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Help with a water supply problem

Posted by MikeP-180526 - Created: 14 years ago
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I wonder if anyone can offer help with a problem we have regarding our water supply.  The company in question, whom I am not naming as I suspect that would be against the T’s and C’s of this site,  do not return phone calls, do not follow up on promised actions,  and our letters just receive an acknowledgement saying that they are ‘investigating’.  I suppose there must be some service level agreement implicit in the contract of supply  but have no idea how to go about establishing this.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


It has taken months of badgering to get them to admit that they are delivering water at an inadequate pressure. Initially when I asked them what the correct pressure should be and what we were getting,  I was met with a barrage of evasiveness.  The fault, they said, was with our taps and showerheads, which had all,  simultaneously and coincidentally with them carrying out work on the mains,  developed the same fault, resulting in an inadequate delivery of water, they wanted me to believe.  The fact that our neighbours had the same problem was ‘coincidence’ too.


We also suffer from unannounced outages,  and when we phone and ask what the problem is they treat us like imbeciles and tell us that everything is ‘normal’.  Added to which they are generally obstructive - a kind word to describe their attitude.


Technology allows me to ''tune in'' to radio stations around the world via internet, but these people can''t deliver water to our neighbourhood. Sometimes not at all, and never at sufficient pressure.  We live in a road which has houses along its entire length in a semi-rural area. So you''d imagine that it would be easy for them to supply a basic commodity like water.

After months of arguing with them, and many letters and phone calls complaining, I''ve had visits from technicians who drink my coffee, pat my dog, promise me the earth (which in fact is what comes out of our taps sometimes) and then disappear into the blue yonder never to be seen again. Last week they finally admitted what I''ve been telling them for a year, that the delivery pressure on the public network is inadequate. (For the technically minded, we get 1.7 kilopascals. It should be double that.) They''ve squirmed and wiggled and used every excuse imaginable, and some not imaginable, to blame the defective supply on anyone other than themselves.


The ''customer service'' staff in the office seem,  like so many in customer facing positions in France, specially trained to be unfriendly, rude, and unpleasant. (These must be the most successful and popular training courses in the country.) I can live with all that, I don''t want to make friends with them, and anyway I''ve got used to it, but they are also unhelpful and inefficient, which is what annoys me.


Our landlady, a local lady,  has also been in touch with them and they are apparently just as rude and unhelpful to her as they are to us.

The technicians are at least friendly. As I said, they drink my coffee and they pat my dog. They are honest, at least some of them are, as they admit that the pressure is inadequate. On reflection, that is probably why we never see the same one twice.


I can imagine the conversation when they get back to HQ.

"What did you tell the stupid foreigner?"

"I told him his water pressure is 1.7 kpa, which is less than it should be."

"You did what? ..... You told the truth ... You will be guillotined at dawn..."

However, last week''s events enabled me to understand the problem. The technician explained that the outlet from the water tower was partly blocked, and that they would drain the tower during the evening, remove the blockage, and then refill the tower during the night. If this didn''t work, he said, they''d install a pump to restore pressure. By 7 am, we were told, we''d have full pressure. I was looking forward to a real shower, with stinging needles of water biting into my skin. As he left, I asked him, casually, where the tower was located. He pointed down the hill to the village about a kilometre away and about 50 metres below us. The water reservoir is below the level of the houses. So then, I said, there surely must already be a pump. He thought not.


So I am left wondering how in France, waters flows uphill, not by gravity, but by a miracle. And my shower is still the usual pathetic dribble.


H E L P !!!!

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10 replies (Showing replies: 1 to 10)

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Posted by MikeP-180526 - 13 years ago

Yes, the water for the loos is in a holding tank and as long as that is full there is no problem.  Of course after flushing you have to wait a long time for it to refill.

I have complained that because the pressure is so low,  if someone is in the shower and elsewhere a cold tap is opened, the water temperature rises suddenly.  It doesn't seem to cause anyone any great concern.

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Posted by lynnettejane - 13 years ago

Hi Mike, do your loos flush ok, horrible thought but if there is a health risk here, wouldn't your landlady be obliged legally to rectify this situation?regards Lynnette

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Posted by stgeorge-182529 - 13 years ago

MikeP  - an interesting saga ! A friend in the Var who had a similar problem with water pressure variation, just installed a hydrophore tank and a pump at the water inlet into his property, ( like on boats) with the necessary security cut offs, if the water supply stopped altogether, which in fact does happen, but never for long. But, in the event of being caught short, he has put in a 3 position change over valve to the rain water barrels under his back porch - better to shower in tepid rain water in mid-summer than no water at all ? ( Those of us not rich enough to have a swimming pool with cloudy water, surrounded by so-called experts on ph values and Biot sand filtration units !!)stgeorge

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Posted by MikeP-180526 - 13 years ago

The bad news : Time has passed,  and the water pressure is now metered at 0.8 bars, (should be around 3) due to further deterioration in the pipes and some local construction.

The good news : The Municipality have, under pressure (sorry!) from myself and affected neighbours,  installed their own supply in the street. 

What seems to me ridiculous is that the existing supply with its inadequate pressure and narrow leaking pipes  runs parallel to the new supply, and we remain connected to the old supply.  I had to 'phone the Mairie to get this information - there is a conspiracy of silence about this.   You might think that they would have told us and solicited us to get connected to their supply.

