My house is now connected to mains water

Notice regarding the installation of mains water © Ricky Yates

When I bought my new house in Stará Oleška back in April 2017, I had to make a legal agreement with my neighbours regarding its water supply. This was pumped from an underground source in the garden of Milan and Lucie, my immediate neighbours, and supplied them, Pavel and Vlasta, (Lucie’s parents), who live behind me, and me. This water, whilst perfectly safe, did sometimes come out rather discoloured. So I took to buying bottled water for cooking and drinking and inserting a sachet of ‘Intensive white’ in the washing machine, when washing light-coloured clothing.

Under this agreement, I have paid CZK 200 a month for my water supply – CZK 100 for the electricity powering the pump and CZK 100 for the maintenance and repairs to the pump. Therefore on 30th April each year since, I’ve given Pavel, who masterminded the funds, CZK 2400 for the following twelve months of my water supply.

One part of the agreement stated that, if the village was to at some future date, obtain a mains water supply, I would arrange to be connected to it within a year. There had been an unsuccessful attempt a couple of years before I moved to the village, to obtain funding for the installation of mains water.

Hole with blue pipes sticking out © Ricky Yates

In 2019, the Council for Obec Huntírov/ Huntírov Municipality, successfully obtained an EU grant for the installation of mains water in Stará Oleška. Therefore, early in 2020, big holes started appearing in the village with blue pipes sticking out of them.

Workmen’s hut & blue piping © Ricky Yates

Unfortunately, I wasn’t at home the day the contractors dug the hole for my connection to the new water main. I had been given a plan showing my connection as being adjacent to the boundary hedge and fence between my property and Milan and Lucie’s property.

Hole & blue pipe outside my house with sections of concrete drainage channel stacked on the grass bank © Ricky Yates

The contractors instead put it seven metres away and, in doing so, also dug up several concrete sections of a drainage channel that runs along the strip of public land in front of my front hedge.

In time, the contractors returned and filled in the hole. But they didn’t reinstate the concrete gulley nor did they remove the excess earth and rubble from the grass bank behind it.

Drainage channel & grass bank in front of my front hedge © Ricky Yates

The photograph above shows how it looked in the middle of Summer 2020.

With no one returning to put right the mess on the public land in front of my house and wanting to get the position of my water connection corrected, in early August 2020, I wrote an email to Ing. Pacovský, the engineer in charge of the project. My good friend Kát’a kindly put my English text into Czech. Just over thirty-six hours later, I got a phone call in Czech 🙂 from Ing. Pacovský’s junior, agreeing to meet me the next day, to address the problem.

At our meeting on Thursday 13th August, the junior engineer acknowledged that my water connection had been put in the wrong place but said it couldn’t now be changed. But he agreed that the concrete gully should be reinstated and the associated mess cleared up and assured me that the contractors would return and do so. However, as it was August, the men were currently on holiday.

As I am a permanent resident in the village, I have not been required to pay anything towards the cost of mains water being installed. Those people with holiday homes wanting to be connected to the new system, have had to make a financial contribution. But every property owner, resident or non-resident alike, has had to meet the cost of the work required to connect their house to the water main in the adjacent public road.

Fast forward two months to early October. With nothing being done about reinstating the concrete gully and clearing up the associated mess, Kát’a kindly contacted the junior engineer to ask what was happening. As well as assuring her that he would get the contractors to do the work, he said that they would also be willing to do all that was necessary to connect my house to the new water main. They would come and work at the weekend and in turn, I would pay them in cash.

Not knowing anyone else who could do the work and having recently been asked by my neighbours, who was going to do it, I decided that the only way forward was to accept their offer and so contribute to what is proverbially known here as the ‘grey economy’. So it was on the morning of Saturday 17th October, a van appeared with three workmen and their tools.

Having surveyed the route of the channel they needed to dig, I was then asked, ‘Where was my supply of blue water piping?’ I had assumed that the men would bring it with them. Fortunately, despite it being Saturday morning, the leader of the contractors was able to make contact with an employee of Huntírov Council, who a short while later, arrived in his truck,……

Blue piping © Ricky Yates

……with the piping,…..

Water meter © Ricky Yates

……..and with my water meter. He also produced a clipboard with a list of properties and their owners where I had to sign against my name and number, confirming receipt of my water meter.

Channel going under my front hedge © Ricky Yates

The men then set about digging a quite deep channel, under my front hedge……

Water pipe having come under the front hedge © Ricky Yates

…and into my front garden on the other side.

