Coffee Living in Paradise: Part II

Coffee Living in Paradise: Part II

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Living in Paradise: Part II

The "Saga" of the water pipe (a tale of the way things get done in Jamaica ).

Once upon a time, many years ago; 3 house owners without mains water, decide to pipe their drinking water down from a mountain spring: they got together and installed a steel pipe which they ran from a small concrete catchment tank, in a stream bed, just below a spring up in the mountains; and carried the pipe along the side of the stream, until they met the road, then ran the pipe along the side of the road, to the houses: and the water flowed.

It was not long before the local scrap metal thieves spotted all this potential ( $$$ ) scrap metal, and thieved the vast majority of the steel piping; and the water was no longer flowing.

The concrete catchment, and the few remaining bits of pipe, fell into total disrepair.

One of the house owners installed a high power electric pump to pump the water up from the stream, to his house: wary of the thieves, he bolted it to a huge ( and I do mean HUGE ) lump of concrete: this merely delayed the thieves for a short time, until they managed to find a way to transport it all from the stream, to the nearest bit of road ( a long way, away ) and thieved the whole lot: the water pump, and the large piece of concrete to which it was attached, which was never found.

And, again, the water stopped flowing: all 3 houses went back to their old rain water collection systems.

The years pass by, and eventually all the houses are sold/leased to new owners, who decide between them to share the cost of repairing the water pipe, and getting fresh spring water to the houses. They decide to use plastic piping as it would be far less ( $$$ ) "attractive" to the local thieves. A local coffee farmer, across whose ( leased farming ) land the pipe will run, "volunteers" ( for cash money, paid by the day!! ) to install the pipe, as long as he can run a side pipe from it to irrigate his own fields: all is agreed.

The farmer has colourful visions of vast amounts of cash money falling into his pockets: day-pay equals (in his mind) an almost bottomless pot of cash, and the longer he can spend doing the
job, the more he will be able to extract from the pot: and, by over-estimating the materials required, there will be all the materials "left over" which he can take home, as a "bonus", and use to complete his own house, and sell the excess.

Unbeknown to the farmer installing the pipes, one of the house owners, takes the time to climb up the mountain, and survey the route the pipe will take, and estimate the materials required.

The farmer does a "survey", and goes to the house owners with a list of the materials required, and a rough estimate of the time it will take: when the houseowners are able to stop laughing, and get up off the floor, instead of giving him all he asked for, he is given a tape measure, and told to go back up the mountain, and measure the length of piping required. When asked to justify the number of bags of cement he says he needs to build the water catchment, he describes an undertaking almost equal to the construction of the Hoover Dam: the building of a 3 foot high dam across a 20 foot wide stream: when all that is required is 12 inch deep trough, some 2 feet square: he wanders off, most unhappy!!

The house owners do not trust the farmer sufficiently to give him the cash money to purchase the (revised) list of parts needed, so one of them buys the parts, exactly as specified. The parts are delivered, and immediately a problem becomes apparent; he wants to use 2 inch diameter plastic drain pipes, which are not designed to withstand the water pressure that the pipes will have to carry: but, the farmer knows better (all Jamaicans think they know better than any "foreigner") the catchment is constructed, and the pipe installed. The water is "turned on", and exactly as the "foreigner" predicted (very much to his satisfaction!!!) the pipes all blew apart at the joints: and again, the water did not flow.

6They all sit down and have a discussion: and it is decided that a pressure release is needed in the pipe: the simplest and cheapest solution (a small block and concrete tank, put at a height above the houses that will provide adequate, but not excessive water pressure) is rejected in favour of a 1,200 gallon plastic water tank, with 1/2 inch pressure piping to carry the water to the houses. The pipe is repaired, the tank installed, and the smaller pressure piping taken to the first house; and then on to the other two: at last; the water flows.

The time arrives to settle the accounts: one of the house owners (in true Jamaican fashion) refuses to pay his share, claiming that as the pipe is running across his land, he should be paid "rent" for the use of his land, and is therefore relieved from payment ( it was not until many months later that this proved to be untrue; he leases the land from the Forestry Commission, and they have no problem with running water pipes across their land ) and to this day he is still not connected to the pipe. He was able to afford (but has a reputation for hating to part with money!) the few parts for him to cut into the pipe and affix a tap, so that he can use a hose pipe to connect his irrigation water tank to the water supply, but has no supply to his house.

A few months pass, some minor leaks occur, which are quickly and easily repaired: then we get hit by a (very mild) hurricane, which somehow succeeds in completely blowing away the plastic water tank, which had been securely fitted to a concrete base, and filled with 1,200 gallons of water: it now becomes apparent exactly why this particular solution to the problem of the excess water pressure, was so strongly advocated!!

