The Mission house showing the tanks used to hold water until it's pumped up to the "well." Picture 1997 Thurman C. Petty, Jr.



Pitcairn has no functional surface or underground water, so the islanders depend on rainfall for all their water needs. They have developed elaborate systems to collect and store rainwater for their homesincluding corrugated iron roofs, gutters, storage tanks, and cement cisterns, known locally as "wells".

During the winter rainy season, water seems almost unlimited, but arid summer months can bring extended droughts. The radio station staff measures this island "resource" dailyor whenever it rainsand Betty tabulates it for the island's newspaper, the PITCAIRN MISCELLANY.

The mission-house water-works is a good example. It contains two large storage tanks under the eaves behind the house, which receive their water from the corrugated roof and gutter system, and then hold it until someone pumps it up to the "well" cistern. The total capacity of the entire system is about 6000 gallons. This may appear to be a lot of water, but a long dry spell can drain even this large supply.

An inch of rainfall produces .62 gallon per square foot. Since the mission roof has an area of around 1800 square feet, it should accumulate about 1100 gallons of water from a one-inch shower. The PITCAIRN MISCELLANY reported a total rainfall of 216.6 mm (8.53 inches) during March, 1982, which should have caused 9300 gallons to be collected in our tanksa third more than our capacity. So a lot of liquid went out the storage-tank overflow.

The two reservoirs under the eaves cannot supply enough pressure to the household plumbing for daily use, however, so the water must be pumped up to the "well" located on the hill some yards above the house. If I had forgotten to turn on the electric pump at regular intervals, the storage tanks would have filled up and over-flowed, while the "well" went dry, reducing our supply to less than half its capacity. I also had to remove debris from the gutters and tank screens weekly to keep the channels open and the water clean.

The scant rainfall which came in early April of that year, did us little good, for I had failed to pump March's water up to the "well." Thus we lost all of April's rain out the overflow. This lapse didn't matter that time, because May turned out to be a wet month. But a slip like that before a drought could have left our family thirsty before the next rain.

During our final months on Pitcairn one of the storage tanks developed a leak, and drained completely dry before we noticed it. Since the "well" was fed from the damaged tank, we were nearly out of water before we discovered the problem. For several weeks we had to ration our water carefully to make it go as far as we could. Only after a good rainfall and several pumping sessions could we relax with a full "well" again. Unfortunately, we had no repair kit for the fiberglass tank, and had to leave the problem for the next pastor to fix.

Our water problems on Pitcairn paralleled those of first-century Judah, and helped me to better understand what Jesus meant, when He said: "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely," and "He that believeth in me shall never thirst." (Rev. 22:17; John 6:35).

What is this water of life? Jesus explained: "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." So in order to drink of the water of life, we must read the words of JesusIN THE BIBLE.

Can we partake of this water once for all time? No. On Pitcairn we had to collect, preserve, and drink our water on a daily basis; and the water of life that Jesus offers must also be collected through daily Bible reading, and preserved by practicing its principles in our personal lives. Only then can we be sure that our "well of water" will spring up into everlasting life." (John 4:14).