Waterless Days

Our toilet usually makes an annoying, sporadic dripping or trickling sound. There have also been a few times, before the rooster on the fourth floor wakes up to crow, that the toilet will make an explosive racket, gurgling and spitting up convulsively. The first time we woke up to the auditory chaos, we thought the washroom had flooded. It turns out, this happens when the enormous water tank on the roof is suddenly switched on after being empty for hours. As it fills, the extremely high water pressure quite literally shoots water down to all the apartments below.

Fénix con su Contenedor de Agua
Poor Fénix crying because he doesn't have water. (He was posing for the camera, by the way).
And then there are days when the toilet makes no sound at all. These are the days we worry because it often means that there’s no water at all.

Today, the toilet was quiet and the landlady knocked on our door at eight in the morning to advise us to collect as much water as we could. I was prepared. These days, I fill any available empty bottles with water. We can at least use this water to flush the toilet. The most valuable water is the pitcher of boiled, potable water we keep in our fridge. This gets rationed out to ourselves and to Fénix the kitty because we’re never sure how long the water famine will last.

Desperate times call for ingenuity and resourcefulness. We were ecstatic when we thought of bringing down rain water that had collected in buckets near the laundry station on the roof. It was a good thing we woke up early because the early bird catches the worm and wins the precious water. This morning, I had the clever idea of trying to empty any existing water that might have collected in our shower tank. Unfortunately, there were only 10 drops.

But we value what we have.

Have you ever experienced not having a key resource when you needed it? How did you approach the situation?

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Comments (45)

  • Yes!!!!! I had the same thing happen to me my first trip to Huancayo. Think of the impression I must have made with my new inlaws when at 4am I went to the restroom and there was no water to flush the toilet. No one told me the water stopped working at 8pm. From that night forward I filled a couple buckets with water before 8pm just for that purpose. To much information???

    • OH NO! The exact same situation happened to me too, Abe! =P I was so embarrassed and begged my partner to find more water from somewhere (anywhere!) for me! Haha! Not too much information, especially because I can relate. =P Thanks for "getting" me, Abe!

  • Although this post addressed a serious issue you experience in Peru, I couldn't help but crack up in the beginning. What a calamity, but it also provides you with a working status of your H2O situation, so you can prepare. The only time we've experienced a water shortage was with a water main break. They shut off the water for hours and we had no water … none. We did have a mini-mart down the street, though, where we could buy bottled water; otherwise, it would have been a very long, dry day for us.

    Love your kitty, by the way, he looks like my grand-kitten, Ginger, who lives in California.

    • Haha! I'm learning to find it hilarious, especially now that I try to be one step ahead of the game. =P I can imagine the water main break really caught you guys off guard! Great idea about buying bottled water at a nearby store! Thankfully, R's parents have a store, so we often get water from them! =)

      Fénix thanks you for the compliment, Sherry! =) Your grand-kitten must be a beauty was well. =)

  • karencitadeperu

    Wow, I guess I'm lucky that we have never had a water shortage here in Miraflores. However, we do have a toilet that likes to make strange sounds! By the way, Fénix is so cute! I hope to meet him in person some day soon!

    • Haha! I've always wondered why the toilet does that. At least I now know that it's not a rural thing. It's funny how the toilet sounds almost become a comfort though. =P

      Yes! I headed to Lima to meet a couple friends and we visited the cats at Parque Kennedy again. It had me thinking about bringing Fénix some time. I wonder if it's possible. =P

      So glad to hear from you again, Karen! =)

  • Hi Samantha, once I went to a village in South East Asia and they also collected rainwater to use. When it ran out, people were talking their bath in the river. I couldn't do it personally and didn't take a shower the few days we were there. It was a reminder that as we live in a world where there's plenty, we shouldn't waste our previous resources and use them wisely.
    My recent post Tracking Your Blog’s Progress

    • What a great way to put it, Diana! — "Use our resources wisely." =) In the villages north of Huancayo, people still bathe and wash their clothes in the river where the water is still clean. Unfortunately, by the time the river gets to the city, people fill it with garbage. =S

      I don't think I could shower in the river either. It's often too cold to even take a cold-water shower! Maybe people have developed thicker skin here! =)

