The Season of the Tap Confusion

Every year, there are two seasons of tap confusions. In the winter, warm water streams out of the shower head, when I turn the left knob, whereas in summertime, warm water comes after turning the right knob. And in between, when I try to remember which one was which, I’m confused for days if not weeks.

To explain the switch, I have to start with the unreliable water supply in Delhi. I live in one of the 75% of the households that are connected to Delhi’s piped system. 25% are not, they get their supply through either tankers or bore-wells.

But: This doesn’t mean there is a 24/7 water supply. As Debashree Mukherjee, former chief executive of the Delhi Jal Board, the municipal water supply agency for the capital, nicely put in an interview with the Wall Street Journal: “We’ve started pilot projects to move from intermittent supply to continuous supply to show that it can be done in Delhi.”

So, because there isn’t a ccontinuously pressurized systems, but instead one with a lot of vacuum in the water pipe – by the way also due to leakages: physical losses are 22% to 25% of total water produced – the house owners play safe. They install, if they can afford it, huge water tanks on their roofs. Black ones. And because there is no warm water supply by the Delhi Jal Board, they built water boilers into the bathrooms.

Now in wintertime, I switch on my personal water heater. Then warm water streams into the pipe from the tank, and cold water is added from the pipe that comes directly from the tank on the rooftop.

Whereas in summertime, the water in the tank heats up so much, I can use it as warm water, whereas the water from my (then switched off) heater serves as a cool admixture. No joke. In May and June, I can’t have a shower in the evening with the rooftop water. It’s boiling hot.


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