When we first arrived here in France, the house had no connection to mains water – all the water for the house and farm came from a spring that we have in the ‘garden’ (read ‘field’). We paid up for a connection to the mains water and now only use the spring for watering the occasional vegetable.
Given the good health and old age of the previous owners, who had spent a lifetime drinking from the spring, that was almost certainly unnecessary. In any case it is possible to get spring water checked out, if you want to be sure you aren’t guzzling gallons of pesticides, but you know what us neurotic English are like.
The tap water is usually fine, but about once a month the local water authorities seem to empty some disinfectant in the water – cleaning out their pipes I suppose – and suddenly the water takes on a most peculiar smell and taste, and the children refuse to brush their teeth until it has passed. This has its own hazards, I’m sure you can well imagine.
Of course, we have to pay for the privilege of having ‘town water’, but we get a big discount on our water bill because we don’t have mains drainage. Which brings me to the problem in hand.
Originally there was no septic tank here, just a large concrete container that emptied in a far away corner of the field. It seemed to work fine, and we never had unpleasant smells. But it didn’t meet any of the requirements laid down by law, and we installed two septic tanks (fosse septiques), and two enormous sand and gravel beds, so that the water coming out of our system was almost certainly cleaner than what came in.
Although I have never actually had the courage to taste it, I have to admit.
We were always told that inspectors would be checking that every property had compliant water treatment systems, although it was completely obvious that many of the elderly French hereabouts didn’t have the money or the inclination to install the system.
This magnificent system cost many thousands of euros, in part recouped by the reduction in our water bill. But what happens next? Suddenly great heaps of big blue pipes have appeared along our border, and by the end of winter it looks as if we will have access to mains drainage.
It’s all in the name of progress, of course, but our properties are more than 100 metres from the road. To connect to the mains drainage will be expensive, and if we do we will have two expensive septic tanks sitting empty and have to pay more on our water bill as well.
So if anyone out there wants to make a reasonable offer on 150 cubic metres of sand and gravel, and many metres of perforated drainage pipes let me know. I’m afraid you’ll have to collect it yourself!