The wonderful world of water wells

By: Shannon Lee , Contributing Writer
In: Home Improvement Tips

We recently moved to a home far back in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by forest and all the wonderful things that come with it, we have already discovered many interesting things, including the ferocity of winter storms, intriguing old house foundations, and of course, wildlife -- including the resident chipmunk. We named him Alvin (of course).

We have also discovered the wonders of living in a home that is far off the beaten path. For instance, a backup propane generator is not a luxury; it's a necessity. Managing storm water is a delicate dance of underground pipes and old cisterns. Then there is the issue of water for the house. Municipal water lines stop many miles from here, and so the only option for drinking water is a deep well.

Figuring out the water well has definitely been…interesting.

Troubleshooting our water well

We began with an inspection, as all good potential homeowners do. We discovered that the well is surprisingly deep and has been in good working order for decades, with a few components replaced over time. We also discovered a nasty little surprise called coliform bacteria. Coliforms are mostly harmless bacteria present in soil and water, but when the bacterial count is too high, that's a problem.

The solution: A UV light that attacks the pathogens in the water. Shortly after installation, our water got a clean bill of health.

Within a month after that, I turned on the tap to find brown water. Needless to say, there was no cooking at home that night. Instead, we spent the evening doing some research and found that our sediment filter had bit the dust, so to speak. A few days and a new installation later, and we had beautiful, clear water.

Then the water pressure vanished.

This time we wound up calling in a professional contractor to figure things out. Fortunately, it was an inexpensive and easy pressure gauge repair, and we had even better water pressure than before.

Unfortunately, the contractor found another problem: The pressure tank was installed in the back of the basement many years ago, and the furnace was installed in front of it. That means that if the pressure tank needs repair, we will have to pull out the furnace in order to get to it.

So our next project: Reconfiguring the setup in the basement!

Tips for keeping your water well safe

We are definitely learning as we go when it comes to this well, including a few things that are on the "absolutely must do" list. This includes regular testing and preventative maintenance -- remember, catching a little problem early on can prevent a very big problem later. To get these things done properly, go with a qualified contractor who understands any special requirements or problems unique to your geographical area.

One of the most important ways to keep your well safe and healthy is to learn like crazy. Become very acquainted with your well by tagging along when the contractor inspects it, watching any repairs, and asking a ton of questions. Don't forget to take notes -- you don't want to forget what you learn.

Figure out everything from how to troubleshoot your well to making simple repairs. Knowing these things will save you a great deal of panic and worry - and maybe even money- when your water pressure disappears.