When we moved into our new home in the village of Le Ghiare outside Levanto, we inherited a water pump. All our new neighbors were complimentary about our luck to have said device for the following reason: with that pump you can water your entire garden without paying for municipal water … it comes straight from the river. Municipal water is not really very costly, and my garden is certainly not huge by any standard, but the Ligurians are not know for thriftiness for nothing.
The problem was that there was no water in the small tank from which the pump pumped. But my neighbor Marco, who himself gets water via my pump and therefore has a vested interest, said that we would go upstream to unblock it. But first he would have to ask Maurizio, and maybe it wouldn’t hurt if I asked Antonio or Guido in the meantime. It seems that everyone but Marco and myself knew where the water comes from.
Armed with the culled information, we headed upstream, and this is the part where necessity spurs genius. The system of diverting the river water down along the entirety of Le Ghiare (for in truth, after hitting my tank, the first one on the line, the water then passes under the whole village, filling various other tanks on its way, only to reemerge at the bottom end of town, where it runs through a system of stone troughs to irrigate the last fields) is pure genius. Developed at least 4o years ago, but maybe more, it involves the necessary downward grade and 250 yards of pipe to bring it from the spring-fed stream in the next little town up the road, Molino Ghiare. When Marco and I get to the source of the deviation pipe, its location has been concealed by the winter’s growth of brambles and cane while the actual opening is all gummed up by large stones and mud. A few whacks with a sickle and some tugs at the stones and with a whoosh the pipe starts deviating again.
Now there is a rushing, pleasantly gurgling sound from the water tank, and fresh river water is running through the village again, irrigating fields and flowers along the way. It’s an ingenious system born of the necessity of poor farmers once upon a time who needed to get at the water that was so tantalizingly free 20 feet below the level of their fields.
There’s a political movement in Italy called the 5 Star Movement which has, as one of its five main principles, the idea that L’acqua è un bene comune, which means “Water is a common good.” And why not?