In-filled channel across the paved area in front of the carport © Ricky Yates

My greatest concern was how much disturbance there would be to the paved area in front of my carport. As you can see, the men removed paving blocks and the stone chippings on which they were sitting, and put them under the carport. Then they dug a channel and laid the piping. They had already refilled the channel before I took this photograph.

Channel alongside my front path © Ricky Yates

Then it was onwards alongside my front path…..

Partly dug channel across the front lawn © Ricky Yates

…and across my front lawn. This was the incomplete channel when they finished work that afternoon.

On Sunday morning, the three men returned and completed digging the channel across the front lawn and up the side of my house. Fortunately, Milan had been in his garden when the workmen had arrived the previous morning. He was able to tell them the exact point where the pipe from the underground source in his garden, came under the fence into my garden, heading to my house. He also kindly said that they could take down the fence to make their task easier.

Channel at the side of the house © Ricky Yates

When the workman dug the channel, they found the pipe, exactly where Milan said it would be. It is somewhere at the bottom of the channel in the photograph above.

In-filled channel across the front lawn © Ricky Yates

Also on Sunday 18th October, the men filled in the channel they had dug across the front lawn.

Reinstated drainage channel © Ricky Yates

The following day, during normal working hours and whilst I was in Prague for a medical appointment, the contractors finally reinstated the concrete drainage channel. I have to say that they didn’t do it very well as the reinstated sections are slightly higher than they should be, causing a puddle to form in the channel when it rains. My general impression of the workmen is that they are very good at digging things up, but not so good at putting them back afterwards 🙁

The ‘shaft’ © Ricky Yates

In advance of the contractors returning on Sunday 25th October, to complete the work to connect me to the new water main, the leader of the contractors told me that they needed to purchase a ‘shaft’ at a cost of CZK 8000. I had to produce the cash and then they would obtain it from a firm in Ústí nad Labem. So I handed over the cash early in the week and a day later, the ‘shaft’ appeared under my carport, once more when I wasn’t at home.

The ‘shaft’ inserted just inside the front hedge © Ricky Yates

On Sunday 25th October, the three men reappeared as agreed, and proceeded to dig a very large hole immediately inside my front hedge, in order to bury the ‘shaft’ in the ground. Here it is being inserted.

The ‘shaft’ inserted with its cover on top © Ricky Yates

And here it is with its cover on top.

Inside the ‘shaft’ © Ricky Yates

What is it for? It houses my water meter with steps down so someone can climb down and read the meter. The handles on either side of the meter enable the water supply to be turned off if ever that is required. It needs to be so deep, along with the channel for the piping through my garden, to ensure it doesn’t freeze up in the winter. After the winter weather we’ve had in January and February this year, I’m grateful for depth at which it has been installed.

In the mid-afternoon of Sunday 25th October, the contractors completely turned off my old water supply and then connected their newly laid piping to the existing piping that brings water right into the house. Half-an-hour later, Stará Oleška 44 was connected to mains water.

There are two postscripts to this long saga, one positive, the other, negative.

A few days after I was connected to mains water, late one afternoon, Pavel came down from his house having seen me in my back garden. He presented me with a little slip of paper, explaining that I’d only used water from the old supply for six months since I gave him CZK 2400 on 30th April 2020. Therefore, I was due a refund and he thrust CZK 1200 into my hand. Whilst technically correct, I wasn’t expecting a refund, not least because not many weeks earlier, there had been a major failure of the old pump which needed a couple of visits from an engineer in order to fix it.

On Sunday 25th October, when I gave the contractors the requested cash for the work they had done, there were still three outstanding things to be completed. There was excess earth that needed to be taken away from where they had dug the hole for the ‘shaft’. They still needed to make good the strip of public land between the concrete gully and my front hedge which also involved removing excess earth and rubble. And my paving blocks needed to be reinstated. They promised to return on Wednesday 28th October, a public holiday, with a vehicle in which to take away the earth and rubble and complete the job.

Wednesday 28th October arrived but the men didn’t appear. We chased them up and they promised to come on Sunday 22nd November. At 09.00 that morning, they rang up with some weak excuse about a car breaking down. The reality of course was that they had been offered another job for cash which they would much prefer to go and do, rather than complete a job for which they had already been paid 🙁 The problem of using the ‘grey economy’ 😉

I have managed to use most of the excess earth elsewhere in the garden and in places where the in-filled channels have sunk over the winter. And I will work via the Council to get the mess cleared up on the strip of public land. But I decided eventually that I would ask and pay František, who constructed the new path in my back garden, to reinstate the paving blocks. He kindly did so on 2nd January, just a week before the snow arrived, doing a brilliant job as you can see.

