really am not and hoping we'll get our water back, because our 1500 liters of water are gone and we're expecting four guests at the house.  And yes, my neighbor informs me that it's coming back, some people on our street already have water!

But not at our house. Not in the morning, and not in the afternoon.  Now I've known for a long time that we get water at a faucet on the second floor long before it makes its way up to the attic where the storage tanks are.  The faucet in question is attached directly to the pipe that feeds the tanks in the attic.  So I started thinking about it today, and I realized that everybody who had water was getting it from faucets that were close to the ground.  And I had this vision of the water in the city being like some massive, fragmented body of water - gradually filling up in all the pipes in the neighborhood until it finally makes it up to attic level.  The problem, I realized, is that we didn't have any faucets close to the ground that weren't fed by the tanks in the attic.

I realized this at about 5:45 PM, and all the hardware stores close at 6:00.  I ran out and spent R$4,50 (that's less than two bucks for you USD types) on a couple pieces of hydraulic plastic, and took a saw to our mainline water pipe that feeds the tanks in the attic - luckily it's still exposed in its 'temporary' state we left it in oh about 12 years ago when we got the house renovated.  

And wouldn't you know it - there was water in there.  Here's the charming result of my efforts:



I can't tell you just how much this kind of ridiculous jury rig expresses something very profound about my personality, formed in the days when I was a kid looking at elaborate drawings my father made of the same kind of craziness - I guess he had a similar obsession.  Here's what I mean:


Well, kinda.  It's got some pipes anyways.  Miss you Dad.

These kind of ingenious fixes are also liable to cause severe bouts of self-satisfaction and self-patting-on-backiness.  Nothing makes me happier than resolving a situation with little more than my wits and the junk I squirrel away for just this kind of situation (the faucet has been sitting in a box for about ten years).

So maybe tomorrow the water will work its way to the attic.  It would be good, because even if I am fiendishly clever and frugal to boot we're still washing out of buckets this way.

These situations always leads me to the same train of thought, which is: what if the water didn't come back?  What if we didn't generally have running water every time we turned on a faucet?  Or for that matter, what if the trucks stopped coming with the food and the meat and the toilet paper?  I guess I could ask someone from Venezuela, they'd probably know way more about the subject than anyone would want to.  It's something I didn't think about much when I lived in the States.