Friday, 11 October 2013

Water Supply in Jakarta

Last year I had a ground well which ran out of water during the dry season and into the rainy season and well to be honest, never really filled back up. So when we moved into our new house with modern fixtures and fittings and direct access to water, we never looked back.

Direct access to water means water that is supplied from the water company. The water is certainly not recommended to drink but as a rule it does not smell, it is clear and it safe to wash in. Only when you don't have water do you realise how much you waste and use needlessly. I am not advocating everyone spend 3 months living in a place with limited access to water but it does teach a valuable lesson.
Our water comes into the house via a large holding tank under the car port floor. The space has to be 4mx4x2m in height so that is a lot of water it can hold and like a cistern the level or amount is controlled by a ballcock arm and float. Very simple. The water is then pumped to a tank on the roof and then gravity feed to the taps and toilets and the pressure is OK but not the best. However, I am not sure if the tank on the roof is ever full or even if there is one. I am assuming as a tank can be seen from the road if you are coming in from the right direction.
Apparently we have been very lucky with our water supply compared with the neighbours, who have had leaking pumps, pipes and other issues resulting in them paying for each others water. Weird but its understandable. The pipework itself seems to be robust and we have had only one issue which was fixed immediately. However there are water stains on the ceiling that cannot be explained. I suspect thats the roof.... but I can't be sure.

So the other week whilst showering the water turned a nice gritty light brown colour for a while and then stopped coming out of the shower. Then the toilet would not refill etc. I pay a visit to the holding tank to discover it is empty. There is no water. The ballcock had rusted at the joint which allowed the water to flow in at some point over the past 6 months and so it just ran its self empty. Forcing the lever up, out came the water. However what came out of the pipe was not really the nicest thing to see. First of all the bottom of the tank is covered in a layer of black or dark green slime which because we never new the tank was empty has been pumped around the house (it has all gone now) and then the pipes filled up with mud and I suspect the holding tank on the roof.

The black stuff could be organic but organic what?
Once I managed to wash, I went back to the tank and tried to stop the water coming out only to have the lever snap off in my hand and even more water pouring into the tank. A quick call to the wife and I was off to the land lady. I turned the pump and the water at the mains off before I left. I did not want the pump to go bang and have to pay a lot of money for that. The ballcock lever arm had just simply rusted out as it was made of metal and the cheapest one probably, around.

The landlady looked surprised and concerned when I handed her the lever and she sent her maid round to take a look at things. A man came later that night and replaced the arm and filled the tank. So I am waiting for a very big water bill next month much to my dismay.  However it took 3 more days for all the taps in the house to run clear with water and even now we sometimes get brown water come out. Not idea if you are shaving or cleaning your teeth at that moment.

I have done a little research into the water quality around my area which was actually easier than you would think because our supplier PALJYA water provides documentation and information about the quality of the water each month which is actually very impressive.

Kalibata and Tebet are both next to Mampang.

Both taken from
The water from the areas around my house both passed the tests made which could be false hope or could actually be good news. I will go with the good news. Still wont drink it though.

The water we get comes from a reservoir somewhere outside Jakarta and it is raw river water which gets treated and cleaned and then pumped to the house. But due to the way the pipework and connections work leaks and infiltration happens and so the water gets dirtier and more unsafe. We use the water only to wash in the house and nothing else.

I strongly believe that there is a septic tank under the house as well but I cant be sure and no one seems to care. There are several pipes that carry water into drains outside the house to a stream which connects to the a bigger stream, then a river and maybe is then re-pumped into the water supply somewhere. I don't really think about it.

Despite all this there is no real desire to improve make the water safer or cleaner or accessible to all even though that is something everyone agrees is needed.

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