Paving blocks reinstated © Ricky Yates


4 comments to My house is now connected to mains water

  • Pauleen Valerie Bang

    Dear Ricky
    What a long and complicated story! Glad to hear that it is all over now. Us city people have no idea how complicated it is to get connected to the mains supply – we have always been connected.
    Anyway, now it is over so you can sit back and enjoy it. Does it cost you more or less than when you were sharing your neighbour’s water?
    All the best

    • Ricky

      Hi Pauleen,
      It is a long and complicated story & I’ve been struggling to get this post completed for several weeks. I was hoping to have a sense of completion by getting the mess on the public land in front of my front hedge cleared up and then write about it. But with everything covered with snow since early January until a week ago, it was useless to expect anything to be done so I finally got on & published the post.

      It was the first time in my life that I hadn’t had mains water when I moved here in May 2017. It is something we so often take for granted. I don’t yet know what the cost will be but I expect it will be more expensive than CZK 200 / £6.60 a month which was very cheap. I had a slip of paper in my mail box a few weeks ago, asking me to give the HQ of the municipality a reading from the water meter. Unfortunately, at that time, the shaft was under a massive pile of snow that I’d shifted to get my car out. Getting a reading, now the snow is melted, is a task for the coming week.

      Many thanks as always, for visiting & commenting.

  • Sean McCann

    Hi Ricky,

    I’ve read this post from start to finish several times and started to write a number of different comments only to shake my head and delete them again. I almost wondered if the spirit of Jaroslav Hasek hadn’t taken over your blog and was turning the wonderful ‘Svejk’ loose on us again.

    It’s always reassuring to see the difference between the actions of ‘chancers’ like your water connection installers and the ordinary decent human being like your neighbours and friends Milan and Frantisek. People like them restore your faith in humanity after a brush with the ‘Greyness’ of the Water Goblins!

    The area where I live is rural and dotted with isolated houses and farms each drawing water by pump from their own underground wells so I am familiar with problems of maintenance and upkeep of supply and the problems caused by odour or discolouration in the groundwater. The two biggest problems in our area are ‘hardness’ in the water caused by the limestone geology containing the regions aquifers and the presence of iron discolouration and ‘rotten egg’ odour, due to leaching from the many overlying peat bogs. As a result of this, water softener systems are in almost universal use in this area to keep water potable and prevent damage to domestic plumbing and appliances; an expensive but necessary solution.

    I hope your new water supply gives you many years of fresh clean water at low cost and please let us know how the gully and earth moving goblins sort that problem, and when!

    Take care and keep safe Ricky,
    God bless,

    • Ricky

      Hi Sean,

      Once again, thank you for being such a faithful reader & commenter. It is greatly appreciated.

      I have to say that this has been the first time that I have had a problem with Czech workmen, not doing what they’ve promised to do. I’ve heard many horror stories from other expats but it has never been my experience, until now. To be fair, the ‘chancers’, (good terminology 😉 ), did a good job in making the connection from the new water main, to my house. I didn’t envy them manually digging the channel or the deep hole for the shaft. It was a lot of hard work. But they were not good at reinstating things or cleaning up the mess they inevitably made. And having been paid, returning wasn’t really on their agenda 🙁

      But you are right about the contrast. Milan & Lucie are very good neighbours to me. What I didn’t put into this post is that a couple of weeks later, Milan took down a further part of the fence between our gardens & then reinstated all of it, with a whole new section of fencing, all at his own expense. But in turn, I do voluntarily spend an hour each week, helping their two teenage daughters with their school English. In the end, although it cost me a further CZK 1000, I’m glad František was the one to reinstate the paving blocks because he’s done it far better than the ‘chancers’ would ever have done it.

      The situation you describe in your part of Ireland is similar to what is still the case in some rural parts of the Czech Republic. City dwellers usually have no understanding of these things. But I’m very pleased to now have fresh clean water flowing into the house and, whilst I’m sure it will cost a bit more, I don’t anticipate it being overly more expensive. Regarding the mess on the public land in front of my house, as I said in reply to my previous commenter Pauleen, I’ve held fire until now because everything has been covered in snow. But now the snow has melted, I will take the matter up once again & promise to report back in due course.