Tales of watery woe

Hello everyone,

Apologies if I haven’t been good at responding to posts - life stuff happening here.

Anyway, I have the following situation. A guest posted a review as follows:

The place is located in one of the best localities in Mumbai and was very easy to find. The room is spacious and well maintained. During our stay, there was some problem with the water supply in the main bathroom that we were supposed to use. We had to use the alternate bathroom, which was not a great experience. Faheem did apologize for this, but this was very inconvenient for us. Barring this issue, we did not have any other problems, and I would recommend this place.

He added a private comment about the backup bathroom not being clean, which was fair, and I got one star off for cleanliness and four stars overall. I can’t really complain about any of this. The review was fair, and I too would have been quite upset if the water stopped working during a stay. Though other guests in similar circumstances have shown more restraint.

I have two questions here.

  1. How should I respond to this review? Or should I respond at all?

  2. This water issue is actually related to a rather puzzling plumbing issue, which I’ll take this opportunity to ask about.

So, first some background about this. Warning: tedious plumbing details. You may wish to stop reading if you don’t enjoy lengthy tales of watery woe.

The water supply in Bombay arrives early morning - in our case it is like 5 am to 6.30 am, from the BMC. This water is stored in two rather ancient water tanks which live on their own little terrace on the edge of the building. I’m told each of these tanks is 1000 gallons (this may be incorrect). There are actually 4 tanks up there, but only two of them are ours.

Some years ago, due to occasional water problems, I installed a primitive water metering/monitoring system. There are some simple sensors connected from the tank that run to a meter board in our home. There are six indicators on that meter board. (I’ll call them points in what follows.) When water is touching the sensor, it’s green; when water isn’t touching it, it turns red. If all 6 sensors are red, the tank is basically empty.

For most of the time that meter has been installed, it has rarely gone below 2 red points, usually at the end of the day. Usually it is 2, which still seems like a lot of water. The arrival of Airbnb guests in the last year and a half hasn’t really changed that. However, in the last two months (or maybe three), I’ve noticed that it often goes to 3 and sometimes 4.

Some of this is traceable to the malfunctioning flush in the guest bathroom. It’s an old but still presentable Hindware toilet. As the water pressure is low, there’s a small local pressure pump to pull the water into the guest bathroom. When this pump isn’t on, the tank fills very slowly, seemingly taking hours, for some reason. Recently, when this is the case, it has also been leaking from the bowl. If the pump is turned on, then the tank quickly fills up and the water stops leaking from the bowl. Clearly, this is part of the problem. In the last few days I figured out what was happening, and every time I’ve gone to look at it, water has been leaking out of the bowl. We’ve temporarily taped the pump switch open.

Anyway, the day the guest had problems, the following happened. The tank became almost empty in the late night/early morning. 5 red points. At that point, air became trapped in the pipes leading to the guest bathroom, which is the farthest away from the tanks. It was a late add-on. When the water arrived at 5 am, it filled up the tanks, but it didn’t help the guest bathroom, because the pipes had air in them. So, no water in the guest bathroom. The backup bathroom, which is right under the tanks, didn’t have that problem. So the guests used the backup bathroom, but were understandably not happy about it.

Now, the pump switch was taped shut yesterday, and water is not currently leaking from the guest bathroom toilet bowl. But I just checked, and the meter is down 4 red points. So there may be something else going on, but I don’t know what.

I’ve had people check, including a plumber, and here’s what isn’t the problem:

  1. No leaks in the tanks or any pipes.
  2. No leaking taps or toilets (other than the guest bathroom).
  3. At one point we thought that maybe there were pipes going from our tanks to somewhere outside our home, but I’ve been assured that’s not the case.
  4. The meter/indicator seems to be working properly, as far as I can tell.
  5. We also verified that the tanks actually get filled in the early morning.

I’m baffled.

The plumber we regularly use (Shankar) has been rather useless in all this. In particular, he kept telling me there was no problem with the guest bathroom toilet. First, he cleaned the washer, and assured me there would be no more problems. Wrong. Then he replaced the washer and told me the problem was solved. Wrong. Now his solution is that I should leave the pump switch on, and/or replace the pipe leading to the guest bathroom to improve the water pressure. I spent some time explaining to Shankar that water leaking from a toilet bowl is what on Planet Earth they call a leak, is a bad thing, and that the noble calling of plumbers is to fix leaks. Ok, maybe not in those exact words. I think he got the point. Perhaps.

