Monday, February 11, 2013

Air and Water

There have been two big events concerning natural resources here in Chile.

The first one is an anti-tobacco law that will go into effect March 1st.  Smoking is very cheap and very commonplace in Chile, and going out to eat or any bar or disco will usually result in lots of exposure to secondhand smoke.  This new law prohibits smoking within public enclosed places.

This is a huge step for Chile, and I really hope that it is enforced.  I would enjoy going out with friends so much more if I didn´t have to deal with secondhand smoke.

The other big event was two water cutoffs in the past 3 weeks.

The first one occurred on the 22nd of January.  Apparently mud and debris got into the water supply after heavy rains, and so the company Aguas Andinas warned people about its plan.  A lot of people were affected, and they were upset with the cutoff as well as the short notice that was given.

That first cutoff didn´t affect me, but the one that happened this weekend did.  I happened to notice a friend post about it on Facebook on Friday the 9th around 9 at night.  It was set to go into effect at midnight that night and go for 24 hours, so I made sure to fill up my water bottles, wash the dishes, and make ice cubes.  I had showered earlier in the day so I didn´t have to worry about that.

When I woke up in the morning I was surprised to see that I had water after all. I went about my business, and I told a friend who didn´t have water to feel free to come over and shower.  After my friend showering for about a minute apparently the water stopped.  I didn´t have water anywhere else either.

I found out that my apartment building had an emergency supply of water, and it had lasted until the afternoon when my friend was showering.  No big deal, I thought.  The water cutoff is only until midnight.  There were some emergency areas set up where you could get water in jugs that you bring, but I wouldn´t need it.  And I didn´t have jugs to store water in anyway.

Well, it ended up being longer.

I used the toilet when I woke up Sunday morning.  Let´s just say I wasn´t very happy when I went to flush it and was met with no response.

After checking the news online the following morning, Aguas Andinas was now saying that some areas could only expect to get water again at midnight.  So that meant an additional 24 hours without water.

When you go for a period of time without water, you begin to realize how much you take it for granted.  I was unable to wash my hands, brush my teeth, shower, do dishes, and flush my toilet without using bottled water I had saved up.  Luckily I wasn´t in need of doing any cleaning or laundry during that time.

So, how did it end up affecting me on the second day? Besides the smelly toilet, that is.

Well, I luckily had enough clean dishes and bowls to have a breakfast of cereal without a problem.  I had plans to catch up with a friend at Starbucks.  Seeing that so much of the city was affected by the water cutoff I wondered if they would even be open.  It turns out they were, but they were only selling juices and food.  No coffee or tea, and no restrooms.

After meeting up a Chilean friend offered to let me shower at his place, and after that we made some lunch at my place. Lider was out of bottled water, but at the OK Market we picked up two large bottles so that we´d be able to cook and wash our hands.

We managed to prepare salads as well as oven baked chicken, but the obstacle of the water made us realize how much we take water for granted.  It wasn´t easy pouring water into each other´s hands given both of our hands were covered in mayonaise and breadcrumbs.

After a nice meal I laid down for a nap, and I woke up around 5:00.  I used the bathroom and decided to try my luck flushing the toilet.

And I have to tell you, I had never been so grateful to hear a toilet flush in my life.

As far as I can tell everything is back to normal with the water supply, but a lot of people are upset with the water company.  They feel that they should have a system in place to prevent this from happening again, or at least inform people with more notice.  Some of my friends were out at a party when they heard, and by that point it was too late for them to prepare.

This also makes me realize how difficult situations like these must be for families.  I don´t have children or dependents to care for, so I just had to be sure that I was ok for the unexpected extended period.

I feel that I use water rather sparingly and that I had an appreciation of it before this event.  Now so more than ever I am grateful to have clean running water at my disposal when I need it.


  1. Wow, you don't really think about all the little things you use water for until you don't have it! Glad you got through it and I hope they don't decide to continue the water shutoffs any time soon!

    Also, that is AWESOME that they're going to (try to) control smoking in public! How's the general reaction to that? :-D

  2. Yes I agree on both points! I am pretty careful with my use of water, but you don´t realize how much you use it for until you don´t have it.

    As for the reaction to the smoking ban, apparently it is going into effect for some apartments too! They are considered public enclosed spaces. The reaction seems to be mixed, with some people applauding the move as a victory for public health and a step forward. Others see it as the government taking away their rights.

    Apparently a good amount of bars, restaurants, and discos do not have an outside/terraced area, which means that they cannot accommodate customers that smoke. Those places are worried about losing business and say that it will have a negative impact on the economy, but only time will tell.