Building Construction, Renovation, Maintenance & Advice

Water Supply in Dry Areas

"The Empty Bukit"

It's as dehydrated as a necromancer's mammary gland up on the high plains where the tumbleweeds tumble tumblingly across a parched brown landscape. The cattle stand still to avoid moving out of their own shadows (cows are not the smartest of God's creations in the IQ department are they?) while eyeing up the odd cactus and weighing up the pleasure of eating the succulent green flesh against the pain of spines in the mouth.

No I am not talking about Death Valley, Arizona or even a budget airline.........

That reminds me, have you ever tried getting a drink of water on a budget when you don't have a credit card?

“I'll have a drink of water please.”
“Certainly sir, where's your card?”
“I don't have a card, can't I pay with cash?”
“Cash sir, what do think we are a bank?”
“Sorry, I'll go and find a corner and shrivel up.”
“Corner's cost extra sir, where's your card?”

The situation is made worse by the security staff at airports. They always seem to be suffering from hydrophobia these days don't they, "A BOTTLE OF WATER SIR, THAT's DISGRACEFUL, I'll take that." Once inside the terminal you run around trying to find a replacement at a price less than 25 million rupiah, you take a couple of gulps but then, as you enter the boarding lounge, they're there again "it's more than my job's worth to let you take water on that plane, sir."

Sorry, I digress.

We are, of course, talking about the Bukit, that range of hills south of the Airport in Bali where law and order is breaking down as thirsty people wander deliriously along the highways and byways in search of moisture, a place where a bottle of Adam's ale these days costs so much you have to take out a mortgage.

According to official statistics air pollution on the Bukit is up, some are blaming it on a lack of effective sewerage but between you and me it's the armpits you know. People are becoming somewhat compromised in the fragrance department, getting a bit niffy, starting to pong so to speak. As it says in the book of Cyril chapter 23 verse 4 "ye verily the wells became dry and a dreadful fetor descendeth upon the land”. Dear me, even the English are complaining that their bath routine is being disturbed.

What's it all about?

The Bukit has always been dry, particularly so since they cut down all the trees to cook satay.

I am reliably informed by a brave soul who established himself on the bukit back when Adam was a lad that about 10 years ago the residents banded together and collected money to pay for water supply pipes from PDAM (the government water company). Pipes were installed and people were able to get government water, an amazing arrangement that meant that when you turned on a tap water came out of it (whatever will they think of next?) This system worked well for many years but fairly recently, without warning, the supply was turned off.

Many residents have now had to revert to their earlier arrangements. They buy in truckloads of water. Some are buying as much as a truckload a day at a cost of Rp200,000 for a 5,000 litre truck. That's a lot of water to say nothing of the cost and we have to wonder what they are doing to use so much.

There are unfortunately further problems. Different truck operators have their established turf. Local people insist that only certain water truck operators can supply in their areas. With a monopoly the water truck drivers have the residents by the short and curlies.

The trucks go to Jimbaran to pick up their loads of water from a bore. The water is rather interesting, it reminds you of those summer days on the beach, all that salt and sand you know.

So what can people do?

You might consider installing a bore, though this may be challenging. Up on the bad lands of the bukit the land is coral stone with a thin layer of topsoil. Coralstone is a weak chalk-like stone and the thing about this kind of rock is that it is very porous, it doesn't hold water at all so the water table on the bukit is very low and probably as low as sea level.

Because of this a bore will have to be as much as 150 metres deep, that's deep. To pump water up from this depth you will need a powerful submersible pump. A pump of this type will be expensive and will use a lot of power.

Our friend had a bore drilled but unfortunately the driller must have been having a bad day, his bore has a bend in it (a rather unpleasant problem), the pump jams in the bend and so cannot reach the water below.

Ok so you give up on the bore idea, what now?

You might consider installing a large water tank and some roof plumbing to fill the tank. If you are building a new palace you might consider building a large capacity tank into the foundations. This may sound like a drop in the ocean compared with what your demand might be but don't be too sceptical. Concrete water tanks are being built in remote areas of Bali where they have exceptionally long dry seasons and it has been found that one such tank quickly fills in the wet season then provides water for over 30 families for the rest of the year.

Reduce the water you use

It goes without saying that you will need to minimise how much water you use. Start off by checking that you don't have any leaks. We can all do this no matter where we live on the island. Make sure everything is turned off and go and listen to the water pump. Many of us have 2 pumps, one for the bore or well which pumps water to a water tank and a second one to pump water from the tank to taps, toilets and showers. If you have 2 pumps identify the pressure pump, the one after the water tank, this is the one you check. If you only have one pump then check that one.

if everything is turned off the water pump should not be running. If it keeps switching on and off you have a small leak. If it continuously runs you have a large leak. If you do have a leak start off by checking that toilets are not running or taps are not dripping. If you still have a leak call someone, it can be very frustrating trying to find a leak in your water supply system. (Don't call a tattooist, they're usually not very good with water pumps.)

Are you using a lot of water to top up that swimming pool everyday? You will naturally lose water from evaporation but this shouldn't be too much. If you are topping up a lot perhaps you have a leak somewhere in the swimming pool or, more likely, the pipework for the pool.

Ok, no leaks, what next? Perhaps you need to work out a plan to manage you water usage, a 5,000 litre truck every day is a lot of water. It is amazing how little you need if you are careful. A starting point might be to check out your usage on the water usage calculator on our website at

Some people are recycling their grey water (from showers and washing machines) to irrigate the garden. I recently saw some very efficient drip feed watering systems that use a fraction of the water to keep plants healthy simply by measuring the supply and placing exactly where it is needed.

Another possibility is hydroponic planting. Hydroponic growing of plants uses a fraction of the water needed for plants growing in an open garden. You can have lush green vegetation while using minimal water.

Planting trees might be a good idea, nice green trees. Shade will reduce the amount of water the garden needs.

Beware of backwashing. I have seen a number of reverse osmosis machines that use a very substantial amount of water to backwash the filter membrane. Swimming pool, sand filters and water softeners also use backwashing which of course throws water away. Perhaps your backwash could go into a tank to be used for the garden later.

Choose your pets carefully, hippopotami do tend to need a bit more water than camels and elephants are not exactly water efficient. I wonder how much water it takes to fill an elephant's trunk.

“I say your elephant just squirted me.”
“Oh he's just having some fun.”
“Fun?, FUN? It's all slimy.”
“No, no, no.”
It is, it's all slimy and 'orrible.”
“No it's not.”
“Snot, of course - that's what it is.”
“No I don't think so.”
“What was that noise?”
“Noise what noise?”
“It sneezed, your elephant, it just sneezed. Has he got a cold?””
“Come to think of it he has been a bit off colour Lately.”

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2011
This article or any part of it cannot be copied or reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.

9 December 2017 Copyright © Mr Fixit,
Jl Bypass Ngurah Rai, Gg Penyu No 1, Sanur, Bali 80228, Indonesia
Telephone: +62-361-288-789, Fax:+62-361-284-180