Do you think about where your water comes from when you turn on your faucet? If you are connected to a municipal water system, probably not. The basic utilities, like water, electricity, and propane are things we think about daily. Mainly because the supply is sporadic or something we have to provide somewhat manually. For example, cooking with propane. Our stoves are gas, put we are not connected to a municipal gas supply. We have propane tanks that we take to a filling station when they are empty. Electricity is provided by a utility company, but we have daily planned power outages. When we do not have city power, we use battery backups and as a last resort we have diesel generators if the outages are extremely long. However, this week’s adventure was with our water supply. We are blessed to have our own well on campus, and we are not dependent on the municipal water supply. We are connected to the city supply, but the amount of water they provide daily does not come close to meeting our water needs. We pump water from our well into our cistern. The cistern is an underground concrete cylinder that is 7 feet deep and 40 feet in diameter. From the cistern we then pump water to the buildings on campus. Each building has water tanks on top to store water for those times of day that we do not have electricity to run the pump, and the water is gravity feed throughout the buildings. Well, this week, the well pump stopped working. On a normal day we have our clinic in operation plus the daily functioning of the children’s home (laundry, dish washing, general cleaning, toilets, and showering). We go through a lot of water. We noticed the pump not working when we were down to below 4 feet of water in our cistern. We typically go through 1 foot of water in the cistern a day. So we were looking at a four day supply of water on campus. Of course this couldn’t happen on a normal week. It had to happen on a week that we had 28 people staying in Team Housing. So, now on top of our regular usage we have 28 additional people showering, flushing, washing dishes and doing laundry. We immediately started trying to get a water tanker to come and deliver a few loads of water to help ease the stress of possibly running out of water. Dr. Yirdana, took on this challenge. It became a challenge because the water truck’s pump was broken also, of course! So she made phone calls to the driver and the mechanic working on the pump to keep pressure on them to get it fixed so we could have water. Finally by the next afternoon we had three loads of water dumped into the system giving us a bit of leeway before we ran the cistern dry.
I had two electricians come out to check the pump house to see if it was a breaker, capacitor, or some other relatively simple problem. The second opinion confirmed that it was indeed a problem with the well pump–the submersible well pump that is at the bottom of a 200 foot well. So, it would take at least a week to see if the pump could be repaired. It would have to be pulled up from the well, taken to Santo Domingo, and dropped off at the repair shop. A week of which we would quickly have gone through our water supply and have to make two separate trips to Santo Domingo. Since, Melissa was already in Santo Domingo to drop her sister off at the airport, we decided the best option was for her to buy a new well pump. The only issue to solve was for her to have enough money to do it. Buy paying some in cash and some with the ministry debit card she was able to purchase the well pump before returning to Jimani. She got in Wednesday night, and so we pulled the pump up Thursday. Me, Hosty, Willy (a local electrician), Pelege, and Tom. Tom and his wife Laurie are the only other foreign missionaries in town. Tom had pulled a well pump before, so I wanted his help to problem solve. I had bad images of us losing the pump at the bottom of the well. We pulled it up with little trouble, but as we started to install the new pump realized that the fittings were different sizes, and the connector to connect the pump to the well’s pipe wouldn’t fit. We scrounged through our supply of this-and-thats, but we couldn’t find anything to work. Hosty and the electrician took off to find the connector. It might sound weird that I was using an electrician, but there are actually more electrical components than plumbing components, and he is a jack-of-all-trades type as well. They hit all the local hardware stores, and no luck. So, that meant Hosty heading off to Barahona (a four hour round trip) to see if he could find the connector there. No, luck. He had to go another hour and a half down the road when he found one that would connect the old connector to the new pump. So now we have a double connection (pipe, connector, connector, pump). The connector that caused all the issues probably cost $2, but hours of Hosty’s time and a lot of gas in the truck to run around finding it. However, by Friday morning we had everything we needed, and the four day adventure to get the well pump ended. Now it is just a matter of taking the old pump to hopefully get repaired and serve as a backup for when this pump goes out. Here’s praying this doesn’t happen for another 5 years!