Plumbing the Depths Pipes, Drains and Your HOA's Water Supply

Of all the modern conveniences we take for granted, perhaps none is as profoundly basic —and indispensable—as indoor plumbing. Carrying fresh water into our homes and taking waste water away, the pipes in our condo or co-op buildings are the fine line that separates us from our not-too-distant (also very aromatic and very unsanitary) urban past. When plumbing fails, it doesn’t take long to realize just how much we depend on it.

Waste Not...

Looking back, it was only a few generations ago when, according to information compiled by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, the state’s “early inhabitants dug canals through the islands and mangrove forests of Florida. They wanted to provide more efficient canoe travel in the coastal areas. The settlers dug wells and built dams on rivers seeking more constant sources of drinking water. As Florida’s population grew, so did competition between urban, agricultural, and industrial interests for dependable, inexpensive water.” (Source: florida/lessons/water/water.htm)

The same report also states that in the 1900s, developers drained swamps and low-lying areas to increase the amount of land available for building homes and growing crops. Indoor plumbing has come a long way from the days of carrying in buckets of well water, but bringing water to the residents of a multifamily building is much different compared to a single family home. It also comes with its own set of challenges.

Although Florida is surrounded by water, having enough drinking water available for its entire population has become a critical issue. Each day, Florida has over 5,900 regulated water systems serving 16 million residents.

“Piping systems are not a lifetime building component—they don’t last forever,” says Josh Shrock, a general contractor and vice president of commercial operations at Specialized Plumbing Technologies in Dania Beach. “Cast iron sanitary pipes have a life expectancy of 50 to 75 years, and properties located on or near the coastline are an exception. Here in Florida, it’s not unusual to see pipes failing prematurely in 25 years or less.”


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  • I am experiencing a sewer backup into my condo, on average, once a month, for the past 4 months. The renters in the unit above mine (who moved in almost 5 months ago) are flushing anything and everything down their toilets. The HOA has done nothing beyond snaking the common sewer line and issuing generic emails to all condo owners about what not to flush. I both own and live full time in this condo. The HOA will not allow me to install a backwater valve in the lateral coming from my condo. At what point does my right to maintain the value of my property supersede the HOA’s decisions? Thanks for your thoughts. KGM, St Petersburg FL
  • I own a condo in CT We are 39 units and cannot find insurance to cover the fresh water pipe which our HOA is our responsibility. I have lived here 27 years and up until now, had no idea was not covered by the water dept nor HOA Insult to injury, we cannot find insurance coverage because we ate condos Help