A few weeks back I wrote a post about local home water supplies, pressure issues and related lore for the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine, Coping With The Pressures of Philippine Life | Live In The Philippines . Today I was out walking and took a few more water tank pictures, just for fun. All these pictures are taken within a few hundred meters of our little house here in Marilao, Bulacan. Like many other things taken for granted in the US, even basic necessities like water is often a “roll your own’” issue in small towns. Our house is in a subdivision known as Saint Michael’s Home. In total there are about three hundred sixty houses in St Michael’s and there’s an incorporated Home Owner’s Association which provides the water system, pays for and maintains street lights and provides a heck of a lot of local politics … there are 13 members of the Board of Directors and all run for office each and every “Election Season”. We don’t (as yet) have sound trucks plying the streets with political slogans, but the local board elections are quite a topic of conversation and I suspect, based on some rumors I have heard, that it won’t be long before I’m going to be asked to consult on some political web site work.
(Making Money in the Philippines hint: I won’t be getting into that, I live here and I have family members involved, but my goodness there are thousands and thousands of these home owner’s associations and other private utility ventures … al of them need management assistance, online visibility, accounting, billing membership, etc. assistance and there are dozens of online tools already built to serve some of these functions … if this isn’t an underserved market, I never saw one …)
Of those 360 homes, about 300 are connected to the home owner’s water supply, a few others are connected to another water supplier … yes, we have parallel, competing water mains from different corporations under some of the streets, a few homes have been disconnected “for cause” and a few others never have had a water connection.
The folks not connected to the mains typically buy their water from roving tank trucks every day or two … the mobile water distribution business here will be the subject of another whole post.
Of those connected to the “regular” water mains, a number just connect conventionally with a pipe from the water meter directly into the house. But this would not be the way I prefer to live, because the water mains only have water three times a day, 0500-0700, 1130-1230 and 1800-1930.
Why isn’t the water on all the time? Really too many reasons to go into here, some of which have to do with the idea that the longer someone has access the more they will use, and others connected to the very real fact that there are many leaks in the piping system and if the pipes are only under pressure three times a day, only so much can leak out.
Big Daddy: This is the main tank, located at the end of my block and around the next corner on the way over to Mita’s parent’s house. It just occurred to me that I never asked the actual capacity. (update, it’s something a little over 50,000 gallons) The tank was erected when the first homes were built here, about 35 years ago. It’s not readily apparent from the photo, but the legs supporting the tank are the second set … the first set failed during the big Baguio earthquake back in 1990 and the present set are specially made extra-high quality Australian legs, specially imported for this project … (props to all our friends from Oz 😉
Under the tank is the Association’s deep well (about 540 feet) and a 20 horsepower, deep well pump that transfers the water up to the storage tank, where it flows by gravity out the mains to people’s houses whenever the guard manually walks over and opens the valve. There have been mornings the guard forgot, but someone is usually waiting to do laundry at 5 am and if the water doesn’t flow, the guard will get a quick reminder call, that you can bank on.
Not too long ago a fellow emailed me about prices here in the Philippines and he mentioned something like “I know the cost of electricity is nearly what we pay here in the US”. Ha! Don’t I wish that were the case. Electricity here in the Philippines is the second most expensive in the world, second only to Japan. The last time I ran a little survey here, on average, electricity costs a lot more than in the US … in some cases, 10 times as much. The pump that supplies our water consumes an average of PhP 130,000 (about $2700 USD) worth of electrify per month, and that is at a special commercial rate.
Some Go Tall: The higher the distance water flows to your tap or shower head (in engineering this is commonly known as the “head”) the stronger the pressure you’ll notice. To get a typical pressure that most Americans would consider “good”, say about 45 psi, you need a tower about 100 feet tall. You won’t see many, if any, this tall, but some people in the neighborhood have done their best to get close to that height.
Some Not Tall At All: Many residents (and this includes my house) don’t use the water tank for much of a pressure boost … the bottom of my tank, for example, is only about 8 feet above the ground, but we find the tank very valuable just to have a constant source of water. This isn’t as important to some, since this house is more than 30 years old and it never had a water tank until we moved in. Tanks even lower to the ground than ours are not uncommon,
There is also a tendency for some people to sort of disguise their tanks … this one is right across the street from us, I don’t really know what the structure is, between ourselves my wife and I just refer to it as the “bird house”.
And some need More Than One: Obviously, if you have a multi-family structure, you need to provide one tank per unit, since the tenants may have water provided from competing companies, each one needs their own water meter, and some may chose to keep their tank more full than other tenants do.
Hope you’ve enjoyed your little trip down “Tin Tank Alley”. The fascinating thing to me is, all these pictures were taken (actually I took many more) within a few hundred meters of my house. Can you imagine how many more examples there are across the length and breadth of the country?
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