He leaned over the fence, “Can I borrow your pump ?” he asked, Ron the next door neighbour, Ron the long retired policeman, “I think we’re flooding again”.
In 1961 the houses that we lived in had been built half way down the hill that I now live on top of, which wasn’t a problem as such other than the fact that the developers had carved the land up into building plots without much regard for natural water courses, in fact without any regard for natural water course I’d say, the result being that every house on our side of the street sat square, plumb on top of an ancient stream which in itself would not have been a problem, the houses being built on deep foundations and raised a couple of feet above the natural ground level, but during two of the wettest winters we had seen for a long time the water table had risen almost to ground level and the ancient stream had decided to become active again.
If you lifted up the floorboards in our kitchen in normal, dry times, you’d see a drop of around four feet until you hit the rubble strewn actual floor level but lifting the floorboards in the kitchen during the winter would reveal a stream of varying depth and varying flow, and on some rainy days I’d leave the floorboards up and watch it rise over the course of a day – on one occasion it came to within two inches of the ground floor joists and the thought did cross my mind that there were electric cables down there…
And so I bought a submersible pump and although you could never empty the basement completely in those times of spate you could occasionally win a short lived battle against the water rising too deep.
And I told Ron about the pump, and he borrowed it on several occasions and on several occasions he brought it back the next day shaking his head and mumbling that it hadn’t done much good, which was strange because it always cleared my basement out.
He came to me one Saturday morning and asked to borrow the pump again and I handed it over the fence with its twenty foot of hosepipe so that you could safely run the stream water to the nearest rainwater drain and then away down the street and he mumbled again about how it never really worked for him but the water was quite deep under his house today, and I left him to it.
About eight hours later he came knocking on the door to ask if I’d come and have a look under his house as the water wasn’t pumping away at all, if anything it was getting deeper and sure enough, there was a lot of water under there.
“How long have you had the pump running for Ron ?” I asked
“All day” he answered
This was a surprise as it usually took no more than an hour to pump my basement clear and yet here was his, still filling up, I started to wonder what the hell my basement looked like as we were down the slope from him.
You could feel the hosepipe full of pressurised water, the pump was working well, there was a lot of water being pumped out of his basement so why the hell wasn’t the level going down after eight hours ?
I followed the hose, out of his back door, but not around the corner and down the driveway to the drain as I’d expected – but just onto his back lawn, which was absolutely saturated through having been watered all day.
“I do believe I’ve found your problem Ron” I started
“What ?” he asked
“Where do you think the waters going after its soaked through your lawn ?”
“I don’t know”
“It joins the water table, which at the moment is just a bit higher than the level of your basement”
“You’ve been pumping the same water round and around in a circle all day”
“Its a 2 kilowatt pump as well, thats a lot of electricity”
“Would you like me to put the hosepipe in the drain so that the water goes away ?”
“Aye, go on, do that then”
It pumped his basement clear in 30 minutes.