GUAM RESIDENTS COPE WITH POOR WATER SERVICE

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Coping with low, or no, water pressure for daily needs

By Brett Kelman

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 9, 2009) - Alex Del Rosario, 45, who lives with his wife and daughters in Barrigada, comes home from the evening shift at the Guam Plaza Hotel every night and fills up a cherry red bucket with water from the bathtub.

Del Rosario’s family is already asleep, but he knows they will want to shower in the morning, when the water pressure is dismally low. He said the pressure often is too low to clean clothes or dishes. Full pressure doesn’t return until midnight.

"When Christmas season comes, it got bad," Del Rosario said yesterday, standing in his bathroom next to the bucket he had filled the night before. "They say they don’t want to privatize, but they can’t give us good service, you know?"

Water pressure problems have plagued Barrigada since mid-December, leaving many residents frustrated. During a four-day outage before Christmas, about 40 residents called the mayor’s office to complain every day, according to mayor’s office records.

Guam Waterworks Authority spokeswoman Heidi Ballendorf said she could remember at least six specific water outages in Barrigada this year. She said residential development had outpaced infrastructure in the area.

For one thing, of the three water storage tanks in Latte Heights that used to supply Barrigada with water, only one still works. But even that 3-million-gallon tank can’t be filled all the way because it is not structurally sound, she said. Sometimes water pressure drops because the tank isn’t full, Ballendorf said.

"We just can’t keep up with the demand. The system is fragile in that area," she said. "If we can only fill a third of the tank, that doesn’t cut it. We know eventually that tank will have to be replaced, but we have to do something temporary. The people of Barrigada can’t wait."

Ballendorf said she was confident a contractor would recommend a temporary fix for the busted water tank within a month. The tank could be replaced in two or three years, she said.

Ballendorf also said many of the homes near Barrigada Heights that have low water pressure are supplied by 2-inch water lines, which are too small. Regulations were changed several years ago to require at least 4-inch water lines.

Although Del Rosario has suffered from water pressure problems since his family moved to Barrigada from Yigo in 2003, he said he is most frustrated by his water bill, which doesn’t decline with his water pressure.

Del Rosario isn’t alone. Yesterday, another Barrigada resident, Jenei Aguon, 28, said her family struggles to shower in the morning because water pressure is so low. She lives in an apartment on Route 8 with her husband and son.

"Right now, I have water," she said at work yesterday at about 11 a.m. "But in the morning, when it counts, I don’t have water."

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