None admitts having ever sold a water tank truck

Constantly, in the editorial office of 26, we acknowledge receipt of complaints from the population of Las Tunas related to the problems of supply and distribution of drinking water. This a dilemma that remains intact, even when the driest period of the year is already history and the dams are maintained with considerable volumes of the liquid.

The directors have explained on several occasions that the main problem in the province lies in the extreme deterioration of the pumping equipment, which means that the water reaching the city is less than expected and does not have sufficient strength to reach the highest areas. As a result, the pipes and pipers have become key figures in providing service to these sites, with very specific characteristics.


Adela Peña Velázquez, the specialist of Attention to the Population of the Empresa Provincial de Acueducto y Alcantarillado, knows that most of the complaints received today are related to the water supply; and those that have to do with obstructions or other types of affectation are in the background.

He confirms that "the response is quick, but the solution takes a little longer", and assures that the complaints are processed through the base business units (UEB in Spanish) of each of the municipalities and that they reach the Company mostly through the Government, the Party, the communities or the social networks.

Las Tunas Water and Sewerage Company has 33 pipes scattered throughout the territory; however, Oscar Carralero, its director, confirmed that about half of them are not providing services. He said that tires, batteries, and other accessories are scarce, and this makes it utopian to keep them all working.

Of course, he also talked to us about the lack of fuel, the times when he has to decide between the neighbors of a block that has not received water for several days and a children's circle, and how the balance always tips to the more socially sensitive side.

He told us that the most complicated situation is in the head municipality with about four thousand people who usually receive water by a pipe. These figures are even higher at this time of the year and, although they have some relief these days, they do not have a definitive solution in the short term.

26 dedicated three days to dialogue with tank truck drivers in different parts of the city. There were several who gave their opinions in front of our tape recorders and some behind them because they chose to speak in the shade, a human right that we fully respect.

Of course, none of them admitted having ever sold a water tank truck; what they did say is that they work every day, repair their equipment with their resources, and do not always receive support from the administrations to which they belong.

In the case of those who are part of the Water and Sewerage Company, for example, they receive a monthly salary of only 2,800 pesos. You will agree with me that, for victims of outrageous inflation, this salary is derisory if we consider, in addition, that they are the ones who carry a kind of liquid gold in these times.

From our informal dialogues, we learned that, in the streets, they are offered everything and that the price varies if it is a cistern, a tank if it is in a complicated area to reach, and things like that. Of course, what abounds the most are the offers of money, which have exceeded three thousand pesos in the most critical moments and neighborhoods. But also fuel, food, and "other things", leaving the term in an indefinite alluvium in which one could imagine the divine cup itself.


During these days, the repair of a thousand-amp breaker in the Rincón dam, the main source of water supply in the city of Las Tunas, allows the connection of five pumping equipment and, therefore, people who have not received the liquid in their homes for months have been favored.

Experts consider that, if new failures do not arise, this would alleviate the situation a little, although, always determined not to give false hopes, they assure that the equipment is bad and nothing gives a total guarantee.

Piedad Herrera, director of Aqueduct and Sewerage in the municipality, knows this very well. She received us in her office and the conversation was stopped at several moments due to the many calls to her cell phone.

I remember the one from a neighbor in the Aguilera neighborhood who told her while she kept the loudspeaker on to copy her address: "Since February there has been no water coming to my house. My arms are already 'dead' from carrying water from the corner and for the last 15 days, a pipe has not been here. Do honor your name because we can't look for the solution ourselves, we have to shout more upwards. The situation here is desperate.

Piedad knows this. "We are constantly working with the delegates of the most affected districts and we are aware of when the water is not strong enough to reach this or that place. The material conditions are difficult, but we try to help by bringing the liquid to the community cisterns depending on our possibilities."

We talked with her about the pipes that are sold in any street, at exorbitant prices for working people's pockets. "This is a very sensitive issue. Every time a person sees a pipe with water on the street they say it is from Acueducto, and it is not so. Right now I have only two pipes running, the rest of the ones circulating belong to other agencies. If they have contracts with us they can charge at the water intakes, because it means that they are associated with a productive form or belong to some entity.

"It is not Aqueduct's responsibility to follow their steps to where they discharge, it is their administrations that have to control those routes.
"It has also happened that someone reports an illegal sale and, when you ask them for the car's license plate, and some information, they tell you that it is already gone, they didn't notice it. Because people talk, but they don't want to get into trouble."

María Elena Cano, Water Resources technician in the Municipal Water and Sewerage Department, joins the dialogue. "We do not sell pipes, we market at 0.20 cents a liter to all natural persons who come with a reservoir, and we do it with the backing of an agreement of the Administration Council.

"But it is true that we have no limits on the amount we sell because our corporate purpose is to market water, and that is where the money from the workers' charges comes from. Some trucks bring up to two of those big tanks that are in the houses and make 1,500 liters each, and that is what they buy."

"We established a kind of voucher system, and when a user comes with transportation to carry large quantities of water, we register it through that way and we know that they cannot come again in a short time to load it. But this is one of our measures, a kind of internal control to stop illegalities."


In Las Tunas, the population has grown, new hydraulic networks have been built to peripheral sites and the same supply sources and the possibilities of real improvements in pumping in the short term are still deficient.

The situation is tense in every home and also for those who are making decisions with few resources in times of crisis. One of our interviewees for these lines said: "We work a lot without results because people do not see and do not feel what we do, the need is great."

The day our press team visited the water intake at Los Pinos, for example, they had at their disposal 30 liters of fuel and a pipe to supply three polyclinics and an equal number of children's centers, bakeries, and schools (including the Pepito Tey campus of the University of Las Tunas). In addition, there were about 120 reports from the population, including areas of very complex buildings.

The situation is extremely difficult. However, it is also a reality that the inspectors (few, and mostly belonging to the governments in each municipality) could do more. The administrations can also take the matter in hand, a roadmap that is updated every day is not always enough to know the real route of a vehicle, and this is a tricky issue that needs to be dealt with thoroughly, from all sectors.

And it is also vital to nurture together a strategy for times of crisis, solid and tempered to these lands, one that allows to foresee and establish limits and responsibilities so that the solution of leaks or breakages is not delayed when they compromise an entire city, for example.

"To do is the best way to say," José Martí said; but, if we do not try together, as a team, it will be very difficult, during so many shortages, we can adjust the water to the homes as the people deserve and need.