Thursday, October 6, 2011

Water Woes

One thing which I kind of assumed before coming here was that certain things would just be the same as it is in Canada.  After all, that is the only place I have lived, so that was all I knew.  Upon getting here I discovered that is not necessarily the case.  Things which were simply everyday things were suddenly done in a whole new way.  One of those things, which I came to discover, was having a shower.

For those of you who are reading this who may have never been to Canada or the USA, let me describe a typical plumbing setup.  First, you have a really big hot water tank in the house.

This is used to warm the water which comes into the house, because it is very cold, especially in the winter!  The hot water tank has a gas or electric heater to warm the water up until it is quite hot.  The hot water is then stored in the tank until it is needed for washing dishes, doing laundry, or having a shower.  Not the most efficient system, but that is how it is in most homes.

When it is time for a shower you have both cold and hot water which come out of the faucet and can be adjusted to control the temperature.  One of the greatest pleasures in life in Canada is a hot shower on a cold day!


Now, when I came to Davao I just assumed it would be the same.  I quickly discovered that I was wrong.  Here, hot water is not really necessary. Why would you want to have a hot shower when it is always hot outside?  So here water comes into the house cold (relatively), dishes are washed in cold water, clothes are washed in cold water, and usually people are washed in cold water as well!  One of the greatest pleasures in Davao is a cold shower on a hot day!

Sometimes though, it is nice to have a slightly lukewarm shower instead of a really cold one.  In that case you need to have a water heater.  That is a small box which attaches to your shower and plugs in, which heats the water before it leaves the shower head.  On the right is a picture of the shower in our ensuite bathroom.  You can see the water heater mounted on the wall next to the shower head.  It plugs into an outlet up above (I know that water and electricity shouldn't mix, but it seems safe enough!).  The temperature is controlled by the knob on the heater.  Down below is a simple on/off valve to control the water. (The three knobs partway up don't actually do anything.  I assume they used to work, but they don't now.)  The only problem with this system is that the heater is activated only if there is a certain amount of water pressure present (more on that below!)

Note also the extra faucet at the bottom.  That serves a couple purposes - it makes a great foot wash, it is good for using when cleaning the bathroom, and it works well to fill buckets.  Why is filling buckets important?

I had read online before coming to Davao to check the water pressure in the house before renting it.  Low water pressure is a common thing here, especially in the mornings when more people are using water.  We hadn't had any real issues with water pressure (except when someone would flush the toilet when the shower was in use!) until recently.  We had a really big thunderstorm with lots of lightning.  I don't know what happened, but the next morning we had no water pressure.  None at all.  I assume that the lightning knocked out a pump somewhere.  So that morning we had to do what most people here do - have a bucket shower.

As you can see, it is a bucket of water with a dipper to pour it on yourself.  The water is cold (unless you heat up some water in a pot or kettle and add it to the bucket).  It certainly wakes you up in the morning!

The other thing we were able to do was to open the valves on our water tower tank.  We are fortunate to have a backup water supply in our yard.  Most people do not.  It is enough for a couple of days if necessary, and because it is elevated gravity provides some pressure to get it through the pipes.  Not enough pressure for a decent shower though, certainly not enough for the water heater to operate, so it is still often a bucket shower in the morning!

The tank will automatically refill later in the day when the water pressure is higher, so it stays full unless the city water is shut down completely.  Thankfully, they have somewhat fixed the problem, although we still do not have the same amount of pressure that we used to have, I guess that is something we will have to get used to!

I have learned to take a shower every evening, when the water pressure is good and I can actually turn on the water heater.

As you can see, it is a very different system from Canada - frustrating at times, but a lot more efficient than in Canada.  Who would have thought that having a shower would be a cause for culture shock? I guess I would rather have culture shock in the shower than a shock in the shower from the water heater!


Chantelle said...

Love it. I see US Embassy houses here that have water towers for Niger's water woes but we don't have one. We have a giant plastic garbage can we keep filled up for our water outages and low pressure times. I too usually do cold water everything- dishes, clothes and showers! But in cold season (a balmy 29 degrees outside) i too like a slightly warmer shower. Amazing how our bodies adapt right!
Cheering you guys on!

- Chantelle

Pamela in Calgary, AB said...

Thanks for posting this Steve. I am a person who LOVES to soak in the they even have tubs in Davao, or is showering the only option? I'm glad you're adjusting to are Kerri and the kids managing?

I love keeping up to date with the family on this blog, and through your newsletters. I know that God has a plan for all of you in your new life...not just Kerri.

Praying for God's blessings to continue to rain down on you...hopefully with more pressure than your water system!

Deenie Sutton said...

Hi guys,
I guess we take alot for granted don"t we. I am glad that we don"t have that system, especially in -40 degree weather.ha We are very proud of you guys, and we love you all very much.
Love Dad and Mom