Real Estate

How to Keep the Water Flowing in Your Mexican Home

Woman Showering

By Ed Kunze

The majority of Mexico is not served by pressurized water systems, requiring some ingenuity to regulate the water pressure in your home. In the US and Canada, all you have to do is turn the handle and you will get an even and constant water pressure throughout your home, including on the second story. This is not usually the case in Mexico.

The most common system for households is to have an underground cistern, which the lower pressure domestic water line from the street will gradually fill. The cistern is usually large enough to hold a few days water supply, because the domestic street water may be intermittent or only available once every few days. The cistern will have a float valve in it to shut off the street water when it is filled, preventing it from over-flowing.

From the cistern, the water is pumped up to a storage reservoir on the roof. These reservoirs are called tinacos, and even though they can be made of concrete or other materials, they are usually made of black or beige plastic. Like the cistern, the tinaco also has a float valve inside so it will not overflow when filled.

The pump at the cistern is usually driven by an electric motor, with either a manual electric switch at the cistern pump, or an automatic switch attached the float valve in the tinaco. After the pump gets the water to the tinaco from the cistern, gravity does the rest of the work. If you take a shower upstairs, there may be very little water pressure, because the water level in the tinaco may only be about five feet above the shower head; for this reason, some tinacos are placed on a small tower above the roof to yield additional pressure in upstairs showers.  If you shower downstairs, you will have plenty of pressure and volume.

There are a number of important considerations to take into account when you choose a water system for your Mexican home, including whether to install a tinaco on the roof and how to hide it effectively, whether to install a hydro-pump system that ensures an even and constant water pressure throughout the home, and how to deal with running costs and power cuts, especially if you live in an area where electricity outages are more frequent.  There are also additional considerations to factor-in, depending on whether you live by the sea, or inland—to ensure your home’s water system works well and delivers a reliable service.

Ed Kunze’s excellent eBook, Buy, Build or Improve Your Home in Mexico is a comprehensive guide to owning a home here. The book covers home water systems in detail, and virtually every other aspect of home build and maintenance.  It’s an essential reference handbook for anyone who is planning to own a house in Mexico and especially if you plan to build it, or extend your existing property, or improve it in some way—and want to maintain it properly.  The eBook is available for immediate download from our eBooks store.

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  1. fred says

    amazon for solar panels. free shipping prime but they are at least double what they are in the states.
    goto a marina’s swap meet youll find them…and yes put in a set of golf cart batteries, solar panels and an inverter for your pump. then if you get your power knocked out your fine. keep solar off grid. i suggest you seperate ea solar system for ea house system. meaning lots of $$ in batterys and panels and whatnot but wtf do it where your systems wont drain on ea other.
    for instance one for fridge. one for tv’s. and wifi. one for lights. one for water. good luck.

  2. fred says

    yeah but bacteria is the least of your problems. what about us over here (other part of mx) where we have metals and poisons like arsenic

  3. Bliss Wilson says

    I believe that the UV lights don’t kill parasites & amoebas which are a serious problem down here. I painted my tinaco pink & am about to paint a huge Dengue mosquito on it.

  4. MITCH says

    A cistern and tinaco is a good way to go
    I live in Mazatlan and do not have a cistern but I have 2 tinacos 1850 liters of water
    The city water pressure is enough to fill the tinacos at night
    I installed a 1 hp pressure pump on the roof so have pressure for the whole house
    Tinacos come in a tan color so are not ugly
    UV lamps are ok but it MUST be located at POU / point of use like under your kitchen sink & UV lamps only kill bacteria
    You don’t have purified drinking water using a UV lamp
    You must have an reverse osmosis system to have purified drinking water
    I have been in the water business since 1994

    • Jon says

      Mitch, Tell me more about installing a pressure pump on the roof. How? Just cut into the water pipe leaving the tank and place the 1 hp motor? Does the motor run all of the time? I’m a Newbie to this type of system.

  5. Bill & Veronica Howe says

    Got to agree with Geraldo’s observation. My wife’s rental house in Merida had the tinaco system w/very low pressure street level pressure to fill it.I wonder why solar panels could not be used on a frame on the sunny side of the tank ? Prevent direct sun on tank and perhaps run a small pressure system ?

    • Jim says

      Thus is an excellent idea. Do you know of a source for solar panels in Mexico?

      • Ed Kunze says

        Solar panels are new here in Mexico, and the CFE is allowing them. They are available. When I originally wrote this article about water to your home, solar panels were not yet accepted, or available. It is a great idea, because in times of no electricity, you would still have the ability for water.

        • Pat aherne says

          The inverter in a solar system is designed to cut out during power brown out. It’s a safety feature. Should you desire solar power in this scenario then consider an off grid/non grid tied system that will suit your particular situation. Solar panels require a lot of space but will have an eventual financial return and other benefits.

  6. Geraldo says

    I agree that the pila system (water tank with submersible pump) is a great way to go but these posters are missing an important point. The author mentioned that many Mexican villages have unreliable power supplies and without power your pila is useless. Even with a good power supply, if you live in an area prone to chubascos and occasional hurricanes, you could be without power for weeks or more. At least with a tinaco, you have a supply of gravity-fed water. And for you eco-warriors, it is as low-tech as you can get!

  7. doug says

    I totally agree with the submersible pump and pressure tank, and uv lights. had that system here in Mazatlan for three years now and not a problem.

  8. panaharoldo says

    An alternative to the unsightly tinaco is to dig your own well and have an air pressure tank. It cost us about $4K usd to install a 21 meter well with submersible pump, 5 gallon air pressure pump, and whole house ultraviolet water filter to kill any bacteria. This did not cost much more than going the cistern, tinaco, and tower route explained in this article. The payoff is 24*7 clean and pressurized water without the ugly tank on our roof, as well as independence from any conditions associated with availability and health qualities with the public water supply.

  9. Charles Bates says

    Great piece of information on the water system for a home in Mexico. My wife and I are planning to buy a home in Mexico and this article has been an extremely helpful eye opener.

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