In one of the workshops we got new insights into a basic need like drinking water and the effort it took to dig a well in Curaçao’s rocky soil.

“A wei (chisel) is a tool that we use to carve or cut hard material like walls to run pipes. In the past we used them for digging wells. When you dig a well you may find bloustenchi, a very hard rock. At that moment you put the chisel underneath or on top of the bloustenchi and heat it in a fire. When the chisel is red hot it bursts the bloustenchi. Then you can continue your digging work; you have to dig in a straight line in order not to damage the structure of the well. We also used the chisel after work to play music.”

Fresh water is vital in any society. Curaçao has a semi-arid climate with long periods of drought which makes natural fresh water often scarce. In the 20th century the demand for fresh water increased dramatically with the arrival of the refinery and the subsequent population increase. As the groundwater level fell, the water supply became more problematic.

In 1928 the world’s first desalination plant was built in Curaçao. After this the government started distributing well water and distilled sea water through pipes to the houses in the city. By the 1960s almost every house on the island was connected to the water supply network.


“Long periods of drought made natural fresh water often scarce.”