Tuesday, June 26, 2007

No Hot Water? Must Be Summer in Moscow.

Today I was at a friend's house on the other side of the city and I saw this warning note hanging on her door: from July 3rd to 23rd she won't have any hot water. For three weeks every summer, Moscow's city government conducts a rolling cut-off of hot water, neighborhood by neighborhood, in order to repair decrepit pipes. Moscow's hot water runs through a citywide, centralized system of aging pipes installed when the Soviet Union's top budget priority was its Cold War nuclear arsenal. Quality was sacrificed for quantity in the housing sector, and today many of Russia's apartment buildings are decaying at a rapid pace. The only way to repair the pipes is to shut the hot water off completely.

For people who can't afford to invest $250 in an individual gas-powered hot water heater and pay to have it installed, even the simplest of daily chores become a huge annoyance. Imagine having to heat your bathwater in pots on top of the stove! Washing dishes and cleaning take a long time, too, since you have to wait for the water to boil. Most Muscovites can afford hot water heaters and aren't affected; for those who can't, however, the sharp divide between rich and poor in the city becomes all the more glaring. If you ride the metro, you can tell which neighborhood is without hot water by how many people getting on at a certain stop haven't bathed. When we lived here in 1999, we didn't have a hot water heater--MAN OH MAN were those showers quick and cold! Certain products are specifically promoted for their effectiveness in cold water; here is an advertisement for dish detergent that shows how well it works in polar ice cap water. Our water is also completely shut off quite frequently whenever there are repairs or renovations in our building. A sign is usually posted the day before the shut-off warning us, but sometimes I don't notice it and it's a nasty inconvenience. When the water then gets turned on again, it is often a yellow/orange, full of rust. Sometimes I have to let it run for half an hour before it's safe (or at least looks safe) to use. We certainly would NEVER drink it.


Tina in CT said...

No comment.

kate said...

Last summer friends here in St. P were furious when the notice about having the water off was replaced after three weeks with another notice...that had a DIFFERENT start date. That way they still finished the pipe work on time.

Tina in CT said...

A distant memory...My hot water heater broke 3 summers ago and I was so busy with a new job that it took me about almost a month to get bids and arrange for a new one. I'm sure if it hadn't been summer, I'd have moved a lot quicker. I can say that taking a cold shower each morning really does wake you up! First you turn it on and tell yourself, "OK, it's going to be really cold but it'll be a short shower." Then you jump in and take a quick shower. No relaxing feeling the water beat down on you. The best part is shutting off the water and having a clean towel that was dried out on the clothesline in the hot summer sun. Once the new hot water heater was installed, it was so wonderful.

Annie said...

WATER NOTES: The cold shower was my frequent Lenten practice for a few years (oh, how pious I felt!) until I developed such a miserably sensitive skin that cold showers are required at all times of the year. This sacrifice is not so "satisfying" when required, but a fine penance if done cheerfully (not always, in my case).

Anyway, I was surprised to note in Ivanovo that they do not provide hot water at night at all. I had not yet realized that there was such a system - hot water being provided by the utility rather than in each home - so that was a surprise!

But, in our dear city of Lansing, we were told that our water has lead levels too high for consumption, and unable (at least in the term of the next few years) to repair the problem, everyone was provided with a filter for their faucets. That would be fine EXCEPT that we have a portable dishwasher which cannot be hooked up with the filter installed. What to do? I bought a Brita pitcher and we drank water with clear consciences - until I read somewhere that the PITCHERS do not filter lead. So that was all for naught. Now we haul water from the church. (Or, just drink from the tap and make note of receding reasoning-ability).