How to Live Without Water in Venezuela

How is it to Live Without Water?

– Hi, this is Teresa, can I speak to Emmanuel?

– Hi Teresa, Emmanuel can’t come to the phone right now. He’s gone filling up some buckets with water.

– So, Luis, are you coming on Friday?

– I can’t. The water is on that day and I have to do the laundry.

[Text message] Excuse me, teacher, I couldn’t make it to class today because we’ve now been without water for 4 days at home and we had to move temporarily to my aunt’s house.

Venezuela Without Water

These conversations do not belong to a specific Venezuelan; they belong to most of them. Among the many issues that trouble our hearts, there is one that makes us run and set up our lives so as to be able to get it: water. Between the years 2016 and 2017 there were more than 9 million people who lived under strict water shortage plans and who received around 48 hours of water per week.

In 2010, the United Nations declared that having access to clean water was a fundamental human right but since the Venezuelan government has already a Master’s in violating these rights, the one related to water access was not going to be out of the list. Venezuelans are modifying their habits, routines, and life, in general, to suit the water plans and be at home when there is water in the pipes.

They do their cleaning, laundry, watering plants or similar chores only under these timetables and the rest of the week they have to use water containers very, very wisely.

According to the World Health Organization “enough” water per person refers to 50-100 liters per day, but some families are used now to work with 40 liters per day to drink and cook for all family members, or one bucket per person for personal use. It is hard to tell how many liters each home receives since water service is not measured anymore.

How We Live Without Water

Nueva Esparta, Falcon, and Carabobo are some of the states that have suffered the most with water shortage. Some families without water in Margarita, next to the beach, have learned to “shower” with one 2-liter bottle and use water from the sea to clean the house, flush the toilets and do the dishes.

Some other people are looking for water sources themselves, opening wells when they can. These natural deposits are being used without the proper revision by the authorities and may be contaminated so they are used primarily as a source of water for household chores and not for drinking or cooking.

Leakages, poor pipe system and failures in the general pumping systems directly affect the quality of the service in the country. Water that comes out of the tap is poor in quality because water processing industries do not have the resources and ability to cover the demand and process all raw water that comes from lakes and dams. These companies depend on government’s allocations which explains their deficit.

When compared to other Latin American countries, Venezuela’s water is extremely cheap, and therefore extremely inefficient. While in Peru water costs $0.3 per m3 and in Colombia $0.2 per m3, in Venezuela each cubic meter of water costs $0.000137. How can a service keep a quality standard if prices are close to nothing?

A Regular Day Without Water

Wake up early to go to work, take a shower with your 2-liter bottle and brush your teeth with one single cup, hopefully, your hair is still decent and you don’t have to wash it, yet. You have to shower with a container below your feet so as to collect those 2 liters again and use them to flush the toilet. Leave home, work all day and come back. Cook dinner and lunch for the following day using one or maybe two more bottles. If you have air conditioning at home, you may want to use its water to wash some underwear, remember to store soapy water for your next toilet flush. Dishes can wait, apparently tomorrow there’s going to be water on the tap. Apparently.

What to Do Now?

Regular citizens cannot do much to solve this problem. This is not something that can be solved by recycling, reusing. We are already doing that. It is necessary to invest and repair equipment, pumping stations, treatment plants, electrical pieces, and engines. It is necessary for politicians and people in power to stop stealing the money they should be using to keep the service working. I wonder if after all these problems and new lifestyles we are going to finally learn something about how to use resources correctly and wisely, or maybe we will just learn how to live without water.

About Isabel Matos

Isabel is a Venezuelan translator that struggles to find a voice and to prosper in today’s political turmoil and tension. She is also an undergraduate English teacher and is currently pursuing a Master’s in English as a Foreign Language. Translator, teacher and always student, she is interested in how language shapes reality and how women and men negotiate power through discourse.

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