Lake Chapala Home Water Systems
Updated: Aug 5
One of the things that is very different in Mexico is the home water system. Unlike many areas north of the border, there are a system of pumps and tanks to store, heat and filter the water to your home, So living here requires that you have some understanding of how the systems work along with their respective terminology in Spanish. So what are the systems and how do they work? Let's take a look.
Unlike the U.S and Canada, most areas Lakeside do not have pressurized municipal systems into the home. Instead water is released by the community 'fracionmiento' or municipality anywhere from 1 to 5 times per week for a certain number of hours per day which varies from community to community. This means you need to store water on your property. There are various ways that the water can get into your house, some of which will depend on whether you are on a private well or, more commonly, hooked up to the municipal water supply. When released from the street, the water flows into a cistern 'aljibe' . This cistern (which is most often located under the garage on your property) can be made from reinforced brick and concrete or can be a plastic tank. Either way, it will contain a submersible pump and a large ball float at the top (similar to a toilet tank float) to stop it from overflowing.
Water pressure for the house can be achieved three ways:
From the submersible pump in the cistern, aljibe, water can be pumped through a water pressure tank 'hidroneumatico'. The hironeumatico is a tank with a bladder and air at the top. The air is pressurized pushing the bladder down and pressurizing the water.
Another method is by gravity. For this you need to pump water into a water storage tank, 'tinaka', located on the roof of the house. Water is then both heated by the sun and gravity fed into the house. Both the above methods maintain a consistent pressure. The benefit of the 'tinaka' is that you don't need electricity to supply water to the house (a real benefit during power outages) whereas the downside is that it's an extra tank you need to maintain by cleaning it once a year. Another plus (depending on where you live) is that you may not require any additional water heating device.
A third method to obtain water pressure is simply by pump, 'bomba', and pressure switch. This will run each to time you demand water.
Unlike the U.S. or Canada, we also need to purify the water at the household. The water is first filtered by a system of tanks for general use with an optional further Reverse Osmosis filtration system located under the kitchen sink for drinking.
The primary filtration system can be rather complex. The water can enter the aljibe directly from the street OR passed through a rope, or foam filter before entering the aljibe to remove large particles. Once the water is in the aljibe, a submersible pump pushes the water into the pressure system and passes it through a zeolite (or sand) filtration tank, a resin tank OR a five (or one) micron filter/carbon filter unit. The water then passes through a water softener tank, suavizador', to soften the water and remove hard minerals which can destroy your appliances. It is passed through a UV light killing bacteria and viruses before finally being passed into the household. The primary filtration system removes large and small particulate matter and softens and purifies the water sufficiently for washing, bathing, and even brushing teeth. Many people will even drink from this purification system as well.
A further step is to add a Reverse Osmosis System under the sink for 'on tap' purified drinking water. This is normally a 5 (or 6) stage filtration system going from 5 micron to 1 micron sediment filters, a carbon activated filter, a RO filter, and finally a polishing filter removing any additional unpleasant tastes or odors. The RO filter system is vitally important Lakeside to remove arsenic which is common in the wells in Lake Chapala.
The most common water heater is the propane gas fired on-demand heater. There are two types. One with a pilot light and one without. The first type is powered by a battery which throws a spark to the gas when the hot water is turned on in the house. The second has a pilot light burning continuously. Sometimes these can be problematic with the pilot light blowing out during high winds but there are proponents to both. These are very efficient systems and supply hot water endlessly. With gas being cheaper than electricity they are very economical as well.
Electric water tanks that hold water and keep it heated continually are the least common but are available. If you go toward electric hot water tanks you might need to invest in solar panels to keep your bill from escalating into the top tier, 'DAC rate'.
Maintenance of Water Systems
Aljibes and tinacos should be emptied and cleaned with a bleach solution minimum once per year. Throwing in a pool chlorine tablet once a month can keep your storage tank from forming algae and help with smells.
The submersible pump should be raised and sediment cleaned from it once per year.
Water lines can be blown out with an air compressor once per year.
The large tanks should be inspected and cleaned by a qualified plumber once per year.
Under the sink systems require filter changes (depending on the filter) every 6 months to 2 years.
The ultraviolet light should be inspected weekly and the light replaced once per year.
On-demand and reservoir style gas hot water heaters should be inspected by a gas installer to make sure orifices and gas supply lines are tight and clean of soot.
So that's it. The basics of home water systems in the Lake Chapala area. For more information or a free tour of the area, you can contact me. I'm always here to help you with your questions. Thank for reading and don't forget to Subscibe to this Website so you don't miss out on any of my blogs!