Our ti kay holds a special point on the mountain road by being parallel to an opening along the river. The community has long built its homes adjacent to this running water, and it is the source of much life and activity. For the last week every day at 655am the same young guy has bathed, brushed his teeth and washed his motorcycle in the same spot, presumably before going to work. Yesterday on a hike visiting a ti kay being built in upper plateau Tessere workers took turns stripping down and bathing in the middle of the construction site, without care for who was watching using the same water they mixed concrete with. Public bathing here in Kabik is a microcosm of a culture that takes cleanliness very seriously. Regrettably clean water running to households is as uncommon as bathing is common, which is why to date we have listed the river’s daily uses as: toilet, shower/bath, sink, laundromat, and car wash.
Most people in Plateau Tessere access running water via the river because it is free and because they have done so their entire lives. However, this river is not kept clean. Trash is lodged in the stream and on the river bed. Seeing this and then seeing children, women and men scrubbing every inch of their bodies with the same water is confusing yet mesmerizing. It is natural and logical to use the life source that your community was built around for every possible application, and there is a raw beauty in walking past a near naked body performing such a natural and honest action. To see people place such high value in personal hygiene is wonderful, but clean water should not be a luxury.
Right now having a ti kay with running water is reserved for the wealthier members of the community who can pay for spring water. The water system is currently under the control of one family who has a longstanding monopoly over the spring. The system itself is a bit archaic; running water reaches communities along several veins that lead back to the source. The piping is all inexpensive plastic that is prone to breaking and often does as many water carrying pipes are slipped a mere inch or two underground, or they actually break the surface for a few yards. If and when these break,0 service to that area is interrupted. If a house higher up on the chain experiences a cracked pipe then the next ti kay will not receive water until it is fixed. (we know all about that) The same can be said if the higher house does not pay its bill (know about that too) which is probably pretty costly and purposely avoided. Sophie says she pays almost 1000gourdes/month ($25US), which is a real ripoff considering the shoddy service and the fact that one cannot even drink the water without running it through a purifying filter into a water bucket, which takes about a day to work. Considering how expensive this is and the added expense of installing a plumbing system in ones ti kay, using the free river makes sense. The water family does in fact provide some free water to the community at concrete fountains. However, these fountains are small and result in being more wasteful than helpful as people leave them running constantly.
Leaders in the community have chosen to amend the system this year alongside the government organization DINEPA with the goal of providing the entire population of Plateau Tessere the option to purchase inexpensive clean water. The motion began with the election of a new water committee which includes one member of the “water family.” Their mission is to install new polyethylene pipes, and put a meter on each house that buys a contract. His will improve accountability by tracking each home’s water usage and mean more secure service, since the bendy rubber pipes do not splinter. To serve a family of 6 each month you need about 5.2 cubic meters of water. For 100gourdes/month ($2.5US) a ti kay will be able to use 10 cubic meters of water – nearly double their projected needs. For larger homes or businesses using more water – from 10 to 50 cubic meters – the bill will be 500gourdes/month ($12.5US), and above this the price escalates rapidly.
The idea is to encourage people to use what is needed with lower cost as the incentive. Hopefully introducing this new inexpensive system will motivate people to bring clean, pure spring water into their homes rather than use the river. Less people in the open water might mean less sickness and possibly a cleaner river as well. These speculations are tentative, but there is definitely a clean water future in Kabik.