      Thanks for relating, Diana. =)

  • Yes…I lived in India for 6 years and I had to do without electricity for around 4 hours in a day (that was the minimum) and once we had a power breakdown we lived for 2 days without electricity. We did have back up options but that fails after a certain point. Quite a contrast from the country I grew up in but then it makes us realize what we are taking undue advantage of. The water thing was also a problem. But then as you said, we value what we have. I have become more environment friendly (as my brother in law, the environmentalist, puts it). You just become more aware.
    My recent post Has Life Made a Fool Out of You Yet

    • You know exactly what I mean, Hajra! You bring up a lot of other really important resources like electricity and food. In can be frustrating that even our back-up systems aren't reliable!

      I think I'm also becoming more environmentally conscious these days. The Mantaro River is our main source of water and it's being filled with garbage everyday!

      Thanks for identifying with my thoughts, Hajra. =)

  • Hi Samantha,

    "Waterless" … my mouth is feeling parched just thinking about it.

    Boy, those must be some pretty tense moments worrying about whether you'll awaken to a water supply or NOT. And the noises of that toilet sound thunderous! Let's just say you live a very adventurous life. 🙂

    My water has been shut off lots of times for city repairs, etc., but for less than a day and I've been without electricity more times than I care to count. Just check my supply of candles! It's pretty big. I've moved four times in the last nine years and "power outages" seem to follow me from city to city. Go figure.

    Nice blog!

    • Wow! I'm so excited to see you stop by, Melanie. Thank you! =)

      You're so right that it's tense. Thankfully, we've never been without water for more than a full day, but it's scary not knowing how long the water shortage will last! The unpredictability makes it hard to plan — and I'm a planner at heart! =P

      Haha! It's funny to think of my life in my own apartment as adventurous. =P

      It always seemed fun to be without electricity for a while because it was like camping at home. I had been prepared for power outages with an emergency flashlight and candles like you, but not so much for water famines. =) Maybe they'll follow me around too and I'll learn to be uber prepared!

  • Living near the capital of the United States, one would not expect to have resources shortages akin to those we learned existed in third world countries as a child. But, between those that get elected, failing to understand how to run a business or a country, that believe compromise is a sin, and an inane belief that regulation is bad and corporations can do no wrong, that is exactly what obtains.
    Instead of requiring power companies to bury their power lines (which is a capital cost that would be repaid by customers over 15 years- still not a bad return for these folks who obtain a monopoly in return for some "public interest"), they continually "repair" power lines that are ripped down after any storm- rain, snow, wind, or drunk driver hits! The end result is that we lack electricity for days on end. In 2010, the longest period was 5 days. In 2008, it was 9 days. But, those were just the longest periods- not the total outages. Others living in the area are delivered drinking water that fails to meet standards. (We are provided water by a private company that can be fined for such "quality" delivery; the nearby local government has no such quandary.)
    What this really means – whether in Peru or Metropolitan DC- is that instead of electing morons with good slogans, we need to insure that we vote in people who care about the public interest and can achieve results for the most people at the best cost (and not for the richest who pay for lobbyists).
    Well, my soapbox is creaking from my weight. Time to get off! Thanks for the opportunity to respond.
    My recent post A Bioartificial Kidney is Introduced

    • That's horrendous! I can't believe the length of power outages you've had to live through in DC of all places! From the comments I've read so far, I don't think anyone else has had to go through the kind of electricity issues that you have from nothing of your own doing.

      I remember learning about what lobbyists actually do and it always sounded like a sneaky and corrupt mafia to me. =P All I know is that you're so right that we often lean toward quick fixes instead of thinking about investing now for a better system in the long run. It seems like a human thing, rather than an issue of solely politicians. It's hard for us to see the big picture, so it's also hard for voters to choose the right people. That's why we need people like you to help us see the truth!

      I really appreciate your thoughts, Roy. You always add so much value to the conversation. =) You can stay on the soapbox as long as you'd like when it comes to my venue!

