Wells and Water

Believe it or not, when you turn on the tap at home, water doesn’t just magically appear. It depends on a well somewhere, whether it’s a well on your property, a private water district, or at a municipal site. Almost all the water we use comes from wells.

For this article, I’m going to talk about wells on your property. The first thing to know is where to drill, and there are two basic schools of thought on this: either use a geologist and experienced well driller or find a water witch (also called a dowser). A geologist and well driller will review soil types, terrain, history of successful wells in the area, and plant life. And while no single one of these (or set combination) will guarantee you won’t find a dusty hole, their input is incredibly valuable. A dowser, on the other hand, will inspect a property while holding a branch or copper rods to divine the most likely spot for water. (I’d put my money on option one, but that’s just me.)

As you think about where to sink a well, consider where your septic system is (and its leach field—you don’t want to be nearby, especially on the downhill side). You should also consider the ease of getting well-drilling equipment in and water back to your house. Ideally, you want a location uphill from your home with sufficient quantity to allow gravity feeding, eliminating the need for a pressure tank.

Once your realtor has recommended a good well driller, it’s time for the expensive part. The well driller will haul his equipment to your property and put a hole in the ground starting with about a four-inch diameter. Once he’s past the surface water (at about 30 feet), you’ll want to him to find water quickly. The sooner he finds water, the less expensive this will be because he’ll have less drilling and casing to do. To create the well, the well driller will drop a pipe into the ground called a casing. The pipe is full of holes and is surrounded by gravel, and that’s how the water gets in. Then you will have to seal the well to prevent surface water from contaminating your well water.

Next, the well driller will install a pump and measure how much water the well can deliver. While everyone would love 15-20 gallons per minute, people usually hear, “Well, you’ve got about a half-a-gallon a minute.” While that might not be enough for a household with six kids, half-a-gallon a minute is fine for a typical family of four for regular domestic use. You may not have an impressive vegetable garden and lush lawn, but you’ll be able to make coffee in the morning and brush your teeth at night.

Depending on the productivity of the well, you will want a holding tank to give you a little cushion. The well will pump water into the holding tank automatically on a 24-hour cycle—pulling water out of the well, waiting for the water to recover, and pulling it out again until the holding tank is full. When it comes to water, you want both quantity and quality (water must be potable). The two types of contamination are bacterial and chemical. Bacteria can be removed with chemicals, ozone treatment, or ultraviolet treatment. Chemical contamination can be addressed with filters and sometimes a chemical treatment. High iron content leaves nasty orange stains on sinks and toilets, and boron—while not harmful to people—is a death sentence to plants (and extremely hard to get rid of).  So, before you spend a bunch of money sinking a well and building the infrastructure it requires, be sure you have sufficient quantity and quality.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, feel free to contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit our website at www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.