The View
from Here:
  Ellen Lampert-Greaux lives in Petite Saline, and when she's not organizing the St. Barthelemy film festival, or supervising the local volleyball league, or writing for various magazines, she turns her sharp eye upon local happenings.
  February 2001
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  H2O
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  When Samuel Taylor Coleridge's ancient mariner noticed that there was water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink, I wonder if he was in St Barth at the time. This tiny scrap of land is surrounded by the pounding waves of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, but there is a rather severe shortage of water these days.
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   To begin with, this is a dry island. Which means there are no rivers, no streams, no creeks, no wells, no springs. Nada. Nyet. No fresh water. Historically, people depended on rainwater for survival. In the early days they collected it in large earthenware jars, then in concrete cisterns. The population explosion on the island in the past 30 years called for more modern methods, so there is now a desalination plant which takes the salt out of ocean water to provide town water for a majority of the homes and businesses on the island. But as it hasn't rained much lately, cisterns (both public and private) are running on empty and the water factory cannot meet the growing demands of the island. With thousands of residents and thousands of tourists soaping up and showering off, filling swimming pools and watering those thirsty gardens, you can just imagine how many gallons of water must be consumed around here every day. There simply isn't enough to go around.
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  The local authorities are doing all they can to alleviate the situation, and a second water plant is scheduled to go on line next year. In the meantime, trucks carrying water from one side of the island to the other are a common sight. But where do they get all that H2O? Rumor has it that certain people get all the town water they need and then fill their cisterns and in a downright neighborly fashion are willing to sell that water by the truckload to anyone willing to pay five times the price. It also seems that certain houses, hotels, and public buildings were built without cisterns, so that all the precious rainwater that falls onto their rooftops is wasted (next time you buy stamps in Gustavia, ask the postmaster if he has any water).
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   Some people have taken the bull by the horns and put in their own desalination plants, taking water directly from the ocean. I think I'll go visit a few of them as we haven't had town water during the day for the past three weeks. My husband has been setting the alarm clock for various hours in the middle of the night to see if we might get a few cubic meters as our cistern is also empyting at an alarmingly rate. Eureka! The other night water started trickling out of the hose. It was like music to my ears.
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   Speaking of music, the St. Barth Music Festival seems to have been a resounding success this year.

  More to come,

  Ellen Lampert-Greaux


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