Dispatches From South America – Water Issues

I suspect that, even in the US, there are many places where the availability potable water is an issue, but of course I’ve never lived in one. Consequently, it never occurred to me that I’d have to deal with the fact that, “…you can’t drink the water.”

This is no joke. Quito is bad. You can bathe in the water that comes from the tap, provided you don’t have any open cuts on your body, but you sure as sh*t can’t drink it or even brush your teeth with it. On the other hand, Quito is pretty high up in the Andes and close to its water sources. We don’t ever see the water turn a funny color like it did in Cusco (Peru), and Quito’s water doesn’t stink like the water in Lima. But consider Guayaquil, Ecuador’s most populous city and on the coast to boot. They’ve got real problems. You can’t drink the water there. You can’t cook with it, and some guidebooks recommend not bathing in it. Though I have no idea how you’d manage that.

So what’s our life like here where the water isn’t potable? Well…mostly we boil water…a lot of water…three or four times a day. In fact, we boil the CR*P out of it because at 9,500 ft. water boils readily but not effectively when sterilization is the goal. And we haul water, lots of water, in 5 liter jugs, uphill (both ways!) from the local mercado. And despite all the precautions, both the Frogette and I have had a bout of stomach flu in our 5 weeks south of the equator. Was it the water? Who really knows, but it’s the most likely culprit. Gives me a whole new appreciation of how lucky most people in the US have it where water is concerned.

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14 thoughts on “Dispatches From South America – Water Issues”

  1. Future wars will be fought over water, not oil, as man pollutes the water supply through his own ignorance of safe sanitary practices as well as the flow of toxic chemicals.

  2. Wow. What a self-important, liberal douche bag. No wonder progressives are wandering the issue desert with deep thinkers like Lew.

    Your water sucks because the population has put up with corrupt socialist/dictatorial bureaucracies for far too long. Duh. Quit blaming others and start throwing the hacks out.

    [Administrator’s Note] –
    Our friend here surf’s in from adsl-99-148-170-116.dsl.rcsntx.sbcglobal.net, almost certainly not an IP or ISP that the ‘real’ Helen would use. We don’t censor anybody around here, but I have no problem publishing every single detail about our friend from New York. Welcome to Ragebot!

  3. Wow. What a self-important, liberal douche bag. No wonder progressives are wandering the issue desert with deep thinkers like Lew.

    You know…childish assholes who pop in impersonating other bloggers get about as much traction around here as Sarah Palin managed in the last election. Next time do a better job of masking your IP.

    As for your nonsensical comments on South American water issues, go back and actually take a history course before you open your pie-hole. Though Ecuador has fared better than most other South American countries—especially those that endured decades of US supported, rightest dictatorships (e.g., Bolivia)—water issues are typically way more complex than just who is governing the country. And I suppose you might have a bead on that if you were capable of doing anything more than armchair quaterbacking from somewhere in NY.

  4. Lew… Well said. I totally agree, and our travels in Peru and Ecuador have reinforced just how dire the situation will be in some countries. Peru, for example, has 90% of it’s population west of the Andes and 98% of it’s water resources east of the Andes.

    Holte… Thanks man! I *am* the administrator, just acting in my “official” capacity.

  5. “Wow. What a self-important, liberal douche bag.”

    I don’t “censor” at Oh!pinion, but I damn sure maintain a reasonable level of civility. I take on-topic disagreement in stride. Where I draw the line is when someone spews mean-spirited personal attacks, name calling and such, on me or other commenters. I don’t do that to guests, in my home or at my blog, and I don’t tolerate others coming to either place and doing that.

    Regarding the water situation, clean, potable water really is something we Norte-americanos take for granted. However, I’m seeing more articles about contaminants of various kinds in public drinking water.

    A few years ago, Burlington Northern RR built a big fueling facility over our local aquifer, despite the protests of local “nervous Nellies.” Lo and behold, the facility hadn’t been in operation but three or four months when leaking into the aquifer was discovered. And yes, you could smell diesel fuel right at the water tap. The good news is that BN fixed the leak quickly, at considerable expense. The bad news is that the leaked diesel fuel is still riding on top of the aquifer water. Some of it will be flushing through in our drinking water from time to time for decades. How nice.

    If you’re going to live in Ecuador, keep some Immodium close at hand. Chlorine tablets can be helpful too, for when you can’t boil water.

  6. I have to say that it is a real education having to purchase drinking water for health reasons rather than as a fashion statement. Kvatch and I have thought for many years that water rights/shortages will be the defining issue of this decade.

  7. S.W… I’m not quite as inclined to keep the debate at a ‘reasonable level of civility,’ all the time. (Probably because I’m not that nice a person to begin with.) But I don’t have any problems outing a troll when they come in here impersonating someone who’s blog I’ve read for many years.

    Regarding BNSF… How the heck did they get permission to build right over the aquifer? Seems to me that many other suitable locations could have been chosen.

    Frogette… Water, “…as a fashion statement”? How’s that again? ;-)

  8. Ah yes, the old “don’t drink the water!” dilemma. Brings back memories. I traveled all around Asia for 2 years in the mid ’70s. One school of thought is, just drink a tiny sip of the water — unboiled, unsterilized — every day, and you’ll get a tolerance to whatever germs are around. I never used that method; not intentionally anyway. But after a time I realized that every time I had an ice cold drink at a restaurant, they were using ice cubes from untreated water; salads were washed in the local water, etc. In any case I was lucky. I never came down with anything other than an occasional case of the runs.

    That “Helen Wheels” impostor hasn’t visited my blog. I’m feeling kinda left out (:

  9. That certainly would be a bad enough problem for humans, but for amphibians, it could be catasdtrophic. Imagine having to boil enough to fill a pond. :-(

  10. Gives me a whole new appreciation of how lucky most people in the US have it where water is concerned.

    It certainly does. Now if we could just do something about the delusional, myopic people here…

  11. Kvatch asked: “Regarding BNSF… How the heck did they get permission to build right over the aquifer?”

    The railroad sold it as a boost to the local economy — some jobs and businesses tax revenues.

  12. But after a time I realized that every time I had an ice cold drink at a restaurant, they were using ice cubes from untreated water; salads were washed in the local water…

    Tom… True enough, but fortunately for us drinks with ice are almost unheard of in Ecuador. ;-) The salad thing is definitely a problem, also the frozen concoctions that are sold on the streets and that the locals eat like crazy (some kind of ice cream and custard with friut).

    Imagine having to boil enough to fill a pond.

    TomCat… And what’s worse is we can never tell how hot it is until it’s too late. ;-)

  13. S.W… Seems to me they could BNSF could boost the local economy without building right over the aquifer. Though…taking my hometown for example: The aquifer that used to supply water for El Paso was huge, extending almost 75 miles east of the city.

    the delusional, myopic people here…

    Kathy… No fix for that problem I’m afraid.

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