This post will be a lesson in water systems here in San Clemente, San Jacinto and San Alejo. Because each area of the country is not the same I am going to describe what the water system is like here.
First everyone has a cistern. A cistern, for those who are cistern deprived, is a huge concrete box, this is where you store your water that comes from the municipality. Ours looks to be pretty big (8 feet x 10.5 feet by 5 feet deep or about 3100 gallons), but remember this house was a duplex with two bathrooms and 2 kitchens set up for two separate families so I assume they built it bigger because of that. When we purchased the house one of the things we requested of Patricia and Fredy was that the cistern be cleaned out and then refilled with fresh water. They went one step further and installed a system, similar to the one in the back of a toilet or maybe that is its main use, that would allow water to fill the cistern and shut-off automatically.
This is a blessing because we had no idea when we were living in the house across the street that we had to turn on and turn off the water to fill that cistern. Serrano showed me how to turn it on but of course I forgot to turn it off and it overflowed. One of the neighbors saw it and turned off the water. I guess they must think we are pretty stupid but I had never seen a cistern before but yes I agree we were pretty stupid. But in our defense we are fast learners.
The thing is the water is only released from the municipality at certain times, in our brief experience it has been on Fridays or Saturdays. But that theory was shot to hell this past weekend when we had no water added to our cistern, but on Tuesday of this week I heard water flowing and this morning our neighbors water is running. So who knows, its like the garbage pick up, for the past two months it has been mostly Monday, Thursday and Saturday, last week they missed Saturday and picked up on Sunday. You just have to listen for the truck, the beep of his horn and after awhile you will know when to put your trash out. Of course on Sunday mornings they don’t beep and you have to listen for their whistling. Sorry back to the water.
The office to pay the water bill is located in San Jacinto near to the church on the road going out-of-town. Do not go there at lunchtime because the young woman who accepts payments is on her lunch break from noon to at least 1:30pm. This is my excuse to get Joe to take me out for lunch at Copacabana one of my favorite lunch spots but that is for another post. Our cistern was almost empty and our first bill was a whopping $7.40 – this month our bill was $1.80.
I thought the water gauge was broken because it had not moved in over a month but we just don’t use that much water. So looking back at my $20 per month bills in Salinas and $8 to $9 a month bills in Playas either the water in San Clemente is cheaper or we had big leaks in both places. Water in the cistern is not meant for drinking but Joe has added a cup of clorox every other week. Our friend Keith from Panama has told us to purchase a pound or so of copper wire, not the fine wire, and drop it into the cistern. This is his explanation for adding the wire.
“Basic idea about the copper is that light metals (alum,
copper, etc) are toxic to most single cell critters above a certain
level. When they try to grow in the water they make the water slightly
acid which causes the metal to go into solution and kill them.
Usually the water is acid enough to put enough copper into the water
to keep them from forming but it takes a while for the copper/water
balance to stabilize and you might get a mild “first bloom” before
enough copper is released (or you could put a pint or so of vinegar in
the tank when you put in the copper). Fine wire is better than big fat
wire by the way–if you use a lot of water–but both work.” By Keith Daniels
We have not found the wire we need but Joe continues to look and we are going to try Keith’s suggestion to keep our cistern in good shape.
The piped in water is of a different quality than from the water trucks. Our neighbor who lives directly in front of us is not hooked up to the municipal water system and when they are in town they receive their water from a water truck that delivers to their cistern. The piped in water is not drinkable but water truck water is so bad that if you add clorox to it the water turns yellow. Not so good for your laundry.