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.

 

 

Water Rights 2014

As the drought continues in California, water rights will probably become more interesting to many of us, like this local Willits reader who said, “Recently at a road association meeting in my Willits neighborhood, water rights came up. A neighbor said that the superior water right holder for our area was the Brooktrails Township, even though I live miles away from the Township on Sherwood Road within the Spring Creek Subdivision.

“So here are my questions: How would a property owner determine who holds the superior water rights in their area? And what are the implications of such a designation? Also, what criteria are used to determine who holds such rights?”

In response, John Baron of Redwood Empire Title Company, shared his knowledge (and information from the California Water Resources Control Board).

1. Many water rights records are housed at the State Water Resources Control Board. The records are not searched by title companies and do not show up on preliminary title reports.

2. State water licenses cannot be transferred in escrow. The new buyer has to apply to the state after buying the property to transfer the license.

3. Water flowing above the ground is regulated by the state, including springs that flow above the ground from the property where the spring originates onto other lands. If the spring begins on your property and stops flowing above the ground on your property, then it isn’t regulated.

4. Wells that lie within the underflow of streams and rivers are regulated similarly to pumping out of a river. I’m not sure how they determine at what point you are in the underflow or not, but I once saw the Garcia River on a map with all kinds of lines showing how far the underflow extended. I don’t know how they figure out what is going on under the ground.

5. Riparian rights are very complicated; just because you border a stream doesn’t mean you have riparian rights to pump out of it. You probably don’t.

6. The Department of Fish and Game can affect your water rights as well. I don’t know how to determine their current rulings on any particular stream at any particular time. They can tell you not to shoot deer on your land; they can also tell you not to use water if it interferes with fish or game, especially endangered species. This pretty much trumps any other rights you may have.

7. The state mostly hasn’t started regulating well water yet, unless it is in the underflow of a stream and as long as you use it for a beneficial purpose within the same watershed. This could change if the drought continues.

8. There are only two Brooktrails water rights I know of: (1) one from 1963 for Willits Creek and a tributary, which flow into lake Emily and Lake Ada Rose and provide the water for the subdivision; it is filed with the state, and (2) the right to all the underground and surface water in the entire subdivision, which was reserved from lot owners, and I think eventually deeded to the district by the property developer. I don’t know if anything was filed with the state about that. If you are outside the subdivision in Spring Creek and have a well that is not in the underflow of a stream, I don’t see how the license held by Brooktrails would have any effect on you.

I think Harrah used to own the Spring Creek subdivision and theoretically he could have deeded all of the underground water to Brooktrails, but I have never seen anything to that effect. Water licenses are public information; anyone who wants to see the Brooktrails water license(s) should be able to get a copy from the water board.

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.