As you may already know from a previous post of mine, Merida has no sewer system. Likewise, there is no water drainage/collection system in place except for a rather primitive drainage system that merely acts as a temporary holding tank for runoff water until it seeps into the ground, filtered through the limestone that Merida is built upon, and eventually winding up in the aquifer (water table). A simple system that provides an acceptable level of efficiency except when there are heavy rains.
Because there is no water drainage/collection system, the streets often flood during a heavy downpour making it difficult for traffic and pedestrians alike. To help alleviate the problem, the Government has dug miniature holding tanks adjacent to the curbs of many of Merida’s streets. They are covered with heavy-duty metal grids to allow easy passage of water, to be stored and eventually drained into the aquifer. Actually, this works well and definitely helps clear the streets of excess water. These mini-wells also collect tons of debris and often get clogged preventing the natural seepage of the water, and this creates another problem. They require periodic cleaning and there is a crew of workers that do nothing but go from one to another, removing the grids, and shoveling out the “garbage” that has collected. Not a pretty sight or smell!
The other problem with this system is the construction of the actual drains themselves. They are dug to varying depths, but most seem to be about one meter, or just over three feet deep. They come in various lengths, depending on the amount of drainage required for the particular street. Some streets have none, while others have several. Because of where they are located, the drains with their heavy-duty grids are subject to traffic. In most cases it is close to impossible to not drive over one of these grids. The traffic in town includes hundreds of busses and big trucks over-loaded with building materials, and constant automobile traffic. Eventually these grids give way and must be repaired. Some have undergone numerous repairs and still become serious road hazards. I have seen some of these grids completely bent in two, resembling the smile on a smiley face. The neatly dug holes sometimes give way and begin to cave in, and this too requires the attention of the maintenance team.
One of my biggest concerns is what is actually seeping into the aquifer, the primary source of Merida’s water supply for homes and businesses. Let it suffice to say that the streets of Merida, or any other city in the world, are dirty. They become like sheets of ice during a light rain because of all the oil spillage and exhaust debris from the big trucks and busses. You can see oil-slick-rainbows form in the streets and run off to the drains, to be eventually washed into the aquifer. Basically, anything that hits the street will eventually wind up in the water table. Not a pretty thought!
I have posted some pictures for you to look at to see exactly what I am speaking of when it comes to these drains. I must reiterate that while they are somewhat primitive and have their bad points, they definitely help alleviate street flooding. The city of Merida, founded in 1542, is almost 500 years old, and there is no way to install a sewer or drainage system short of tearing the city down and starting from scratch. Given the very few options the Government has, I think they have done a good job with what they have to work with.
I just hope we don’t get too many heavy down pours!