Havana Water

Take note. More than 50 percent of the potable water that is distributed in the Cuban capital is lost to the poor state of the network of aqueducts and sewers.  It is a drama.  Also note that more than 100,000 Havana households do not have access to the precious liquid.

Ask Jose Mesa, 49, what his dream is, and without thinking he will say: running water in his house for 24 hours.  Because every afternoon, after arriving tired from the factory where he works, he has to carry 62 buckets of water to fill a pair of 55 gallon containers.

Could it be that Mesa is asking for too much.  In Havana you can count the families that have water all day.  In the best case, the immense majority of homes in the capital receive water every other day.  In apartment buildings, the water pump, if there is one, pumps a couple of times a day for 30 minutes.

The revolution of the Castro brothers has done little to help the situation.  There are aqueducts, such as those in Albear, that date back to the end of the 19th century.  Faced with the difficult situation of many residents of the city in accessing potable water, at the end of the ’80s the president mandated the construction of the El Gato aqueduct in Madruga, on the outskirts of Havana.

But this did not alleviate the critical water shortage.  It was intended to turn the situation around, after ten years, it constitutes the company Havana Water S.A., a joint-venture company with mixed Spanish ownership which is advised by Barcelona Water.

The first thing that began to happen was the reestablishment or construction of new water lines.  But so deplorable was the technical state of the water mains that the work proceeded at the pace of a tortoise. If you want to see the utter waste, walk through the streets of the city at night and you will see numerous leaks, occasionally veritable rivers.

While those like worker Jose Mesa live without potable water and every day have to carry dozens of buckets, each night in the city of Havana more than 50 percent of the vital liquid is lost.

Ivan Garcia

Photo: Utilizing the water in a small square in Old Havana.