Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Owning a Home in St Thomas, USVI - Repairs - Part II - Drinking Water

Here in the Virgin Islands, most homes that are not in populated areas are on rain cisterns for water for the home. Most of the homes have a metal roof or a roof that is coated with top coat, the same paint on plastic that is found on RV roofs. From there, the rain water goes into gutters and downspouts into a holding tank, generally a section of the home's foundation contains this tank. There it is pumped from a water pump and small pressure tank to the home's plumbing. The bad news about this system is that all kinds of debris from trees, dust, critters, etc, gets into the tank which for drinking water is not good due to the chance for bacteria, choloform and girardia. There was a study done here in the Virgin Islands by the University of Florida that showed that 54% of the cisterns had giradia. If you have ever had girardia, it is not a pleasant experience. So as one can figure out, you shouldn't be driking your cistern water.

Above is how our home is set up, with the top coat roof, gutters, downspouts, water pump/tank and cistern hatch. Notice we have an all house sediment filter, but that does not kill and sanitize the bacteria.

The issue of safe drinking water causes a dilema, and the best solution is to purchase bottled water from the grocery store. Plaza Extra sells a 24 case of 500 ML bottled water for 3 cases for $12. They also have gallon bottled water for a 6 pack at $6.09. This can be costly as you are supposed to drink one or two gallons a day, not to mention hauling from the store to the car and then up the stairs and the waste of the plastic bottles, especially for here where there is no recycling and the landfill is full.

Well I saw a friend on Facebook who posted his solution to this. A reverese osmosis system with a U/V light. Yes folks, take a look at any of your bottled water like Niagara or Kirkland and see that it is Filtration, Ozone (sanitizer), and reverse osmosis technologies from Ontario, CA. I don't know about you, but I wasn't aware of a giant spring in Ontario, a suburb of Los Angeles! It is city water put the same R/O system you can buy for your home.

Scott, my friend, got his from www.freedrinkingwater.com, and had it shipped here via US Mail.

My brain started thinking, we have our first guests coming, Larry, who owns ASAP Well & Pump in Reno, NV (Otherwise known as Larry the Water Guy!). So I ordered the system with the assist pump as we have pressure below 50 PSI and the UV light. The cost came to about $575 with shipping. This is pretty good payoff of about a year with figuring there is two of us drinking one gallon a day at $1.03 a gallon over 52 weeks, my system will pay for itself in a little less than a year. Yes the costs of electric running the U/V light and water pump, and replacing the filters and light once a year, but to not have to haul water anymore, PRICELESS!

It took Larry about a half day to install this, with a trip to Home Depot as we have some funky plumbing here, but we now have FREE bottled water from our cistern!

We call our new bottled water, "Virgin Larry Water". The logo is in the works!


  1. Larry looks sunburned...I was informed that reverse osmosis apparatus was recently installed at our condo in Mahogany Run but I am going to check this out. My adult son had Giardia recently and it was awful for him, also the cure is as painful as the problem but he is free of it now. How do we know if the ice made in restaurants etc is treated and free of this bacteria?

    Love your blog Ken, hopefully we can get together more in August when I return. Hi to Shannon as well !

  2. Just called Mahogany Run office and, in fact, all units have reverse osmosis pumps installed with the filters being changed every 3 months. Well, that's something for those hefty maintenance bills !

  3. That is good about the filters, but again without a U/V light, you will still have Choloform, Bacteria and the dreaded Girardia. The cure for Girardia is taking a series of very harh antibiotics for 10 days and even then the success isn't 100%. We don't know if the restaurants and bars have clean water. My guess is that most of the places are on city water or like Red Hook and AYH they have there own water treatment system in place. I can't imagine how important it would be for an eating/drinking establishment to have safe water, too many sick people would probably hurt business? If it seems like a place is sketchy, I would divert to bottled water (check the seal) or bottled beer or wine?


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