Saturday, February 7, 2015

This time of year they appear almost every day…

…those big cumulonimbus clouds with their fluffy mushroom shaped tops and dark ominous base. They’re on the eastern horizon and depending on how tall they are they could be as close as Cayalti, some 25 miles distant or as far away as Cajamarca, about 100 miles as the crow flies. Wherever they are they’re dumping rain…lots of rain. Frequent news reports on television are showing flooding in mountain villages. 

November through February is generally considered the rainy season, though Peru’s northern coast receives very little and for the past three years almost none. Occasionally the clouds will reach Chiclayo before dissipating, but by then their moisture has already been discharged, leaving only a sparse drizzle to dirty our windows.  Agriculture, mostly in the form of sugar cane and rice is sustained by a network of canals designed to capture the runoff from the mountains, though the system is limited to river valleys and cannot compensate for the lack of rain.

One such canal enters Chiclayo from the northeast. At this sluice gate it is channeled into two separate canals…that on the right passes through Paseo de las Musas Park, the other parallels Av Chinchaysuyo. The water level is high now. Normally there is only a few inches if that. And with the water comes fish. They’re not big, averaging less than two inches in length but there are thousands of them. I’m curious to know from where and how far that water has brought them. The snowy egrets and other birds that gather to eat them probably don’t wonder about things like that.

The water isn’t used for agriculture in the city but it doesn’t get a free pass. City water trucks fill their tanks from the canals and use it to water shrubbery in the parks and on boulevards. Builders fill their tanks for transport to construction sites for mixing concrete. Taxi and mototaxies are frequently seen washing their vehicles next to a canal. Years ago, before the canals were surfaced with concrete and, according to some when the water was cleaner people would wash themselves and their clothing in the canals. No one does that these days.

The canals lead to the city of Pimentel seven mile to the southwest, where they join together again before emptying their contents into the Pacific Ocean, though by that time the water volume is much less.  It seems curious that, given the needs of the costal desert any water at all would be allowed to escape into the ocean. It’s probably the case that during the rainy season there is more water than is needed or perhaps can be handled by the irrigation system.

There doesn’t seem to be a direct relationship between the rainy season and the price of agricultural products. Local wisdom has it that any increase in supply is offset by the difficulty of harvesting and transporting caused by the rain.

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