Whilst the house owners have insufficient proof (water tanks don't have serial numbers!) to take it to the Police, they all know exactly where the plastic tank is, now; it is sitting on the roof of the farmers house, supplying his home with water!!

The pipes are repaired, and again, the water flows: but over the next couple of years, there are constant breakages in the pipe: which on examination prove to be due to the whole of the piping having been installed incorrectly; in order to conserve on the glue (so that the farmer could use it to do the plumbing in his house, which he was, and still is, in the process of completing) he had used a tiny smear, instead of sufficient to glue the pipes together, properly, and so that he can fit the drain pipes to his house, he "saved" a couple of lengths by running the pipe, unsupported, across a couple of small gullies: and it was not long before the weight of the water in them, caused the pipes to break.

The two house owners who had paid for the installing of the water pipes, decide to get another (far more trustworthy) guy to do the repairs, and finish off the pipework to the two houses.

The main pipe is still being repaired, and each time it breaks, the repairs are being made with a much "upgraded" type of plastic pipe, plenty of glue, and the pipe re-routed to relieve the strain from the weight of water in it.

Several months pass without any problems: until the intake pipe from the catchment keeps getting blocked with leaves and sediment coming from the stream. As a temporary fix, a filter is put over the intake pipe (hastily made from an old car air filter, and several plastic nets (from the bags used to pack fruit in, by the local supermarkets) it proves to be extremely effective against leaves and stones, but the plastic mesh is too large to stop the fine sediments: so it is decided to "upgrade" the catchment.

The farmer who put in the first piping, also suffering from a lack of water, offers to do the work: it is agreed that he can "assist" and carry out some of the work, under the supervision of our new, trustworthy, "hydo-engineer".

The work is carried out, but with a dire warning from the farmer; with the improved catchment, and increased water pressure, a pressure release is needed, and he suggests (with some very persuasive arguments) that the only thing that will work, is to go back to the original system, and include another large (and expensive) plastic water tank.
The house owners (over a few beers, that evening) have only two unanswered questions: who has he already sold it to, and for how much?? Surprisingly, the idea is totally rejected in favour of a small concrete block construction, which was installed a few weeks later.


Here endeth the Saga of the water pipe.

Post script:

With the water now flowing, I fitted an in-line water filter: it lasted a few months before exploding, so I replaced it, and the second one exploded a couple of months later: presumably due to my water pressure being too high (something not verified by calculation, from the height of the column of water, and the specifications of the filter).

Decided to get a more "heavy duty" filter, and phoned a specialist water filter company, who were amazed to hear about my exploding filters; his initial suggestion, following my enquiry about fitting a pressure reduction valve, was to half close the lock-off valve (presumably to reduce the pressure) when I managed to stop laughing, at such an idiotic solution to the problem (half closing the lock-off valve would only reduce the volume of water flowing through the pipe, and would have absolutely no effect on the pressure) I crossed that company off the call-list, and phoned another supplier!!

I can understand the "pressure" to make a sale, but have to seriously wonder whether this was just pure ignorance on the part of the salesman, or, the pervading Jamaican attitude that all foreigners (obvious from my very English accent) are both rich and stupid, and no match for the "wiles" of a Jamaican.

Following a bit of research on the internet; I found the cause of the problem: "water hammer": the shock wave created in a long water pipe, when the tap is turned off, the kinetic energy of the moving water is translated into a shock wave, that "blows-out" the weakest point in the water system (the filter body): so I installed a couple of shock absorbers: short, sealed, air tight pipes, with the air in them absorbing the energy of the shock wave; a very cheap and effective solution to the problem!
With the upgraded filter, and two "shock absorbers", no problems in the last several months.

To be continued...

Robin Plough, a friend of

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See also:
A New Year on the Plantation
A Visit to Paradise
A year in the life..What makes JBM, the 'legend' of coffee?
Assessing your coffee (part 1)
Assessing your coffee (part 2)
Assessing your coffee (part 3)
Economics of JBM. Part 1
Economics of JBM. Part 2
Everything you wanted to know about the Coffee Board
Growing a coffee plant at home
Growing Coffee. Part 1
Growing Coffee. Part 2
Growing Coffee. Part 3
Growing Coffee. Part 4
Growing Coffee. Part 5
Growing: Part 1
Growing: Part 2
Jamaican food (part 1)
Jamaican food (part 2)
Jamaican food (part 3)
Jamaican newsletter
Living in Paradise: Part I
Living in Paradise: Part III
Processing our coffee (part 1)
Processing our coffee (part 2)
Random thoughts on the end of the world
Random thoughts on the end of the world (II)
Special Report: Coffee Leaf Rust Fungus Part 1
Special Report: Coffee Leaf Rust Fungus Part 2
SPECIAL: Coffee borer beetle in Hawaii
Trivia and other ramblings: part 1
Trivia and other ramblings: part 2
Tropical Storm Nichole
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