Building Construction, Renovation, Maintenance & Advice

Water supply from Wells, Bores, Streams and Government Supply

"A Slight Touch of Wellness" - Mangling the English language

You know it has to be said that the english language is a beautiful language. There are a dozen ways to say what you mean in any given circumstance each with its own subtle connotation and a with a rich array of words for embellishment or affirmation. It never ceases to amaze how Indonesians brought up in a far simpler verbal and grammatical universe can even start to get their heads around our language as well as they do. The language used in the Jakarta Post, for example, makes most of the text of Australian and British newspapers sound like the childlike rantings of Donald Trump’s pet parrot.

Sadly our beautiful language is often mangled often through ignorance but also through intent. Sometimes an intended strategy to create a myth of higher levels of knowledge (such as a certain “roads” scholar who considers himself the “suppository of all wisdom”). Then there is a desire to discolour a truth. How about “collateral damage” meaning “oops, sorry we killed a few civilians” or “friendly fire” which of course doesn’t hurt anywhere near as much as “hostile fire.”

Then there are those highly imaginative people who can create whole industries from nothing and enhance the sales pitch by creating their own technical jargon. Consider a person who, armed with an aquarium pump and bit of plastic pipe, sets up a business cleaning bowels, “I say have you had your colon irrigated today madam?”

Wellness, of course, is not such a word. In fact wellness is the state of the human body resulting from drinking well water which, in many local situations can result in violent emissions of bodily contents from various orifices (often simultaneously) as in “he deposited his wellness all over the living room carpet.”

Different domestic water sources compared

Talking of wells I recently received an email asking about water supply and particularly thinking of a well. There are choices when it comes to sourcing our water so perhaps we should consider the options. The following spring to mind (so to speak):

1 A spring.

2 A stream.

3 A well, a hand dug hole in the ground usually about 1 metre in diameter.

4 A bore, ie a drilled hole in the ground usually 6 or 8 inches (yes inches) in diameter.

5 PDAM (the government water supply) which is usually only available in built up areas.

So which is best?

Natural Spring

Well, if you live in a pristine country area with sweet pure water coming from a natural spring this must be the best choice with healthy water in its natural state complete with all the minerals your body needs. All well and good but trying to find spring water that has not been contaminated in some way may not be quite as easy as it sounds. It is probably best to have spring water tested before use to make sure it has no fecal or mineral contamination. Some time ago I was asked about taking a domestic water supply from a nearby spring but, unfortunately, when we tested the water it was dirtier than an elephant’s belly button, a pig farm just up the hill was leaving some rather nasty deposits.

Streams and Rivers

Streams are to be avoided unless you have a reliable serious filtration system such as a reverse osmosis plant. It’s the brown trout you see. In the quieter country areas local people tend to use streams and subaks as their toilets. “Not so subtle” deposits find their way down these waterways into the rivers (including the white water rafting rivers) and eventually to the sea.

Dug Wells

For centuries dug wells were the standard water sources. Wells are hand dug, usually 1 to 2 metres in diameter and up to 20 metres or so deep. Digging wells can be very dangerous with risk of collapse if the diggers don’t know what they are doing. Carbon dioxide poisoning is another danger as the diggers use up all the oxygen down the hole while they dig. The bottom of the well must be at least 2 metres below the water level and digging that last 2 metres can be quite challenging. The level of water in the well will vary between the wet and the dry season so wells should be dug at the end of the dry season when the water table is at its lowest.

Wells need to be lined. The lining is important to stop the well from collapsing. These days we tend to use precast concrete rings which can be inserted in the well progressively as it is dug, this acts as ‘shoring’ preventing the well from caving in.

More importantly, a lining is needed to stop surface water entering from the sides of the well and contaminating the water. I remember a case of a woman with very sick children. We tested the water and discovered that slurry from the pig sty next door was running through the ground and into her unlined well.

A properly constructed well is designed to filter the water. The lining means that water can only enter the well from the bottom. By this stage it has been filtered through 20 metres or so of earth. Unfortunately it is very difficult to seal the lining of a well and make it watertight.

I do not recommend the digging of wells. The digging process is dangerous if not done properly. a reasonable maximum depth for a well is 20 metres, an absolute maximum of 30 metres (that is deep - nearly 100 feet - the height of a ten storey building! Installing a water tight lining is very difficult and having an open 1 metre diameter hole is a bit of a health hazard.

Drilled Bores

In recent years bores have become more popular than wells. Bores work in the same way but are usually far more effective than wells because they tend to be much deeper. In rice field areas a bore may be 30 to 50 metres deep while in limestone areas such as the bukit they may be up to 130 metres deep.

Bores are lined with thick walled PVC pipe known as a casing. The casing stops the hole collapsing but also acts in the same way as the lining of a well only allowing water to enter at the bottom where it has been filtered through many metres of ground before it enters the bore.

Bores may be drilled by hand with four very active men using a hand turned drill. Very dramatic to see. More likely these days bores are drilled using a small diesel engine with a gearbox which turns a steel shaft with a drill bit on the end. A water pump is used to pump water down the hole to clean out the debris as drilling proceeds.

Bores are cheaper, quicker and safer than wells and their greater depth yields more reliable, cleaner water.

Town Water Supply

Before thinking about wells or bores I would suggest you consider the town water supply (PDAM) before anything else. PDAM stands for Perusahaan Daerah Air Minum (Regional Drinking Water Company). While most people advise against drinking PDAM water in fact it is treated with chlorine. PDAM is good when it’s good but can be unreliable depending on where you are. The supply has improved over the years and will continue to improve as polythene pipes take over from steel ones. Steel pipes are difficult to repair and so leaking pipes are always a problem. Leaks in pipes can be sources of water contamination.

Variations in pressure in the PDAM supply is another common problem and may vary according to the time of day. Years ago I came across a house where in the middle of the night the water pressure was so high it burst the pipe connections while at busy times (7 in the morning) the supply simply dried up.

Particular locations may have their own unique problems. In recent years some people on the bukit have reported that they have been struggling with an unreliable PDAM supply.

If you do have a PDAM supply and have pressure variations it is a good idea to have an underground storage tank. The PDAM supply fills the ground tank then a small pump is used to distribute the water around your property. This avoids pressure variations in the PDAM supply.

If you have a town water supply the water usage will be measured by a water meter and you will, of course, be charged accordingly. If the PDAM supply is directly connected to your household water system and the system has a leak this may cost you a lot of money and there will not be a pump switching on and off to warn you that you have a problem. It is a good idea to turn all water usage off from time to time and check that the water meter is not turning. I came across a man once who was getting a 10 million rupiah bill for water each month, a broken pipe was irrigating the whole neighbourhood!

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2014
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8 February 2017 Copyright © Mr Fixit,
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