Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Water, water, everywhere, but…


Yesterday was another wet, dreary day in Todos Santos, with rain falling from early morning right through till the evening.

On the whole, rain is not kind to Todos Santos. There are some good points – the rain makes a valiant attempt to wash the ever-present dust off plants leaving them gleaming and refreshed, the aquifers are replenished, and there is a primal, fertile smell in the air. But Todos Santos is a Baja town built around an oasis in the desert. Rain is not a usual occurrence, and life here is not designed to accommodate it.

Dirt roads turn into sticky streams filled with gelatinous mud. Dips in the roads fill with red water of unknown depth. Open air restaurants sit empty, their welcoming spaces sad and bedraggled. And the brilliant colours of the town appear muted. One of the magical things about this town is the quality of the light. The clarity of the air, and the intensity of the sunlight make shadows appear separate entities from their parent objects. When the grey clouds move in, the magic disappears.

Last night, in the midst of this surfeit of water, friends from the Las Tunas subdivision bemoaned that they had not had any water from the town’s water supply for 2 weeks. How can this be? One cause, familiar to Comox and any other desirable area, is that it’s hard for infrastructure to keep up with growth. In this instance, however, there’s a very specific reason. Last summer, the main pump for the town’s water system broke. Apparently, there is no money that can be allocated to fix or replace it. Given that the alternate pump can’t meet all demand, water is rationed. The “townies” (like us) haven’t really suffered. The outlying areas, however, have been severely restricted and have had to rely on their storage pilas. And when there is water, the first residences on the pipe draw it all till their storage is full, leaving others still dry.

Why has this gone on for so long? I suspect it has something to do with lack of self-determination in Todos Santos. The town is administered by the capital city of La Paz, 1 hour away, as if it were a suburb of the city. There is no locally elected body here that has real decision making power. La Paz is a bustling, growing city that has its own water issues, with rationing a standard part of day-to-day existence for many of its residents. I am not sure the interests of the few residents in our distant town stack up highly against other, more proximate concerns. It also may not be coincidental that most of the residents in the outlying areas like Las Tunas are not Mexican citizens, and are therefore not entitled to vote.

Will the water issues get fixed? I’ve been here long enough to believe that they will, in the same way the sun has returned today as if it had never been missing. But the resolution will be on Mexican time, of course. That is where we live!

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