There are two kind of water on our Belize island: rain water and well water. Rain water is collected on our roofs and we use it for drinking, cooking, and tooth brushing. Even though we have over 15,000 gallons of storage capacity, we conserve this water. Once we run out, that’s it until the next rainy season. Right now we are just entering peak dry season.
So it’s crucial to have wells on an island. You use it for everything else: laundry, bathing, dishes, and rinsing gear. When our guests show up on the island, one of the first things we explain is the difference between the two kinds of water, and we show them one of our wells, the one that they use (pictured at left). When you open that hatch, everyone is surprised to see that a well on an inland is a 4-foot deep hole, lined with boards. That’s it. As you can imagine, the water table on a tiny island is not very far down. By digging a shallow well, you tap into the rainwater that falls on the island itself. When it rains, there are puddles everywhere for about an hour, and then they are gone. So where do they go? They soak in. This fresh water is lighter than the heavier salt water, so a lens of fresh water sits on top of the salt. Of course, there is no way to stop them mixing a little, so this water tastes salty, but feels fresh on the skin. I don’t know the percentage, but it’s probably .01% or less salt. Just enough to taste.
So our wells have a bucket next to them, and you simply dip in to get water to rinse your snorkel gear or do your laundry. Our shower has a solar-powered pump that raises the water up to a tank that sits high above ground, so the gravity feed creates the water pressure. In the kitchen, another pump on another well provides water at a sink where everyone can wash their hands before meals.
All of these systems are fascinating and people love to check it out. You can’t help but think of Swiss Family Robinson, although of course, they didn’t have solar panels!
[Photos by Kathe O’Donnelly and Cully Erdman]