Sarti, 59, and Warsih, 64, appeared to be self-content as they walked out of the village hall, both feeling free from the burden of gathering water during the drought.
The residents of Sambongrejo village, Semanding district, Tuban regency in East Java will no longer need to fetch clean water when the dry season arrives now that the village is equipped with seven water tanks, each with a capacity of 4,700 cubic meters and seven artesian wells at a depth of 50 meters.
The seven multi-purpose tanks can be found in seven separate locations in the village.
In addition to retaining water from the wells, the tanks can also retain rain water and clean water supplied by tankers owned by the Tuban regency administration.
Residents used to walk several kilometers to neighboring villages to search for clean water during drought.
Dry and barren, new water sources are difficult to procure in such a rocky landscape.
“It is difficult during the drought, as it is difficult to find water. We didn’t even take a bath because we prioritized the use of water for drinking and cooking,” Warsih said.
“At times, when all the wells dried up, the residents had to take water from the rice fields, which was murky and not clean. We had no other choice but to use the water,” Sulasim, village chief of Bonjok, Semanding district, Tuban, told The Jakarta Post last week.
For the few who are better off, they can acquire clean water by buying it by the tank of 5,000 liters for Rp 70,000 (US$7.42).
It is hoped that the local residents, who previously relied on rain water, would meet their daily and
farming needs because of water storage tanks.
Ninety percent of the 800 families, or 3,300 people in Sambongrejo earn a living as farmers. Of the 800 households, 50 percent are underprivileged and generally work as farm hands.
“If the farms here lack water supply, the residents would leave home in the early hours of the day to seek work in nearby villages and they would fetch water for their own needs as they return home,” said Sulasim.
That was the reason why Habitat for Humanity Indonesia, a non-profit organization concerned with poverty issues, has built the seven tanks and artesian wells, so residents could obtain water that is free from E. coli bacteria.
Herbert Barimbing, from Habitat for Humanity, said that Sambongrejo village was categorized as a drought-prone area in Tuban regency.
East Java Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) earlier announced that 13 regencies in East Java were prone to water shortages in 2012; areas predicted to face water shortage are located mostly in the western part of the province.
The potential of drought in the western part of East Java is bigger due to the presence of rocky mountains and barren conditions.
“Based on our mapping, the number of drought-prone areas has dropped compared to last year, which reached 19 regencies,” said East Java BPBD response division head Sugeng Yanu Santoso.
East Java BPBD estimates that drought would hit 13 regencies in the third quarter of this year, or between July and August.
Herbert said that in addition to the water tanks, his group was currently building a pipeline for 1,000 families and a public bathroom for 100 families. Habitat will also renovate 48 houses inhabited by underprivileged families and provide counseling on healthy homes and bathrooms to local residents.
To fund the program, Habitat is working together with Monsanto, which has pledged to set aside $133,000 through its corporate social responsibility program in 2011 and 2012.
“We will resume the program until 2013. We have prepared $150,000 from our CSR program,” said Mondanto corporate affairs head Herry Kristanto.