  • Wow I didn't know it was that 'difficult'. We always had water growing up, and on the farm had rain water tanks…although the drought effected the farmland and dam – thus it dried up and the marron died. At times as a kid we didn't have a lot of food, and I know Mum went without more than a few times in order to ensure us and the dogs were fed. We did live without electricity for a week or 2 here and there as Mum couldn't pay the bills. To this day that is why I will never live in a house without a gas hot water system and hot plates.

    • I loved learning more about you through your comment, Janine. =) I'm now imagining you cackling on the farmland or at the top of the dam!

      It sounds like you've lived through much more than I have and I think that's why you're so resilient. When it comes to resources, both food and water really top the list and you've reminded me to be grateful for always having food on the table.

      I'll have to think about installing a gas hot water system here too. =P Thanks for the idea, Janine! =)

  • Living in North Carolina during hurricane season has made me realize how dependent I am on electricity. Being a marketing company and a workaholic is not a good thing during hurricane season. I resorted to working on my cell phone with a candle next to me at one point!

    • That's a scare, indeed! I've lived in Japan and stayed extended periods of time in the Philippines where there are typhoons! Natural disasters are the scariest because they can cause so much damage.

      You are a resourceful lady, indeed! =) Cell phones with Internet are so handy.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Kristen. It's so lovely to see you here!

  • Awww, Fenix is so cute…

    I feel very fortunate in that I've never had to be without a key resource…I have never wanted or missed anything…but I have worked with people who have in missions and service and the like and it's heartbreaking. I don't know that I'm strong enough to say with certainty that I would scrap and survive…but I'm not sure.
    My recent post cats &amp chinese food

    • Lizzie, thank you so much for stopping by! I was so ecstatic to see your comment. =)

      I think that hearing others' stories can also be a powerful way for us to imagine what it would be like with less and therefore feel infinitely grateful for what we do have. I also think that humans are surprisingly resilient! I bet you would surprise yourself with how resourceful you are. I know I did. =)

  • In Ayacucho power cuts and water cuts are fairly common. I live a bit out from the city centre and we only have a few hours of water everyday so we have installed a tank on the roof and fill a large bucket in the bathroom downstairs and survive. Recently the entire city was without water for 4 days when rains caused a landslide which blocked the canal that brings water to the city. We were ok with the tank but many had to buy bottles of water to drink and just be dirty.
    My recent post Money- money- money

    • That helps to explain a lot, actually! I guess that's why we have tanks here. Now that I think about it, I have a couple friends who don't have tanks and they're also without water for hours on end daily.

      Wow! I can't believe you were without water for 4 days! Even though you guys had the tank, I bet you still had to be careful with and conscious of how much water you used, not knowing when the landslide could be cleared. Just goes to show that you need to expect the unexpected in Peru!

      Thanks so much again for sharing your experiences, CatPeru. =)

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    We've been fortunate not to have no water, but we've had to boil our water a few times in the last few years OR not use water at all and ration it. After reading other comments I never realized that many of us have water issues for various reasons. Our reasons were that there was TOO much water and the systems were being flushed thru out the county while the other was a drought and our local reserve was extremely low that you could see the bottom of the lake.

    I think it's great that you all have been able to find new ways to have water for various uses.

    • I'm surprised that so many were able to relate to my situation too, Leona! Or maybe I shouldn't be surprised because no system is ever perfect.

      That's so interesting that too much water could cause problems as well! It's a great lesson that everything should be in moderation. =)

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Leona! Heading over to your post this evening! =)

  • Here in Tarapoto we have ongoing water problems (all the visiting politicos promise they’ll sort it out if elected to office – they’ve been saying that for years!). I have no water between about 2 and 5 o’clock each day. Sometimes the shortage lasts for days (the same broken pipe always takes the blame). I have rain buckets in strategic locations. The bottom of my big black water tank also holds water that I can tap by unscrewing the lowest pipe. Resourcefulness is definitely a good character trait for coping with life in the provinces!

    • Your strategies are much more thoughtful than mine, Tony! =) Love it! I can't imagine not having water for certain hours each day, although I imagine that it's convenient knowing which hours it'll happen for the most part.

      I'm actually thinking about leaving a bucket in a strategic location on the roof. And maybe I'll look into potentially accessing the tank upstairs for emergencies. =) I'm loving your insightful ideas. Thanks, Tony! =)

  • Great photo of Fénix… crying for water but also posing for the camera.

