Where water comes from

cistern
My child bride, sporting her Kung Flu mask, does the mopping.

THE MONTH OF MAY means the cistern must be swept and mopped. It’s the underground tank where the municipal water arrives daily and waits to be pumped to the roof tank from where it is distributed to the faucets inside the house via gravity.

We do this every year. Many people never do it, but we don’t live like that. This became doubly important a couple of years ago when we stopped using bottled drinking water and installed a filtration system under the kitchen sink. It has a separate faucet, and that’s our drinking water now, straight from this cistern.

The water that fills the cistern comes from an underground spring.

The tank, which is concrete, was built about 12 years ago, replacing a “modern” plastic job that was installed when the Hacienda was constructed in 2002-03. The plastic one collapsed in time because it was installed incorrectly, the only error the builder committed because he was “old school” and had no experience with plastic cisterns.

And by pure lousy luck, the day he installed it, we were in San Miguel de Allende. Had I been here, I would have noticed and corrected the bum installation. It was the only time we were out of town during the entire nine-month construction.

But all’s well that ends well, especially when it’s an actual well. This big baby — 9,000 liters — has never given us any problems.

You may be wondering, if the cistern is empty, where is our water coming from? There’s a separate, above-ground tank about half this size, just beyond the photo. We switch to it when the cistern is empty which only happens in May.

We have five tanks in all, but the cistern is the largest.

To empty the cistern, I shut the valve on the pipe from the street, and it takes about two weeks to empty. After the cleaning, the valve from the street is opened again, and it takes three or four days to refill. It’s quite low tech. Old school.

The outback

The swept Outback.

AUSTRALIA HAS its Outback, and so do we.

It’s out back of the Hacienda. You get there via the back gate. The principal entrance is a block away on a parallel street. I hardly ever come out this way.

There is an annual exception. I come out in late May to sweep my sidewalk and even a part of the street on my side. Yes, it’s my sidewalk because I paid to have it built two years ago.

Stone and concrete.

For most of our time here, it was a very long strip of extremely high weeds. I finally couldn’t take it anymore, and had the sidewalk installed. Now I have pride of ownership.

Late May is the time for the yearly sweep because in early June the rains begin, and if there’s dirt on the street it becomes mud that stays out there till October.

This is only the second annual sweep, and it’s a first for me because last year I hired my nephew, then 13, the lad once known hereabouts as The Young Vaquero.

Watching him “sweep” was amazing. Imagine you handed a broom to a chimpanzee. The Vaquero had no idea what to do with a broom. No one had never taught him.

No clue about dustpans either.

When he was 9 or 10, we were at a carnival, and I paid so he could shoot a toy rifle at targets. However, he had no more idea how to hold a rifle than how to grip a broom.

He’s 14 now and will want a driver’s license in a few more years. I advise you to stay off the highways. He has a bicycle he never uses. He has a skateboard he never uses. He  received a toy drone for Christmas. It sits in a closet.

He has a computer tablet, and he plays games all day.

I thought of him as I swept the Outback, and I imagine I will always think of him when I sweep out there. I sweep well. I don’t recall anyone teaching me. I assumed it was innate.

I wield a mean floor buffer too, but I learned that in the Air Force. It was not a skill I learned willingly.

Endless construction

MEXICO’S IN a state of constant construction.

There are businesses all over the place that sell construction material. If you drive more than a few blocks, you’re almost guaranteed to see something being built.

It’s an incredible, ongoing phenomenon.

When we get back from Mexico City, where we’re headed shortly, we also will be building stuff, a yearly occurrence in springtime when there is no daily deluge of rain.

And we’ll be constructing in Mexico City too. Ceramic tile will be laid on the floor of the “service patio,” that space Mexican homes have out back where the water heater, clothesline and big cement sink sit.

Mexican homes have big cement sinks out back.

But the best news — for us at least — out of Mexico City recently is that we finally have the deed to the condo. All we have to do is pick it up at the lawyer’s office.

Signed, sealed and delivered!

Getting the deed has been an ongoing process and headache for years. But now it’s done, and we own three homes free and clear that we could sell if we wanted to.

But we don’t.

We prefer the fun of constant construction.

Agua! agua! agua!

taller
Pastry kitchen’s water supply, added last year.

SHORTLY AFTER purchasing the double lot where now stands the Hacienda, I mentioned our future location to an old Gringo of my acquaintance.

But there’s no water out there, he said, referring to the hardscrabble neighborhood on the edge of town.

Knowing there were hundreds of people in the neighborhood, I scratched my head and wondered, so how are so many people living there if there’s no water?

As in so many things, the truth sat in the middle.

back
Big tank out back, badly painted.

We discovered on moving that there was water, it was simply nasty water. The municipal supply here had a brown cast to it. Good for flushing, not bathing, certainly not drinking, but that’s true most everywhere in Mexico.

So, in addition to the customary underground cistern and the roof tank, we installed an additional, large, above-ground tank out back and a smaller one out by the front gate.

tinaco
Tinaco on the roof.

Water was brought to us in tanker trucks. It cost about 20 bucks a month and was only slightly inconvenient. This went on for about eight years until a neighbor mentioned that the municipal water had improved.

He was correct. It was crystal clear spring water.

We had the small tank out front and the underground cistern out back connected to the municipal supply.

front1
Small tank out front.

No more tanker trucks.

And instead of paying 20 bucks a month, we now pay about three bucks a month for an unlimited supply.

Somewhere along the line we also installed another, larger tank out front about 20 feet from the smaller tank.

cistern
Underground cistern.

I filled that big tank with a hose from the nearby smaller tank, and had a pump attached. We then had a way to water the yard and wash the two cars.

The large above-ground tank out back also was filled with a hose from the small tank out front, a block away. It was a very long hose indeed, a pain in the kazoo to do.

frontbig
Big tank out front.

The inspiration for this post came just this week when I finally had a plumber add pipes that fill the large, above-ground tank out front and the large, above-ground tank out back automatically from the municipal supply.

We are fully automated, water-wise. Our water supply rivals the Mediterranean Sea. Survivalists will envy us. We could float a fleet of Somalian pirates.

That old Gringo who said there was no water in our neighborhood might have been half right 14 years ago, but he’s not right now. In fact, he vanished years ago.

And I remain. With agua galore.

* * * *

(Note: The very top photo shows the tinaco above the new pastry workshop that was built last year. It was immediately hooked to the municipal supply.)