TIJUANA (Border Report) — Jair sells water out of a large tank in the back of his pickup, and business is booming.
He can’t fill enough buckets, bottles and jugs, as Tijuana deals with a water crisis due to drought, the lack of supply and break-downs in the water delivery infrastructure.
Lately, the biggest customers on his route have been migrants at shelters, which have been without water for most of the week.
“We don’t have it to flush the toilets, to bathe or wash the dishes,” said Minerva, a migrant at the Agape Shelter.
In the mornings, and sometimes again late in the afternoons, she lines up to have her 5-gallon container filled by Jair, who charges people almost a dollar per gallon of water.
Jair told us he feels bad making some money in this time of need, but said it’s his job.
“I’ve been able so far to get water myself every morning, this way I’m able to help the migrants and others,” said Jair, who fills up at a water filtration plant in the city of Tijuana.
The shelter does have a storage tank on its roof, but that water is rationed and they try to save as much of it as possible, handing it out only when absolutely necessary.
“It’s been four days since I’ve taken a shower,” Rosie said in Spanish. “The truth is there’s a lot of us here at the shelter and we all need it, sometimes we go out to try and find it, but almost all the stores around here have run out.”
When the water runs out, all they can do is wait for service to resume and for the tank to fill up again.
“Without water there’s not much we can do,” said Wendy, one of the managers at the shelter. “We can’t keep things clean like the bathrooms, kitchen and common areas.”
Because they can’t clean as much as they would like, Wendy worries people will get sick.
“There are a lot of children here at the shelter and some are showing signs of intestinal illnesses due to the lack of clean facilities,” she said.
Wendy stated she has no idea when water service will resume.
The city of Tijuana is saying that for the rest of the summer, rationing will be implemented due to high demand and the lack of everyday water deliveries to its 2 million residents.
The state of Baja California controls the water, and avoiding service disruptions is a priority, officials say, but compounding the problems is an aging pipe system in the city of Tijuana that often breaks down.
The state is also reporting electrical issues with pumps that help deliver water from the Colorado River, about 200 miles to the east.
The state says the pumps have been out of service for a week and likely won’t be fixed for at least another four.
The head of the state’s general services office said the water cutbacks are due to the issue with the pumps and not the lack of water, but he stated in the meantime, 378 colonias in Tijuana will have “inconsistent” water service, affecting hundreds of thousands of people including many migrants in shelters.
Meantime, they’ll be on the lookout for Jair for some relief and possibly save a little cash.
When asked if he’ll raise his prices, he said “no,” that he’s asking for the same amount he’s been charging for most of the year.