I’ve asked another plumber who specialises in toilets (he co-owns a shop that sells Hindware and may be a Hindware dealer) to come and take a look. Last June (2016), he fixed a very similar long-standing problem in my own Hindware toilet by replacing the interior flush mechanisms. This, after Shankar explained to us that the parts to replace the flush mechanisms were not available.

I should mention that Shankar is a good plumber, and we’ve generally had good experiences with him. But everyone in India is crazy - it’s just something you get used to.

Anyway, if you’ve read this to the end, congratulations, and clearly you find plumbing fascinating.


Read to the end because I like mysteries and your writing style!


How interesting that you get water delivered daily!


I wouldn’t reply to the review at all since the issue is still unknown. Maybe if it is resolved, then reply if Airbnb still allows time to reply.


A fascinating read to the every end. I wouldn’t reply to the review either. Brings back memories of travelling in India a looong time ago. I should return.

1 Like

Thanks, Faheem, for the well-told tale, the chuckles it brought me and the education about water in Mumbai.
Sounds an improvement over water issues ( and a lack of anything approaching the luxury of a Hindware toilet ) I experienced when in Calcutta, before you were born possibly, in 1956.
I’m betting on the Hindware dealer flushing out the cause of the problem, and a solution.

I wouldn’t respond to the review. The guest has gone and it’s now water under the bridge.
Looking forward to reading the next chapter :slight_smile:

1 Like

Don’t worry about the review, take it on the chin.
I got lost in the plumbing story :rofl:

We have water issues (and air lock issues) at one of our listings.
I would say this:

  1. Change the malfunctioning/ leaking toilet
    Given the drama that results from loss of water both in terms of absence of water, air locks, etc it’s better to just replac e the toilet.
    It’s cheaper than all the drama and hassle associated with loss of water.
    You dont need the drama and this is as good enough reason as any to upgrade that toilet.
    Once it’s mentioned in one review, subsequent guests that experience any water issue will continue to mention it until you sort out the problem.

  2. If the toilet has a problem, we have ourselves experienced an issue where a toilet quietly empties the tank over a few hours, because the water continues running throughout I.e. Even after flushing and filling, it continues running - it may not be noticeable but if you look in toilet bowl, it may appear that there is a slight continuous ripple in the water surface.
    Usually means a problem. With the. Floater or valve meant to stop the flow of water once the toilet tank is full. When it doesn’t work properly, the water just keeps trickling indefinitely!
    Again, if the plumbers are unable to fix the issue, replace the toilet altogether.

  3. regarding air locks, how to get those out depends from house to house.
    In our case, running the shower downstairs for awhile eventually sorts out the problem. However, it can take days of doing this.
    Installing a pump to force water through coukd also be a remedy of sorts, but we notice, it can exacerbate the problem sometimes.

Bottom line, you are better off ensuring the water doesn’t run out then having to deal with air locks, bad reviews, etc.

Hi @AquaticQuests,

Thank you for the comments.

So, some updates on this thread.

We changed the water line to the guest bathroom. It was around 200 feet of pipe - this is the bathroom that is furthest away from the tanks. It was iron (probably galvanized), but I’m told that’s not considered suitable material for pipes these days, at least not here. I was told (I didn’t verify this) that the interior rusts, so the available pipe space gets narrower and narrower. So it was replaced by plastic/PVC. Which apparently isn’t very strong, but I suppose you can’t have everything. The water pressure in the bathroom has gone from non-existent to pitiful, which I suppose is an improvement.

As mentioned above, there was a problem with water leaking from the toilet bowl. This appeared to be a problem with the toilet flush. It seems the ballcock was defective, but it was too hard for the plumbers to figure it out. We had multiple plumbers look at it, at least 3 different groups. A couple of different people were ready to change the flush mechanism, and in fact we asked one person to go ahead and do it. Fortunately, in hindsight, he didn’t show up at the agreed time, didn’t call me, and didn’t pick up his mobile phone when I called him (a number of times). We won’t be using him again. One of the people who works for us (who isn’t actually a plumber) figured out, and convincingly demonstrated to me, that the ballcock was the problem. So we had the aforementioned Shankar change it.

Anyway, as of right now, I no longer see water leaking from the bowl (I’m still checking periodically). The daily water level in our water tanks is still dropping at a rate I consider faster than reasonable, and faster than it was before, but I don’t know what could be causing that. I’m fairly sure that guests are not responsible, because it happens whether they are here or not. A couple of days it was down 4 points, but there were no guests here.

You may want to consider blocking off your calendar until you get the problem resolved.

I don’t think the problem is so severe, and I’m monitoring it. But I’m still not sure what is going on. But thank you for the thoughts.