10 Years of Blog Archive

Thursday, August 01, 2013

No Water for 72-hours in Cuenca Ecuador; Land of Paradise?

Just another day (72-hours actually) in the
life in Cuenca Ecuador.  

We’ve previously written about the infrastructure in Cuenca and the Ecuadorian coast.  And after two years of living in the cheapest and best retirement city in the world, we figured we had a good understanding of the infrastructure pulse.  We didn’t think we’d be writing about it again just because Friday morning (July 26th 2013) at around 11:00AM our water quit.

No big deal, we’ve been through this several times before and we were mentally and practically prepared for the water to be out up to but not necessarily a full 24 hours.  That had been our experience so far, so we went on with our daily errands and never thought much of it, expecting the water to be back on by morning at the latest.  Oh boy we were in for a big surprise!

When the water didn’t come back at dawn as it did the last time it was out for 24hours, and then at 8am and then at 10am our enthusiasm sunk.  We were prepared for 24hours without water but not a lot longer!!!  After all, things are constantly improving in this best retirement city in the world, or so we’re told.

The first thing we did was go online to the ETAPA website to find out what was going on with the water since they are in charge of the water supply in the city of Cuenca. Unfortunately, on their website there was no mention of any repairs being done on the water lines nor was there any mention of water being out, or when it would be turned back on. Ummm?

The second thing we did is immediately send our sons to the Coral Centro to stock up on water.  Guess what? The grocery store is out of large jugs of water! It’s now obvious other people had raided the water shelves.  They still had smaller sparkling water, so the boys bought up the rest of the sparkling water and came home with it so we would have some water to drink.

To lift our enthusiasm again, we decide to go around town and see if we can enjoy normal life in a different neighborhood, where there's water! Sure enough on our way downtown, we spot the working crews on Las Americas with three foot diameter water pipes taken apart in the middle of the median.  Ok, there’s the problem, and we’re downhill from it.  North of it was Supermaxi, and the water was still running in their restrooms.  It was also still running in the other parts of town that we visited, north of the break. Momentary relief!

Frank and I stop off at another grocery store on the way home.  We both grab three five liter jugs of water. I’m thinking cooking, doing dishes, and drinking water.  Who knows when we will have water again, we’re both thinking, by this time. 

We put one jug in our backpack and we carry one in each hand.  Try walking up the bus steps with three heavy jugs of water.  That was the easy part. I almost make it to the standing area of the bus (all the seats are taken) where Frank is already standing and the bus driver revs up on the gas pedal and takes off like a madman, and, well, I lose my balance and one of the jugs of water falls out of my hands and rolls down the aisle of the bus. 

They say a gallon of water weighs 9lbs, so these five liter jugs must weigh over 11 lbs each, and we’re both carrying three of them! An Ecuadorian guy stops my rolling jug of water and hands it back to me after I regain my balance. Whewy!

We still have another problem. Flushing the toilets!! Always with a mind for blending in and doing what the locals are doing, I spot a young local Ecuadorian man walking toward the river with…huh?  Empty jugs!  Bingo!  I call my son and tell him to take a bucket down to the river and fill it with water to flush the toilets, because, well, you know, the locals are doing it, great idea!  Now there’s a benefit to living next to the river that we hadn’t thought of!

By the way, our sons told us there were bunches of piles of you-know-what with sheets of toilet paper all over the place down by the river. Looks like at least some of the locals found their solution to having a full toilet. What else could they do?  Someone sitting at a desk at Etapa water decided it would be ok, to leave the citizens downhill from the water break, without water over the weekend.  I’m betting their water wasn’t shut off, how much you wanna bet?

Sunday morning arrives (two days) and we still have NO Water!! Now this is in the land that is getting hyped up all over the news and in the international press as the new retirement paradise! What to do, what to do. Are we spoiled because we like running water, hot showers and a toilet that flushes after you use it?

The boys go back to the Coral Centro, which is south of the water break, and now the restrooms are closed due to no water.  This is big time.  Even the chicken restaurant across the street was closed for no water, short changing us on a delightful barbecue chicken lunch we had planned.  No, we don’t want to go home and cook and have a bunch of dishes to do without running water, would you?  

