No Water: Plumbing in Mexico| What Do You Do?
What do you do in Mexico when there is no water in your house? This can be a real crappy situation if you don’t understand how the plumbing system works here in Merida, Mexico. So today, we will dissect the plumbing system and discuss the parts of the plumbing system you should check when there is no water.
Plumbing in Mexico is very different than in the USA. So it’s one of the systems that you need to have some basic understanding of if you plan to move to Mexico or live in Merida, Mexico already.
Most houses have multiple bathrooms. On suites are very common for each bedroom. So at a minimum, you may have 2 or 3 toilets in your house. Our new house has 6 full bathrooms. In those baths, we have 6 toilets, 6 showers, 2 bathtubs, and 10 sinks. Also, as a part of the plumbing system, we have 3 zones of sprinklers and a pressure system. All of this to say, there are many opportunities for there not to be water in the house.
There are really 4 main issues you need to be aware of with the plumbing systems in Mexico:
1: no water at all in the house
2: low water pressure
3: toilets stop filling up
4: no hot water
There are 5 components to the plumbing system in Mexico that you need to know about to fix these issues.
To begin to understand how the plumbing system works in Mexico. Let’s first “Take it to the street.”
At the street, you will probably have a meter such as this for your water service. If it’s spinning, that means water is actively running into your house. Know the city feeds that water by a company named Japay. Unlike the USA, this water does not run on every street every day or all the time. Sometimes the water will flow to some streets, and others will flow to different streets. This is the first major difference in the plumbing system in Mexico vs. that of the United States. In the states, we have a main water line from the street that goes into a meter, usually in the ground, and then to your house. There is the main cut-off valve to the meter, but in general, the water pressure is good enough to provide water to your entire house all the time. You actually have a pressure regulator to decrease the pressure coming in from the streets in the states.
In Mexico, water comes in from the meter and is usually deposited into a cistern or tank that collects a reserve of water when it’s running. Depending on the pressure at your house, you may have a bomba or pump that pumps this water into your cisterna. The pump is the first thing to check if there is no water in your house. The cisterna can be either above or below ground, depending on your house or plastic or concrete. This is literally a holding tank of several hundred Liters; see that metric system again, of water.
From the cisterna, there is a bomba that feeds water to a large tank on your roof,
The tinaco. The tinaco is where your water actually comes from into your house. This tank is usually at the highest point of your house and uses gravity, in most cases, to supply water to all the faucets, toilets, and showers in your house. How clean your pipes and fixtures are on the inside will determine how much water pressure you will have. More on this later.
The pump to the tinaco is the second thing to check. In my house, I don’t have a cisterna in use. Instead, the water comes from a Pozo (well) to the tinaco directly. So the key element for me is to make sure the bomba is operational and filling the tinaco.
Inside the tinaco, there is a float switch. When that float reached a certain level, it stops the water. It’s the same idea of what happens in the tank of your toilet. When the water reaches a certain level, the float stops the pump from running. This is also a source of issues as many times this floating. The switch might fail to cause water to overflow the tinaco and out onto your roof. In this scenario, it’s necessary to cut off the pump.
Now, the tinaco usually provides water via gravity. If you watched my previous video of the three things I hate about living in Merida, Mexico, you know that one of those things is weak water pressure. In my new house, we have a house pressurizing system. That system charges the plumbing with water and provides excellent water pressure. The only issue with this system is that it constantly runs to keep the system pressurized. So I’ll be interested to see how much power it uses and what effect it has on my electric bill. More on than soon.
Once the water leaves the Tinaco, it flows from the tinaco into a calendora or water heater. This is usually a tank on the outside of the house or in a bodega (closet). This tank is generally gas ignited and burns propane gas if there is water flowing but. If you have water but no hot water, the tank is the thing you should check. Make sure your pilot is lit. With all the high wind storms we get each day when it rains, it’s not uncommon for the pilot light to go out. Be very careful when lighting the pilot light. I’ve almost burned my eyebrows off on more than one occasion, like fire Marshall Bill from In Living Color.
For gravity-fed tinaco systems, one of the big issues they face is the hard water here in Merida, Mexico. The water is full of minerals, which the locals call saro. This saro will build up your plumbing system and clog the pipes and tubes to your toilets and faucets. In fact, one of the regular house maintenance things you have to do once a month is to clean all of your showerheads and faucets with vinegar or CLR, the stuff that you get from Home Depot or any hardware store here in Mexico. The clearer your showers heads and faucets are, the better the water will flow and the more pressure you will have.
Also, it’s not uncommon for saro to clog filters and tubes to your toilet, which will prevent them from filling. I keep spare toilet tubes because this is usually the first thing I check if there is no water going into the toilet tank after making sure the water is turned on at the wall.
Alright. If you made it this far, you should be an expert in Mexican plumbing systems. At the very least, you should diagnose a problem a d figure out what you need to tell the plumber is wrong.
Until next time,
Mexit plans monte “I’m out.”