October 22, 2017
After only a few hours in Puerto Rico, it became evident that water is something we take for granted. Sure, you can live without electricity, cell signal, and many of the things that in the moment seem invaluable. Water is one thing that you can’t live without! Aside from pure dehydration, there is a lack of knowledge of how much you use water for until you’re put into the situation where you only have what nature provides. Flushing toilets, doing dishes, laundry, and bathing among other things becomes increasingly difficult. How many times can you wash your hands in a bucket of water before it is no longer clean? How are you going to ration your last bucket of water when you don’t know how long it will be until you can get more?
I went to Puerto Rico thinking that I would tough it out for two weeks and be fine. However, as time passed it became evident that it wasn’t that simple. Local water distribution was limited by person and it meant committing to standing in the sun with your small children hoping that you are able to get water before they ran out of water or closed for the day; whichever came first. Gradually conditions started improving, you could get cash at an ATM or if you were ever so fortunate gas for your generator, but that still meant signing up for a lengthy affair; not knowing if you would be able to get what you set out for. Living under these conditions, it doesn’t take long to become desperate and angry. It was the reality for many I observed during my trip.
Rainwater was available for collecting, but you were at the mercy of Mother Nature. At higher elevations, you could find streams, which became popular collection sites to those who had access. However, it is surface water and drinking it will leave you exposed to bacteria and risk of illness. A quality water filter like the ones we have been distributing make these water sources safe to drink and far exceed quantity rations given by local sources. Our focus was to simply provide a tool for people to use to provide for themselves. During my visit water was becoming available to some communities and hopefully, this momentum builds. That being said, it is non-portable water, so filtration is a must for some time to come. It is unclear when water treatment facilities will become fully operable with the islands’ fragile infrastructure. As the media has been reporting, viruses from drinking unclean water are on the rise and unfortunately causing fatalities.
Once water does become available in stores, it can be quite expensive to purchase regularly. Where I was staying, during one solid rain shower one afternoon, we were able to collect over 30 gallons of water using the bins, pots, tubs, and coolers that were set up. Those with roofs intended for collecting water can receive much, much more. Being able to filter this water for drinking lessens desperation and eliminates health risks of drinking non-portable water.
When I think of all those I care about and know in Puerto Rico, this worries me immensely. The needs of the island are so great! Water Filter for PR is one small way to make a significant impact on individuals and communities. Thanks to those supporting this or other initiatives to benefit those affected in PR. I can report first hand that people there are truly grateful and making the best of their situation. Please help raise awareness if you feel led.