In order to benefit from the new supplier,  we need to sign a contract with the Mairie,  easy, no problem, only a pleasure. 

The catch is that to get connected, there is some technical work required, replacing meters and pipes, which could cost up to €2500.   I am certainly not prepared to pay this as I feel it is the responsibility of the owner to provide us with a decent water supply now that it is available, and that she should pay those connection costs which benefit her ultimately anyway.

As she is a tight fisted old peasant,  I anticipate,  on the basis of previous discussions with her which would have involved her shelling out (she is extremely wealthy by the way) that she will refuse.

Any ideas as to how I can persuade/force her to pay for this work.   For various reasons I do not wish to move although ultimately that might be the only option.


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Posted by davidl-181802 - 14 years ago

Just read TonyP's reply - I knew there was a three in there somewhere

quote:300 kPa


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Posted by davidl-181802 - 14 years ago

quote:We could get a pressure fed system

Sorry, thats what I meant, just didn't know what its called. I agree though, as its rented accomodation it isn't worth you installing.

quote:Some of the pipes in the road leak

Hmm sounds like a big problem - as you say - if they increase the pressure it'll probably cause more problems for them.

quote:3 kpa

Sounds right from what I remember.

I agree with secours about it being the landladys' problem - unfortunatly that doesn't help you at the moment.

Our water company suggested we use our swimming pool to wash in :) Very helpful with the chlorinated water etc. At one point we had my partners brother down here with 5 friends, the mother in law and my partner - just think of all those people and no water to wash or flush the toilets. As you can imagine, the mother in law was not very impressed and went to the Marie to complain. Still kept on losing water supply.

The strange thing was that it resolved itself after a long time without any input from us. I presume the Marie finally gave into the Mother in Law pressure and told the suppliers to sort it out or they'll lose the contract.

It affected us more than the neighbours as our pressure system is fed directly from the mains water supply whereas others had a resevoir system that fed their systems so they had a backup water supply during the outages - they only complained when that run out and they realised there was no water.

It may be worth checking out the legal side of supplying water to your property and if they have a minimum pressure they must supply before they are in breach of contract and you can withhold payment for failure to supply? Is there an equivelent to a citizens advice bureau for France? Or a TV programme like Watchdog for France to get advice from?

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Posted by TonyP-191937 - 14 years ago

300 kPa is the ideal pressure for residential properties, but it is affected by altitude so you may get more or less.  The pressure changes by 10 kPa for every metre of altitude.  You probably live 13 metres higher than houses having the ideal pressure.

If the pressure is higher than 450 kPa you have to install pressure reducers.

In our Brussels place we live in a valley and have the opposite problem.  The pressure is 900 kPa and we have a pressure reducer in the mains supply.  Once it failed and pipes and safety valves blew open everywhere.  The mains supply outside often bursts.

Leaking mains is a common problem everywhere.  The London water board loses about 20% of its water through leaks which is why they keep the pressure low.  Most mains supples were installed in an era when people were happy to have water at all, and they are not designed to withstand very high pressure.

If the water board increases pressure by 100 kPa to your property, houses 30m lower down will suddenly be getting too much pressure, so they will have to deal with burst pipes and install pressure reducers.

I think complaining about 170 kPa in a hilly region like the CDA is quite unreasonable.


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Posted by secours-180503 - 14 years ago

I am wondering if it is not a landlord's problem because she has to give you an accomodation without primordial problem,and this one is a big one!!


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Posted by MikeP-180526 - 14 years ago

Thanks both of you :

I don't know what the figures are in terms of decimal placments, but I do know that what we are getting,  whether it's 1.7 or 170, is half of what we should be getting.  I'm told minimum pressure should be 3 kpa, we get 1.7.

A power shower won't solve the problem,  we'd need a power installation for every tap to get more than a dribble.

The fire hydrants (I asked the same question) are fed from a different supplier) and are at adequate pressure.

We could get a pressure fed system,  it's a very expensive solution (about Eur 3000 to do it properly I'm told) and to be honest I am not prepared to spend that sort of money when primarily I shouldn't have to and secondly it's not my home, it's just rented accommodation.

There is another angle to this which I forgot to mention.  Some of the pipes in the road leak.  This is unmetered and therefore unchargeable water.  If they increase the pressure without first fixing the pipes there will be more loss .... so they are going to stall for as long as possible. An incredibly short sighted attitude.

David it sounds as though you might have had the same supplier as us! 

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Posted by davidl-181802 - 14 years ago

We had a similar problem with our water supply  - the water would cut off at 8pm on the dot and stay off for most of the evening. We found the Marie is responsible for who supplies water and he had changed the supplier to the village. The previous supplier had allegedly whacked up the pressure before handing the system over to the new supplier resulting in lots of burst valves through the system. Everytime we phoned up the reply was that there is no problem. We had the mobile number for the tech - and he would come in the morning when the water supply was back on.

It took 3 months to get them to admit that there was not enough water in the resevoir (it was during the heatwave and I did suggest that this may be the problem but was told firmly that they had no problem their end). It was very frustrating as my partner would be caught out in the shower as the water would just stop!

The whole thing was shambolic - never had notice of change of supplier, couldn't find office number and only got mobile number from a friend in the village.

I would suggest you get a closed system with a pump and a pressure tank to feed the house if possible so you can enjoy those power showers again.

Good luck.