    And yes, last summer Mexico City authority claimed that one measure to helping change habits about water use was to get higher prices. There was big protest by it. But I didn't understad: we pay for 500 lts. the same amount that costs a half litre of bottle water… and there are parts of the city with shortages because we lost 30% of the water on distribution lanes. But… I think many of the protesters are like Fénix: just posing for the camera.


    • HAHA! That's a great example, Gonzalo. It's funny to think that it's not always the politicians who can be "posing for the camera," but also the protestors. =P At one point, I heard that Coca Cola was cheaper than water in Mexico. How about that for the health of the population.

      P.S. It made me soo happy to see your gravatar on my page! =) You're the best Gonzalo! Will head over to check out what's new with your page this evening, after national elections day here in Peru. =)

      • Well… actually, they cost almost the same. Some said that it's illogical that "simple water" cost more than soda… But soda is "only" pasteurized, and "simple water", by law, had 3 different purification process. So, paradoxical, in Mexico "simple water" has bigger cost to process than soda!

        And yes, we are now 2nd world place on obestiy, and 1st in female obesity. Near 70% of the population is overweighted or obese…
        My recent post Quince mil tweets…

        • How interesting! I never thought about it that way! Purified and healthy water is valuable indeed.

          I also had no idea about the obesity statistics. Thanks for sharing that. I guess there's always something to work on. =)

  • Samantha,
    Reading this article reminds me to be grateful that I have so many resources available to me. The closest that I can remember ever being in a situation similar to yours was years ago when we were without electricity for 10 days. Like you, we had no water available to us.

    After several days, I started to get depressed and whiny. My husband instead became resourceful. We live downhill from a neighbor who had an above ground swimming poo. My husband decided that if he ran a hose from our outside faucet to his pool, we'd have access to water to flush with. A 3rd neighbor thought he was nuts but it worked! And that very same neighbor could be seen accessing our new water supply.

    Innovation rules! Thanks for sharing.
    My recent post Social Networking and Casting a Bigger Net

    • Your comment so made me smile, Sherryl! I can hardly imagine you whiny. =P Your husband is a hero! What a great idea! Sometimes I scoff at some of my partner's silly plans, but they also turn out to be surprisingly innovative. I should appreciate them more and have a little more faith, eh? =)

      Of course, this is just one example and I think you've proven to be infinitely resourceful because I believe that resourcefulness is key to running a successful business like yours. =)

      So good to see you here, Sherryl. Talk soon! =)

  • Gosh, that must be pretty hard dealing with a lack of resource like water; i can't even picture what it would be like to not have something like water. :/

    I remember loosing my music, first time i realized just how important music actually is to me 😛
    My recent post A bite of Epic proportions and not becoming lost in the crowd of boring

    • As silly as it sounds, that's such a great example, Peter! =P The first time my hard drive crashed, it wasn't just music, but my history that I almost lost! A great reminder to backup my computer. =)

      Thanks so much for stopping by. =) I checked out your blog and loved the honesty and directness in your posts. =) Will head over to comment this evening!
      My recent post Waterless Days

  • Samantha, aloha. As I was reading this I kept thinking "Wow! Wow! Wow!" How spoiled we are because we believe every resource we need, will be there when we need it.

    Though I have not experienced the water shortages that seem to be routine for you in Peru, whenever we know a hurricane is headed our way, we do collect water.

    Since you began with a toilet story, I will end with one. Decades ago, there was a long shipping strike which was devastating to Hawaii as we are so dependent on staples being shipped to us. The one item everyone ran out of and that was at a premium was toilet paper. (I realize in other parts of the world toilet paper is not the "hot issue" that it is in the U.S.)

    Anyway, whenever someone went to the visit the mainland we asked them to bring back rolls of toilet paper or we had family/friends send us toilet paper by priority mail because that is flown into the islands. Obviously, we were much better off with our TP shortage than you are with your water shortage.

    Thx so much, Samantha, for reminding me to be grateful for all those many things that I take as automatic and convenient resources. What an important perspective to remember.

    P.S. Thx for letting me know Felix was posing.

