Let us spray

“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” As I rounded the corner opposite the Care Home and turned onto the grass margin intending to park my paddy wagon, I had no inkling that I was about to make a present-day reality of these words spoken by a sailor in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner.” 

After all, I had parked in this spot on numerous occasions without incident but this time would be different. It would seem that I cut in too sharply, brushed a large protective rock and clipped a water pipe on the leeward side of the rock. To my horror water began to gush from the pipe and to spray in all directions.

“Have no fear, Lionel is near,” came a nearby voice and soon water manager Lionel was on the scene, going from one shut-off valve to another throughout the settlement, like the parish priest doing the Stations of the Cross on a Lenten Friday. 

Eventually he had shut off all the water supply for the settlement and so there would be no water from the taps to drink, wash, or do a royal flush for much of that afternoon. 

Soon thereafter Too Tall Andrew arrived with his digger and began to excavate. He was joined by Ryan and Pa’oni, armed with spade and shovel. I thought to myself, “Uh oh! they are going to have me dig my own grave for my transgression.” However, they were very understanding and told me that my penance would be to provide the beer at that night’s party in memory of our recently departed Elizabeth (It didn’t actually happen). 

Park Ranger Lester, stood guard to direct traffic and to make sure I did not run away. Then administrator Kenneth joined us to oversee the work. After a couple of hours, the broken pipe was unearthed, sealed, and declared safe to take water pressure. Then water guru Lionel did the Stations of the Cross all over again, this time in reverse order. While this project was in process, it became obvious that the culprit pipe which had caused all this grief was all corroded and had been scheduled to be replaced. So I declared that this incident was “an act of God” and so I didn’t feel so guilty. However, tell that to anyone who couldn’t do the royal flush that afternoon.

Apart from learning a valuable lesson in parking on this day, I learned that the pipe in this instance was part of the original water system which had brought water by gravity all the way from Waikolu Valley, one valley past the original settlement in Kalawao and more than three miles away. What an engineering feat that was. It was from this same valley that Father Damien had brought piped water to Kalawao shortly after he arrived at the settlement. This same valley still provides the water for much of Topside Molokai. 

Our present-day water in Kalaupapa comes from an aquifer in nearby Waihanau Valley where the National Park drilled in the 1980s. We are blessed to have such pure water, the best drinking water I’ve tasted since my childhood days in the west of Ireland. Let us pray that those in our world who do not enjoy such life-giving water may be provided with such refreshing water and let us spray only when we take a shower. 


Anchor columnist Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.

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