It may come as a surprise, but the warm, sweet summer is the time of the year many Russians dread. The reason: for scores of Muscovites, summer in the city means a freeze on hot water.
In Moscow, every summer most buildings are cut off from running hot water for several weeks. The shutdown ritual goes back to Soviet times and the centralized heating system. As hot water in the city is supplied from a series of plants throughout the capital, the network of pipelines carrying it and the plants themselves need regular maintenance. However, when the water goes off, the trouble comes out.
“Every time they turn off the hot water I find myself back in the Middle Ages!” Moscow resident Arthur Sokolov told RT. “The cold water that remains is not cold, it’s icy, you can’t take a bath; it’s incredible how cold it is! And the thing is, it immediately interrupts your daily routine because you have to wake up earlier, at least an hour!”
Muscovites start bracing themselves in May and the switching off season lasts until the end of August. Of course, the entire city is not left in deep water all at once: the suspensions roll across Moscow from district to district. Officials set up a schedule of when the water will be cut off and for how long. They say this year alone almost 300 million dollars will be spent on replacing pipes.
“The pipes we now have were put in place in the 1950s. Of course, they need repair and replacement,” Valery Maslov from the Moscow United Energy Company told RT. “Modern technologies have already allowed us to reduce the switching off period from 21 to 14 days. And perhaps in four or five years time we could make it even shorter. But that will require a lot of work and a lot of money.”
Muscovites are informed about the cut-offs in advance – every year the inexorable schedule is published at the official website of the Moscow Energy Company.
Forewarned, forearmed: over the years, inventive Moscow residents have devised many ways to cope with the misery.
One option is escaping from the city: “Who needs hot tap water in summer when you can wash in the sea or a lake?” a Muscovite told RT.
Others prefer going to a Russian sauna (banya) or simply make a visit to a luckier neighbour. “Don’t you know that hot water cut-offs is a social experiment?” another Muscovite said. “People go to their neighbours to bathe and then our birth rates go up!”
At last, many residents have already dug into their pockets to buy a water heater.
However, the majority still go for a method foolproof since Soviet times: the simplest survival kit includes a kettle and a basin. Just mix boiling water with the hot water – and enjoy your bath.