    • Wow back to you! Natural disasters are often far more serious, damaging and disruptive! When I lived in Japan, we had a typhoon scare that sped by the south of the country. Thankfully, I was in the North, but I saw the aftereffects in the news. Have you ever had to live through a significant hurricane?

      Haha! Funnily enough, toilet paper is always on my mind here. Most public washrooms don't have toilet paper, so I always try to remember to bring my own. Needless to say, I have to get creative when I forget. =P That's so interesting that you had to have toilet paper thrown in! It's a great example of a necessary resource. =)

      Thanks so much for dropping by and sharing your stories, Janet. =) I had a feeling you'd have a good one!

  • It's funny that you should ask, Samantha. We're going thru something similar with our plumbing, right now. We can't use toilets, showers, or laundry; nothing is allowed down the pipes. Although the water is plentiful, due to something going on with the septic tank, we haven't been able to allow anything down the drains. Total headache, but it has taught me a valuable lesson to be a bit more appreciative of what luxuries we do have. I can't wait till this inconvenience is over however, I miss showers that aren't restricted to outdoors and pouring water over my head with a plastic cup. Luckily our house is in the middle of the woods and privacy isn't an issue. That's a positive note, because I don't forsee this issue ending anytime soon.

    • You're the best person that can relate to me right now, Deeone! =) What a true North American example. That's the scariest part — when we have tons of water, but no access! Omigoodness! What a struggle. I really hope you'll be able to resolve this soon.

      Loved getting to know you through your comment, Deeone. =) I now imagine you living in the woods and taking showers outdoors. It almost sounds story-like!

      • Thanks a lot Samantha for the well wishes. 🙂 However, from our line of vision, I don't think there will be a resolve anytime soon. This Friday will be three weeks, that we've been dealing with this situation. I have actually been online today, because I think we may have to move.

        Which has me feeling mixed feelings about the entire situation. I love the location, the privacy, but the situation is becoming quite unbearable. On top of that, the leasing office that rents the house to us, are now avoiding our calls, after they told us it would be fixed by last Friday.

        The showers have been fun, but this week the temps are dropping and there is no way I'll be out there catching all that draft. LOL 😀

        On a lighter note though, I have equally enjoyed getting to know you as well. You have been more of an inspiration to me then you'll probably ever know. Thanks for being so AWESOME!! I do hope the stars line up one day that I can visit Peru or you can make it to the states; it would be a pleasure in meeting you. 🙂

        • Aww… thanks, Deeone. =) You know, I've always thought about attending a bloggers conference. It would definitely be an amazing feeling putting faces to names. I'm sure we'll get the chance to meet each other one day!

          Wow! Sometimes, life just throws us a curveball, eh? Whatever happens, whether the leasing office will finally take charge, you come up with an ingenious way to fix the plumbing issue or you need to move, I imagine it'll be for the best. Take care there and try not to catch a cold! =P

  • Your post Samantha is a great reminder to be grateful for what we have. I have never experienced water problems. Your resourcefulness obviously pays off and so I can learn a little more, what has caused this water problem? Is it just lack of rain or something more?

    • Good question, Susan! This time, they were doing construction just outside of our apartment, but sometimes we don't have water for days because the landlady travels and forgets to pay the water bill or turn on the water tank. Sometimes, the entire city doesn't have a water supply because they're fixing some odd thing or there's a problem with the system. Who knows! There's always a new reason. =)

      But it's so true that it teaches me to be grateful in all aspects of life. Thanks for stopping by, Susan! =)

  • The first time I went to India was when I was 11. I was not forewarned that I couldn't just open the tap to get a glass of water and drink it. I did just that and nearly lost my life. I learned quickly that clean water was delivered at select times of day in which tanks were filled. That was one experience of my youth that made me feel fortunate to grow up in the United States where we had fresh water 24 / 7. What I really wish is that everyone, everywhere in the world had that luxury. We don't realize it, but it is a luxury.
    My recent post I Dare You NOT to Laugh!

    • I'm so glad you came out of that situation alright, Keyuri! It's scary to think that a lack of potable water can even be potentially lethal. It's good to hear that at least clean water was accesible in that area.

      Water is definitely a luxury when we compare ourselves to other places in the world. Thanks for relating to my story. =)

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