We knew we’d start noticing the differences after settling in. First it was the lack of outlets in the bathrooms. Then we had to figure out how the water works. What we thought was a hot water heater is actually two tanks, the hot water tank and a cistern. Yes, a cistern. Apparently modern homes in the UK and Ireland use an indirect plumbing system. Water from the city main comes directly to the kitchen tap and to a cistern (and an outside tap if present). All the other taps are fed from the cistern. This is why children are taught not to drink the water from any tap except the kitchen. Most homes have the cistern in the attic so gravity does the work, and anything can fall into the cistern, e.g. dead pigeons and squirrels. Yuck. Our cistern is in a closet, so we shouldn’t have to worry about floating rodents, and we have a booster pump to get the water to the taps.

The indirect plumbing system does have some advantages, chiefly that the water pressure is consistent throughout the day. Also, if the water supply is cut off for any reason you still have some water. Still, it’s very strange to this American city-boy who is used to mains-water at every faucet.

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