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Well Maintenance Tips


Acreage living brings great benefits but also great responsibilities. Of these, perhaps the biggest of all is taking over the responsibility of your own water supply. If you are a new acreage owner or you are considering country living where there is an existing water well on the property, the learning curve that goes with being your own water utility is interesting and sometimes challenging.

Testing

The quality of your well water is paramount. Problems can cause your family and livestock to sicken quickly. Warning signs include a nasty taste or odor, plumbing fixture discoloration, dirty water, soap residue left on dishes and your just washed clothes, scale in water pipes, and salty tasting water.

Bacteria are found virtually everywhere, and it is possible that your well could become contaminated, especially through fecal coliform from animal or human waste. Therefore it is important that you get a sample of your well water tested for bacteria at least annually. This is relatively inexpensive and can usually be arranged through your local health department.

There are chemicals in your well water too such as, iron, sodium, sulfates, nitrates, and nitrites. If you suspect other metals are present that may cause health concerns such as arsenic, you may request for a specific test at an additional cost. Your local Department of Environmental Quality unit or State Environmental Laboratory will be able to do this. Routine chemical analyses should be carried out every three to five years. Of course, if unexplained sickness occurs within your family or that of your neighbors non-routine testing will be required.

Monitoring your water well

Second on the list from quality is quantity. Make sure your water needs are adequately met. Not every well is the same. It all depends on your aquifer as to just how much water you can draw. Therefore, you'll want to know your water level measurements and record them. Regular measurement of the water level will allow you to observe and log changes and hopefully, spot a problem in its infancy.

Your well's performance could be affected by several factors. Drawing off too much water which depletes the aquifer, a plugged screen (screens are fitted to prevent sand and gravel from falling into the well), a problem affecting the aquifer like disturbance due to construction activities, or a reduction of your aquifer's groundwater recharge rate caused by surface water drainage through land clearance are all things to be aware of.

Kids playing by water pumpYou can ascertain the water level of your well by using a dip tube, a water well sounder, or by using an air line. It is possible to rig your own dip tube or air line for a relatively low cost. The well sounder, also known as a well tape is convenient and accurate and may usually be purchased or rented from water well drilling contractors.

You should take water level measurements when the well is full (non-pumping). First thing in the morning is a good time to do this. Taking monthly readings and recording them will allow you to build a picture of how your well is performing at different times of the year. Usually in shallower wells (less than 200ft deep) there will be seasonal fluctuation with higher levels in the summer that decline towards fall.

You will also want to take measurements when the pump is working. To get a true picture, take a measurement at a consistent point each time after the pump has been operating for a while, two hours is generally good. Again, monthly measuring and recording will allow you to build a picture of how your well is performing; look for significant inconsistencies as potential problem pointers.

Shock Chlorination

Bacteria can live and reproduce in your water well. Iron and sulphate-reducing bacteria are found most commonly. While these bacteria are not usually a direct cause of health problems they leave unpleasant and sometimes costly footprints. One of the tell tale signs that you have iron bacteria is a slime growth on the inside surfaces of your toilet flush tank. Also watch out for: a reduction in your well water supply, blocked or restricted pipes, plumbing fixture and laundry staining, blocked water treatment equipment, and an odor of rotten eggs; the iron bacteria's slime growth is food for sulphate-reducing bacteria, which is where the rotten egg smell comes from.

In order to reduce the presence of iron and sulphate-reducing bacteria a sufficient concentration of chlorine has to be introduced to disinfect your entire well system. It is advisable to get a licensed contractor to do this. This process should be done once or twice a year. If your well has never or rarely been shock chlorinated it is unlikely that the process will have much effect and the licensed contractor will have to thoroughly clean your water well system before the chlorinating process will be effective. Bear in mind that prior to cleaning or shock chlorination you will possibly have to draw off and store enough water to last 48 hours or more (take advice from your contractor).

To do list

  • Test for bacteria annually.
  • Get a routine chemical analysis done every three to five years.
  • Measure your well water levels monthly when the well is full, when it is pumping, and make and keep records.
  • Shock chlorinate your well at least annually, preferably, bi-annually.
  • Look for anything unusual all of the time.

 


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