It is 11:00 a.m. An unrelenting sun makes the temperature rise to 32 degrees Celsius at Guamachito, La Guajira. It is forecast to rise further to 36 degrees. The days are very hot: by 8:00 am the average forecast temperature is already 25 degrees.
Under this heat, the 1,003 inhabitants have their minds set on the activities related to obtaining the vital liquid to prepare food, bathe and to cool off.
The options they currently have available to obtain water are to wait for a tanker truck to drive by their homes, to buy bottles or bags that are sold at local stores, or to fetch it, maybe at no cost, from deep wells that began to be built under the military government of General Rojas Pinilla, when windmills and small reservoirs (known as Jagüeyes) were also built in La Guajira.
The existing deep wells are several kilometers away. The women have to carry the heavy liquid on foot, and as soon as they get home it disappears in no time at all, because it is used for all household needs: to wash clothes, cook, clean their homes, bathe the children. And it is never enough.
And then they have to make the long trek again to fetch more water. This situation makes water the most valuable commodity. And the people of Guamachito are well aware of this, even more so when the well they had been using for 32 years had dried up.
“When I was a child, my mother, my grandmother, my sisters and I had to get up at 3:00 a.m. to go fetch the water. It took several hours to get there and back, with a small donkey to carry the cans. We returned home as fast as we could, to wash up and go to school. But in 2018 the well dried up.” This is how Yesenia Plaza Ipuana recalls her childhood in the same municipality where she is now a leader and spokesperson for her indigenous community.
For this reason, in 2020, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, and after two years of insistence, they were able to make a new deep well a reality to supply water, thanks to support from TGI.
“We already had the survey that the company had made with the geologist. This struggle took over two years, but the results were finally achieved. The mayor requested the permit, which we thought would be issued quickly, but after two months, nothing happened. So, we had to call Corpoguajira to help us speed up the process, because there was a drought and the community was having a hard time. Three days later we had the permit,” added Yesenia.
A project that had been calculated to take 15 days took 45, because layers of rock were found. “The water was close, it was not so deep, only 150 meters underground, but the rock slabs that were found in the way broke several of the machine’s gears. Thank God they were able to break through those rocks to find the aquifer. Now we can use the water to cool off and wash,” narrates Yesenia with excitement.
Now the community´s main challenge is to start up the water treatment plant that was installed, because the well’s water is not suitable for human consumption. “Even though the water is clear and clean, it still needs treatment, and TGI is going to help us with this last push,” Yesenia said with conviction.