We walked to the fuente de agua hoy (the water source. It was about a four hour ordeal from start to finish. We started out from the house on foot at 7:30 am wearing out rubber boots and wielding our machetes. Once the road ended at the base of the hill, Marcelino and I walked an additional hour following two men on horseback from the town, one with a spade shovel, the other with a machete and a dog. We had met them at the cistern, two 15 x 15 x 6 bunker like concrete structures with pvc pipe running to them and dumping water in from the top. Both were partially buried and covered, one with a concrete cap and the other with tin sheets held down by screw pins. The milky water runs from these reservoirs to another little cinderblock shed that houses two Israeli made water filters. According to the men on horseback the two sand filters have to be changed every year or so but it’s a pretty expensive change … on the order of a couple hundred dollars… so it is seldom done that frequently. It seemed to be working just fine when I was there, dumping dark chocolate milk out one pipe, and what I would assume to be the relatively crystal clear water that we drink and cook with, out the other covered pipe that runs into the valley to feed Esquiguita.
After looking at the cisterns, Marci, the two men and I continued into the hills for another hour or so, following the path of the river up a relatively steep grade surrounded by terraced, deforested cattle pasture. We finally arrived at a small quebrada, a smallish waterfall that had been intensified by a steel wire reinforced concrete dam. The source of the towns drinking water is a tube about eight inches in diameter that runs immediately into the middle of the dam protruding into the reservoir about a foot and a half above the silt layer and three feet below the surface of the water.
The reason for our journey today had been two fold. First, I had wanted to go up into the hills. Because it is the regional water source and because it is an area with a much sparser population, it is a reforestation priority. I also wanted to see the water source to decide if it could be improved upon. Judging by what I saw today, I would say it is a model system. The other reason for our trip, and the reason for the men on horseback was that every 4 – 8 days, they must go up to the dam and shovel out the silt layer that builds up around the pipe. If it rains more, they have to go more frequently. If it rains less, less frequently they must go.
Yesterday Marci said that running water had been a gift of the central government back in the day. Marcilino said it was Omar Torrijos’s project back in 1975. I asked the group of men today who had organized the town to petition the government for the system and nobody seemed to really know though Marcilino said that it had been the Representante and everyone generally agreed that it had been a government project from the local level on up.
On our return trip, we stopped at an avocado tree, chopped a couple branches with our machetes and threw them at the fruit, eventually recovering eight large avocados that will probably be ripe by tomorrow. I also talked to somebody about acquiring a horse. I couldn’t exactly understand everything that I heard but things seemed to stay positive. Other than that the vivero seems to be in good order, with much more green since we moved it into a sunnier area. But judging by what I saw today in the mountains, we are going to need a hell of a lot more trees.