Drinking water in town
Thankfully, in most houses or apartments in town you don’t have to think twice about how the water gets into your taps/faucets. It is only if the water supply is stopped or if you have an emergency, where water is pouring out of a broken tap or burst pipe, that you might have to think about it.
Do you know how to turn your water supply off?
The water comes to your house from a large pipe that probably runs beneath the road or footpath outside. The pipe that feeds your house runs off that water main and, at some point along it, there is a valve that can close the pipe off to prevent water from entering your house if necessary. In many towns and cities there is also a meter at this point — which measures the amount of water that
flows into your house — so the city or district council can charge you appropriately for what you use. Both of these are in a box just below ground level, usually identifiable by a cast iron lid. More often than not, the box will be just outside your front fence. Make yourself familiar with its whereabouts so you can turn the water off in an emergency. It might save your carpet, and time and money, if you need to call a serviceman for repairs.
It is also as well to test that it is working. Turn it off and check inside the house to see if the taps are dry. If the water won’t turn off, there may be a faulty washer. Call a plumber to service it. You want to know for sure that it’ll turn off in an emergency.
If you’re in an apartment building, it is more than likely that there’ll be one junction point from which all the apartments’ water can be controlled. Water supplied to your individual apartment may be controlled by a tap in the kitchen cabinet. Look for a tap that appears to be doing nothing. Turn it off and test to see if the taps have stopped running. This knowledge could be very valuable in an emergency. In an apartment building often the body corporate controls the metering of the water and you won’t have to think about the practical side of it at all!
Water supply for out-of-towners
In the country, there is no luxury of mains water being pumped at pressure into your house. You have to be aware of your water supply and will find yourself monitoring the seasons and relative rainfall in a very natural way!
Houses out of town have their own individual pumps. Sometimes these are under or just outside the house. Turn the tap on, listen and you’ll probably be able to hear the motor kick in. Leave the water running slightly and you’ll be able to locate the pump easily by following the sound. More often than not, the pump will be further away from the house in a shed of its own — so you can’t hear it from the house!
Even though the rhythm doesn’t compare with your favourite band, it’s useful to get to know what
your pump sounds like when it is running smoothly. If you hear a change in its patterns you can call for preventative maintenance before it starts playing up.
The water in the pump may be rainwater collected from the roofs of the buildings and stored in water tanks, or it could be from ground water collected from surface or lake storage, or from a bore in the ground that taps artesian supplies.
If your water supply is collected directly from rain water, make sure that the spouting or gutters
around your roof are clear. Clean them three or four times per year, but particularly before heavy rain (see ‘Guttering and spoutings’ under 'Plumbing hints'). Disconnect the downpipe first so the
debris doesn’t go into the water supply.
Generally, rainwater has fewer chemical contaminants in it than city supplies — when collected from a roof that is coated with a suitable paint and kept clean, and in an area where few agricultural sprays are used — but microbial contaminants are easily possible from bird or possum droppings. Keep the gutters clean and, if you wish, install a filter system near your drinking water supply.
It’s up to you. I have drunk water from unfiltered tank supplies for 20 years with no health problems and thoroughly enjoy the pure water taste. But some would say I’m pushing my luck.
An increasingly popular way of improving tank water is to fit a first-flush diverter between the spouting and tank. This allows the first flush of rain to carry away debris from the roof or spouting before it enters the tank.
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