I am translating a story from El Salvador. In this country, there is a kind of multi-usage water container called, pila.

People use the "pilas" to retain water (for days or months), wash their clothes or dishes, among other things. They tend to have them in their houses, mostly in their backyards or inside. They are often made from stone or cement, and often have a faucet to fill them.

In the rural parts, you can find them in some public places, where you can rent them for a fee to wash your clothes.

The "pilas" look like this:


Personally, I have never seen anything like that in the European countries I have visited or in California.

I tried to Google it, but I could not find any good enough noun. I got suggestions like:

  • water stack
  • communal water supply
  • water font

And many others. You can read some suggestions here:


Personally, none of the suggestions convinced me. Do you know any noun that could represent this thing?

  • 1
    We don't normally use a trough or a set of basins / sinks like that, so there isn't a commonly used word that I know of. Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 9:55
  • Are these public and free for anyone to use? If they are and I was trying to describe it to a friend I would probably call it a communal sink. Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 9:56
  • It's not a font, which is for baptismal water in a church. I have seen old, ornamental examples in Switzerland, where they are called fontaine in French (not the same thing as the English word fountain). See Communal water supply is probably your best bet, or water tap (British)/ faucet (US). Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 9:57
  • 1
    It seems very similar to a sink in function so that's probably what I would call it. From google: "a fixed basin with a water supply and outflow pipe." Used for all the things you described. Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 10:19
  • 1
    You can use an outdoor sink for washing clothes, dishes, rinsing garden tools etc. That people use an open container to store water for weeks or even months at a time seems an excellent breeding ground for all sorts of parasites, insects, mosquitoes and algae especially in hot weather.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 21, 2021 at 6:21

3 Answers 3


The most natural equivalent seems to me to be a water trough. Structures like the one you picture, although not so elaborate and usually of metal not stone, are mostly found in fields in my country (UK) where they are used to store water for animals. Historically they existed in towns when horse transport was common to water the horses. Those may have been made of stone. Similar structures were also used when railway trains were pulled by steam engines to provide the water for the boilers.

The definition in the official Diccionario de la lengua española https://dle.rae.es/pila?m=form seems to suggest that a pila do not have to be made of stone but usually is.

  • Thank you for the idea :). I think I'll add a clarification! Commented Dec 7, 2020 at 11:02

Water Post

Post Here means both “pole” “rod” to which plumbing may be affixed, but also “location”, as in where you get posted to fetch water.

In the anglophone world, this setup is not common for homes. However on farms water posts or drinking posts are used to supply livestock with drink.


Would another word be lavadero? When associated with water for home or public use, the term pila might refer to the water storage part of the whole system, but lavadero might refer to the whole setup. In Texas, esp. Southwest Texas, pila is use for the large, rock tanks built to hold thousands of gallons of water for livestock. Here is a quick reference photo: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/371335931749484270/

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