Water is critical for survival. Life cannot be sustained without it. For those of you who live in the city, you simply turn on your tap and water flows freely; and if it doesn’t, you have a utility company to call for service and fix your water problem.
What do you do if you live out in the country, and you turn on the faucet one afternoon – only to have brown water trickle out and then stop flowing altogether? This happened to us recently! We are normally conservative with our water usage and we’ve also had quite a bit of rain this season, so running our well dry was not an immediate concern… until it actually happened.
How can a well go dry?
There are several reasons a well can go dry.
1.) DROUGHT. We have a shallow well that’s maybe 60 feet deep and taps into a unconfined aquifer. If not enough rain falls to replenish the groundwater, then there isn’t enough water available in the ground to pump out.
2.) NEW WELLS DRILLED IN THE AREA. There were two new homes built up the road from us, which means additional wells drilled into the aquifer. More straws in the bucket means that the bucket gets drained faster, and your straw might now be too short to reach the water level.
3.) USAGE. If water is being removed from the well faster than it can recharge (seep) back in, then the well can go dry. In our well, the 60 foot depth provides us with a column of water that acts as a storage tank. We draw from this column of water, and fresh water seeps back in at a rate determined by the permeability of the rock around it. If we pump out all the water too fast, we end up with no water at all.
What should you do if your well goes dry?
1.) First, check your pump & lines. Sudden water stoppage could be due to equipment malfunction: a dirty filter, a tripped breaker, a well pump giving up the good fight, a leaky water line, and so on. Our pump is less than two years old and still in good working order, and we could find no evidence of a broken or cracked water line anywhere.
2.) Next, wait. Maybe have a beer, you know, cause you’re out of water. It’s possible that the well ran dry simply due to usage. By next morning, our water was back, though it was murky at first due to stirred up sediment.
3.) If your water does not return in a day or so, it’s time to call a well service. There are options for improving an existing well such as drilling deeper or hydrofracturing to open up underground pockets to increase your well’s performance. The well service will be able to tell you what steps are recommended.
What can you do to prevent this issue?
1.) Have your well professionally inspected. Seriously. Do NOT skimp on this. A well service will be able to give you the heads up if there are any concerns that you should be aware of. We were warned when we bought our place that our shallow well might have groundwater issues down the road and that drilling a deeper well might be in our future. So, it’s something we have kept in mind and continue setting aside money for.
2.) Just because you have a well, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t store water! One of the great things about living out in the country and having a well is being a little bit safer with your water supply. But don’t let yourself get lulled into complacency simply because you have a well. You may have more power over your water, but with greater power comes greater responsibility. Make sure you’ve got enough potable water set aside to tide you over for several days if your water dries up suddenly.
3.) Watch your usage. Pamper your well, because drilling a new well can be prohibitively expensive. This means low-flow shower heads, staggering baths and showers, limiting or hand-washing laundry.
The Final Word On Our Well
So what about our personal situation? Our well seems to be functioning great now, after a day of very limited water use. This leads us to believe that we probably just used too much water too fast. I did wash an inordinate amount of laundry the day before we ran dry, as my son had just gotten back from camp; plus the farm doggies got their weekly baths the same day. Now, we’ve got water back, it’s running clear and with good water pressure. We’ll continue to be careful with our water usage and increase our water storage.
We’re also saving up for a new well and well house. While our current well functions just fine as long as we control our usage, we will need a deeper water supply as we expand operations and add an aquaponics system. Our shallow well will not be adequate in the long run for all our future projects. Plans for the new well house also include a solar array and battery bank to power the pump, an external water storage tank, an outdoor produce processing area, and a separate outdoor shower / doggie bath area, so it will be a big project! Once the new well is in place, we’ll have a shallow and a deep well for two sources of water supply, and that will be reassuring.
This little experience was an excellent reminder (and kick in the rear) that we cannot get complacent with our water supply and have to remain good stewards of it!