About 3am a few weeks ago I woke to the rather pleasant sound of flowing water outside. After checking that it wasn’t raining I wandered downstairs to check that the kids hadn’t left the ground floor water tap running. What I discovered was a burst water main that flowed a torrent of water straight through and past our garage.
This is not a rare occurrence. We seem to lose mains water pressure every couple of months. But that is not as bad as it once was. Taiwanese have endured a long history of an unreliable water supply.
Mains water pressure until recent years has always been unreliable and most households needed a booster pump to supply it reliably. My wife recalls from her childhood days when they often went for long spells with no water at all. Many older people still maintain buckets of water in reserve for when the supply may be stopped. Indeed, every house in Taiwan has a roof-top storage and pressure tank.
Stainless steel water tanks reflecting the setting sun
Atop our roof
We use no less than three sources of water in our house. The first is the mains. This is used for all non-consumption purposes. It has a faint smell of chlorine indicating it has been treated. However, boiling it leaves notable scale on the water surface and all the pipes slowly clog with scale. Though it may be safe to drink, no-one in Taiwan does.
The second source of water is from our local water dispenser. This provides three grades of water for between 10 and 20 yuan per 20 litres. (USD 0.3 – 0.6). This provides all the cooking and boiling water for consumption.
The third source is from the commercial grade water filter connected to the mains. This is our fresh drinking water.
Anyway, around 8 am a truck and excavator arrived to find the leaking pipe. After a lot of digging and scratching they located it under the storm water drain. They patched it, filled in the hole and roughly smoothed over the diggings.
We were somewhat concerned that it would remain yet another rough patch on our tarmac-tapestry of a laneway.
But, two weeks later a road crew arrived, dug up the temporary pavement and put down a solid one.
Though the water supply fails occasionally the people are always quick to return the service. Though no one recommends you drink the mains water, I suspect it is just fine if you do. Though it is a burden and pretty ugly for all houses to maintain a roof-top water tank, they do guarantee a cool-shower or a toilet flush when the mains outside your house bursts.