This is getting out of hand, it’s spoiling our retirement!  At least we can go home and write, hehehe!

Sunday early afternoon the water comes back on as a trickle, again. However, having only a trickle of water means there is not enough water pressure to kick on our propane water heater to take a shower.

However, one of our sons discovered a nifty trick.  I guess when you want a shower bad enough your mind goes into creative thinking mode.  He discovered that if you turn on the tap for the hot water in the bathroom sink, along with the shower, then the pressure was just enough to kick on the calefon (barely) for a hot shower. ..yet, it was still only a trickle of water coming out of the shower nozzle but at least we were able to rinse off and get clean, right?

In our area of the city we had no water for three days, and when the water finally trickled back on we had no real water pressure for another 24 hours.  After that, finally, the water pressure came back to normal, which is four days later and that is when we were able to take showers. Four days without a shower!

I keep kicking myself for not being at my self sufficient best, because, if I was in the northern country, I’d be way ahead of this thing, with separate barrels of water with water pumps and shower nozzles and heating under the barrels, and I’d be showering hot and singing Dixie, and being smug.   

But here in the best retirement city in the world I have to run all over town just to get a drill bit.  Well let’s look at the bright side, at least the water went out in our part of town, and because of that, we’re able to write another article…


  1. I bought one of those portable camper toilets at Walmart here in the States for about $70.00 a couple of years ago. Even though I live in the city, things happen!


  2. Thank you for posting this. I lived in the country when I was little, so things like this were not uncommon. When I move to Ecuador, I'll have to think like a 'country girl' again - even though I'll be living in the capitol!

  3. I have had the water go out when I was showering in Cuenca. I think on all my visits it has happend about once a week, but never for more then a few hours at most, but going days would not be fun! My laws get water jugs delievered for drinking. I bet you were happy when you got to take a nice shower!

  4. If you're on the internet, and before the water goes out again, at least get yourself 4-5 LifeStraw Personal Water Filters from Amazon. They're only $19.95 and you can at least go to the river and get yourself some drinking water. http://tinyurl.com/mffs8pn

    It also wouldn't hurt to get some dehydrated food for emergencies. Again search on Amazon. These foods are designed to last 20-25 years if unopened. At least you will have something to eat. Just boi up some of the little bit of bottled water you do have and rehydrate the meals.

    Hope that helps you. Please do not do without! Your health and well being are very important in a survival situation.

  5. Hey, I take this s any day and any length over the bs that goes down in the US daily.

  6. You should do a video vlog on this. You know like what thing you like and don't like part three. For instance have you notice anything more that you might add since living their for almost two years?

  7. there is a reason why rent is 200 dollars. there is no substitute for survival skills or basic infrastructure. if the water went out for a week, and the banks and supermarkets closed what you do? cuenca may be cheap, but quito has (some) infrastructure. i have this same problem to a lesser degree, in a shit hole in california. there is no telling what is going to happen in the future anywhere. thanks for the testimony. it's kind of eye opening.

  8. HAPPYNESS IS: Water pressure and hot water!!!

  9. What an ordeal! Glad it's been resolved for you. Years back the entire San Diego area lost power for 10 hours due to a transmission failure somewhere in Arizona. We felt totally vulnerable. Since it's EASY to buy things here in the states (via Amazon online, etc), I've purchased many survival type items in preparation for natural disaster, grid problems or even civil unrest. Water storage tanks filled with treated water, various types of water purification (to use for water from our swimming pool), portable toilet, Mobile solar panels, deep cycle AGM batteries, hand crank power radio, #10 cans freeze dried foods, butane/propane fuel, portable stove, bug out supplies, etc. etc, etc. etc.

    Ultimately, we have plans of leaving this nutty city and finding a more isolated place that has the amenities we need (water, energy, fertile land, good medical, etc.). International is possible, which is why I bought your landing guide.

    Keep the info coming!

  10. At the moment the water goes out - get your buckets filled. Don't wait to see how long it will be off. Then you can ration the flushing, etc.


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