A water-main break cut off the Ahousaht First Nation’s water supply on Friday and the community awoke to a sixth straight day without the vital resource on Wednesday.
Volunteers and staff are doing everything they can to fix the break, but the work is complicated because its located below sea level and the next low tide is not expected until Dec. 27.
The remote First Nation is only accessible by boat and, with no word of assistance yet coming from the federal government, Ahousaht is relying on its West Coast neighbours for support.
Ucluelet First Nation president Les Doiron said he received a crisis call from Ahousaht’s Patti Charleson shortly after the break occurred and immediately got his team together to assist.
“We have a stockpile of water for our people, so we swung into action and immediately loaded the trucks up and delivered them to the dock and water taxis in Tofino,” Doiron told the Westerly adding the Nation delivered roughly 70, 18-litre, jugs.
Doiron said he then called his friend Randy Johnson of Buy-Low Foods in Port Alberni who immediately offered additional support.
“I explained the situation to him and he donated 30 [18-litre] bottles for no charge,” Doiron said of Johnson. “So, we picked those up and brought those out.”
Doiron said Buy-Low also donated 1,000 individual bottles of water, which the Ucluelet First Nation team picked up in Port Alberni and delivered to Tofino’s dock to be taken to Ahousaht.
Doiron said helping out a neighbour is an automatic response on the West Coast.
“It’s just what you need to do; help each other…It doesn’t matter what community it is. Whether it’s the district of Ucluelet or the community of Ahousaht, we’re all one and we need to work together,” he said. “Water is life. It’s critical to the survival of everybody. You need water to live…It doesn’t matter what community it is, we need to help each other up, so that’s what we did.”
He said Ahousaht’s water crisis is ongoing and donations are needed.
“It’s not over yet,” he said. “We need to keep up the great work and keep up the flow, no pun intended.”
He added Ahousaht’s remote location makes assistance all the more vital.
“Geographically they’re challenged,” he said. “There’s no corner store or hardware store to go running down to to get supplies and they’re at the disadvantage geographically when it comes to having access to equipment…They’ll probably beat it, but in the meantime, they still need donations. They’re still in need and accepting any type of donations, whether it be water or cash to buy water.”
Anyone willing to donate is encouraged to contact Ahousaht’s Patti Charleson at 250-670-9531 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doiron assured the Ucluelet First Nation will continue supporting the Nation until the crisis is over.
“We’re still contributing. We’re still making sure we’re doing everything we can. It’s a very big challenge. Without water you don’t even realize how much you use a day,” he said. “We’re all one. It doesn’t matter who you are, in times of crisis you need to help each other up and, once again: your water is your life.”