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Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Fear stalks the land

The stories of huge water bills in Spain are legion. Not for the cost of the water, which is usually very reasonable, but for undiscovered leaks.

Everyone in Spain has a water meter. Leaks on the supply side, before the water meter, are the problem of the supplier but, once past the meter, the problem is yours.

The water supply to our house is not sophiticated. A plastic tube is buried in a shallow trench under the dirt road that passes the house and a spur brings water to our meter. Our supply is no more than a thick plastic hose buried only inches under the garden. When it gets cold we often lose water for a while until the pipes unfreeze. Because of this I check the water meter regularly to make sure that the consumption seems reasonable and normal. The past couple of times the reading has been a bit high. Six or seven cubic metres instead of the usual three or four. I didn't worry too much. We've run the irrigation system on the garden a couple of times and there is a more general use of the hosepipe to water plants here and there. We also use an aljibe, a big rainwater tank, to water the garden but even then a few hundred gallons from the piped supply seemed explicable.

Maggie said to me the other day though that she could hear the sound of water running in the tubes. Sure enough, with an ear pressed to the wall, it was obvious. I checked the meter carefully and it was confirmed; the smallest needle was creeping inexorably round.

All of our pipework is buried under concrete floors and behind ceramic tiles. Unless it was a simple problem with the taps we were going to be smashing tiles and digging up floors. Yesterday the plumber confirmed the worst. It wasn't the tap. We needed to reveal the pipework and the plumber suggested a builder who came and smashed the marble in the shower cubicle, cutting his hand in the process. The leak wasn't in the uncovered pipes.

This was bad. Sleepless night bad. Something else would have to be dug up, maybe the floor of the shower, maybe the tiled floor. The plumber came back today with a man who had a listening device to find the source of the leak. He found it and the plumber has now dug up the floor of our bedroom to reveal the dodgy pipework. He's still in the middle of doing it as I type. He's gone to get specialist soldering kit.

The good news is that he's found it. Even better he found it underneath the first tile he lifted and he's only had to dig up two tiles to gain access. The bad news is that we have no spares for the tiles dug up and whilst it's a common design the chance of getting an exact match are slight. In the walk in shower the destroyed marble is going to be hard to replace too.

Well, said the plumber, at least you won't need a boat now but maybe you'll need a new rug.

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