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Exploring a Wreck: Chocolate Hole St. John

St. John and Fresh Water

The $5,000 Water Bill
A little incident yesterday had me thinking about water, something we in the Virgin Islands probably think about more than most. I had left the water running while topping off my hot tub for way longer than I should have. It wasn’t so bad, though. I caught it before the cistern was empty, and it certainly wasn’t as bad as what happened to my friend, Danny. He rents out part of his condo on St. Thomas and the lady who’s renting it left the toilet running for more than a month, leaving Danny stuck with a $5,000 plus water bill.

Water in the Good Old Days
None of this would have happened in what we ex pats think of as the good old days. Water was way more precious back then, and we were way more careful. In those days, you had your cistern water and that was it. Not only that, but most cisterns, and most houses for that matter, were considerably smaller than they are today. If you ran out, it was a big problem. No washing, no showers and no flushing and getting more water wasn’t so easy.

There was no WAPA water back then and no desal plants. Caneel Bay had a water catchment and Cinnamon had a series of wells in the gut that ran above the camp.  Any water not provided by nature, that is, from rain or wells came to St. John on a big barge from Puerto Rico. As you might imagine, this was an extremely limited supply to be shared by all those in need. Not only was the supply limited, but so was the delivery system. The only water truck that I can remember, available to bring water to your house,  came from Pimpy H2O and Pimpy only had one truck. So if you ran out of water, which would most likely happen when there was a prolonged dry spell, and everyone else was out of water also, you had a considerable wait to look forward to or, more than likely, you just sat back and prayed for rain.

If It’s Yellow, Let it Mellow
Besides prayer, another option was water conservation, a serious matter back then. Toilets had notices posted above them to alert newcomers that old stateside habits didn’t go over here on St. John. Cutout cardboard signs with hand-drawn illustrations with messages like:

“On this Island in the sun,
We never flush for number one”

or

If it’s yellow, let it mellow,
If it’s brown, flush it down”

When you showered, brushed your teeth or washed dishes, you gave a little squirt of water and turned off the faucet. Only then did you do your scribbling, brushing, cleaning or soaping. That accomplished, you turned on the water, briefly, just enough for a good rinse and turned the water off once again. Consequently, your supply water lasted a long time.

One other thing I remember from the good old days, was that everyone drank cistern water, unlike today when it’s almost unheard of. Notwithstanding the many evil pathogens now presumed to flourish in our cisterns, I never knew of anyone who got even an upset stomach from drinking water that wasn’t store-bought and factory-produced.

Today
Today we use a lot more water. It’s expensive, but fairly easy to come by. A big desalination plant operated by WAPA produces thousands of gallons a day and is stored in giant tanks and there are numerous choices for water delivery trucks. Unlike in decades past, houses, villas and McMansions have swimming pools and Jacuzzis. Visitors to the island as well as many residents shower to there heart’s content. They leave the water running full blast while they brush their and flush the toilet as often as they put it to use. And people don’t think about water as much as they used to, except when they get a $5,000 water bill, I guess.

St. John Weather

High Temperature: 88 degrees
Water Temperature: 81 degrees
Sunset: 6:32 pm
Winds: ESE 10-15 mph
Forecast: Overcast with chance of rain

St. John Live Music Schedule Saturday March 31

Castaways – Dance Party – 11:00 – 777-3316
Driftwood Dave’s
– James Milne – 7:00 – 10:00 – 777-4015
Morgan’s Mango – Luba – 6:00 – 9:30 – 693-8141
Ocean Grill – Rascio on Steel Pan – 6:00 – 9:30 – 693-3304
Rhumblines – Lauren – 7:00 – 10:00
Shipwreck Landing – Mike Miknut – 6:00 – 9:30
Skinny Legs -Hot Club of Coral Bay – 6:30 – 9:30 -779-4982
Spyglass – James Cobb – 5:00 – 8:00 – 776-1100

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3 Responses to “Water”
  1. Linda says:

    Water conservation should occur everywhere… I grew up in a house with a cistern (on the mainland). Wasting water is still not easy for me. Poor Danny! Good post… every VI visitor should consider your points.

  2. david nc says:

    Remember those day well!
    Pimply always had great stories
    to tell while filling the cistern.
    Enjoyed many a fish fry with his
    band – Pimpy and the Jealous Sounds

  3. Capt. Doug says:

    The availability of buying water was the turning point in the development of STJ – the mega villa was impossible to exist – with many bathrooms, swimming pool, outside showers,etc – once it just became a matter of money to supply water the houses got bigger and unsustainable from just rainfall – real estate prices went sky high – conservation became a memory – and the simple life of pre desal plant water survival was gone – Maybe STJ needs to turn off the desal plant for a year or two and see who survives?

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