January 22, 2008

Neighborly love

rainwater drain pipe, La Ceiba, HondurasLook at the PVC pipe sticking out of the house on the left

Water! One of the most needed and sometimes hardest to get necessities of life in Honduras, it is also one of the biggest nuisances, easiest to have an excess of and hardest to get rid of.

In the first instance, I'm talking about drinkable water, clean water to run through the faucets, water to wash the clothes and clean the house and people with.

In the second instance, I'm talking about water that falls from the sky, runs off the roofs, gushes from the rivers, rushes down the street, and often seeps into the house through the roof, windows, or under the doors.

The typical house in La Ceiba has a tall concrete muro (wall) around it which acts like the sides of a soup bowl, containing the rainwater that falls off the roof and sometimes rising to incredible levels inside.

We quickly found out about that after building our muro. The most common solution is to place PVC pipes through the wall as it is being built or to add them later. This usually results in the roof run off gushing out over the sidewalks − not a nice thing for passersby − or into the neighbor's yard − doubly not nice!

rainwater drainage box, La Ceiba, HondurasOur property is sloped on the sides and in back so that flooding isn't a problem except in the front yard. We solved our problem by building two underground concrete bottomless boxes and running PVC pipes underground from the boxes to the curb, where the water drains into the storm sewer.

We graded the land so that each side of the front yard gently slopes toward those boxes. The boxes are covered with Chihuahua-safe metal grates and have functioned perfectly through several years of heavy tropical rainstorms.

In La Ceiba, many buildings have a drainage pipe which extends over the sidewalk from an upper story or the lower part of the building, making the sidewalk unusable even during the mildest of rain. Since many streets in town flood after every rain, pedestrians can't stay dry on the sidewalks or the streets.

The house in the photo at top has solved their roof water runoff problem by installing a large PVC pipe which will drain their excess water into their neighbor's yard! Sad to say, but this is not an unusual solution.

On very small lots, neighbors will sometimes build their roof so that it overhangs the muro, again draining their water into their neighbor's yard. Sometimes a house will not have a drainage problem until their new neighbor comes along and fills in their lot until it is a few feet higher than their neighbor's lot.
So now the victim not only has to figure out a way with dealing with their own runoff but has to deal with the runoff from two houses.

If there are any building restrictions to prevent this type of abuse, they apparently are not enforced. Neighborly love, ain't it grand?

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