Water Whoa: Etseri, Svaneti


It’s starting to feel like, all things being equal, our winter water setup is slowly moving towards stability and success, the goal being NOT TO FREEZE. Because if it does freeze, there are hours of misery ahead, if not days, of hard, dirty, cold, wet work getting it running again.

Earlier this year, we hired three men from Zugdidi, gave them a break from the 3-story hotel they’re building in Mestia, and had them work on said water system. We removed the 1000-L water tank from the garage, installed an electric pump which we can use or not, added a filter with replacements to change as necessary. Most important, we set it up so that the hose through which water can run without stopping is turned on or off, up or down, inside the house. All vast improvements, complete with insulation everywhere the men worked.

However… we were called away to Kakheti on urgent family business for a few days. Of course we left the water running, to minimize chances of its freezing, knowing full well the risks when outside it’s dropping to -10 degrees C at night, only a few degrees above freezing during the day. The ground is moving towards being frozen as well; and the sun’s warming effect is being lessened maximally by the reflective effect of all that white snow, which has indeed started to fall.

AND… during our time away, someone had the bright idea to turn off the water to our part of the village to work on it, with the worst possible timing. Things were no longer all equal. Keeping one’s own water running can only work if there IS water to run! If you stop its flow, it will freeze somewhere where there’s a dip in the pipes and it sits, unavoidable given our topology. So it did indeed freeze in our absence. Everyone else was there at home to take emergency measures and restore flow; we were not. We came back to silent pipes and dread, quite angry.

I spent a whole day finding out where the water was still liquid in our pipes, from below which it was frozen. How to get the frozen part thawed? The warming trend, softening snow, melting ice all mocked me; the ground remained hard. I boiled and salted one 3L bottle after another, disconnected the frozen pipes, and started funneling the hot brine into them, for a few hours. To no avail: the frozen part was too long for this to thaw it in the few hours of daylight I had left.

So I uncoiled a new pipe we had (careful, don’t let it kink!) and connected this to the part from where water was still running; then sealed the several joins with wire so they can’t separate. By sundown we had water in the house again, luxury indeed after a day of collecting it in buckets from 50 m or so below the house.

I now have to beg the mayor to try to see that such interferences are not allowed to happen again when someone is not home to be involved; they might be necessary for one household, I get that, but for others they are crushingly damaging. All it takes is a few phone calls to the potentially affected people! This type of thoughtless action only serves to set villagers one against another, justifying themselves and blaming each other. Unless they’re TRYING for harm and demoralization, in which case, have at it and we’ll see who outlasts whom.

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti

By Tony Hanmer

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