John Rennie's answer to this question got me thinking about the water supply in a house. I know that water supplies are normally operated at an over-pressure with respect to atmospheric pressure to make sure that if you open the tap the water will flow out due to the lower pressure at the exit of the tap (including a correction for pressure losses due to the plumbing and potential height differences).
What I am wondering is how adjusting the tap results in an adjustment of the flow rate from that tap if the water pressure in the main supply is a constant (probably by approximation)? Because in that case the pressure upstream is fixed, the pressure downstream (atmosphere) is fixed so pinching or opening a valve should not change the flow rate.
Obviously it does change the flow rate so there must be something else going on. The only thing I can think of is that the water supply somehow acts as if there are parallel connected (hydraulic) resistances as illustrated in the schematic below which makes sure that the distribution at the flow split can be adjusted. Is that the right thinking or is there a different argument why the flow is adjustable?
(The dashed line indicates some way of rerouting the water back to the mains, although that cannot be a direct connection because that would allow a pressure drop over this section)