Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Well, well, well

I love living in a rural area. We have four acres, but neighbors fairly close if we need them. They cannot, however, peer into our house from their house. Something that could definitely happen at our old house.

The only thing that has been a challenge for me, is having a well and using well water.
The water is hard. Really hard. Really, really hard. Did I mention it was hard?
We have spent thousands of dollars softening the water.
We have spent thousands of dollars replacing appliances that use water.
We have lived in this house nine years.

We have replaced the washing machine, 4 hot water heaters, one water softener, two hot water circulators, a shower head and the dishwasher. The scale that the particulates leave behind is amazing. I often wonder, in my wildest nightmares, what the circumference of the water pipes is. I envision them becoming completely clogged with scale and having no water at all. The hot water in Pearl's shower is now at a trickle.
The water, even though it is softened, also eats metal. It has eaten the finish off all the water faucets in the house. It ate a hole in a pipe that brings water to the hot water heater.
Woe to the person that fails to use the squeegee on the doors of the showers. It will begin to look frosted in a matter of a couple days.
This summer, we had a whole different problem with the well water---potentially not having any. We were in 'exceptional' drought conditions. Barely any measurable rain in two years. Folks' wells were going dry. We had the pump protector installed mid-summer to (surprise) protect the pump. You see, if your pump is working and it starts pumping air instead of water, it burns up. It melts the casing. What that means is, a new well has to be dug. A modest estimate for that new well would be $15,000-$20,000! The pump protector is made to shut the pump off, if it starts pumping air. Money well spent.

We have, since September, received a fair bit of rain. The aquifer has risen and the threat of the well going dry has diminished greatly. That's why this morning's surprise of no water was befuddling. The well head had survived the hard freeze we'd had. That wasn't it.
The pump protector was showing a flashing light on "load". Don't know what that means exactly, but it meant no water in the house.

Our saving grace is our swimming pool and our 5 gallon, reverse osmosis(RO) tank under the kitchen sink still had water in it. We heated the pool water on the stove for washing hair and bodies. The RO water is for brushing teeth. Pool water comes in handy for flushing toilets as well.

I believe it's time to think about a rainwater catchment system. We have lots and lots of roof. If it only rained an inch, we'd get hundreds of gallons of water off our roof. I know cisterns, as they used to be called, were very popular when water was scarce and wells were shallow. Our well is 902 feet deep. They were either used to hold rainwater or well water. With the invention of deeper wells (drilling) and electric pumps, they went out of fashion.
Fashion or no fashion, it makes sense. Another thing about rainwater---it's soft. It has no particulates, no limestone. Our hair, our clothes, our drinking water, and our appliances would so much better off.

Ah, but what if it doesn't rain? We'd have an empty water tank, right. The thing is, water can be hauled in from a city water source. Believe it or not, the price is not exorbitant.

"Water, water everywhere, but nor a drop to drink."
S.T. Coleridge
Rime of the Ancient Mariner

I know, I know, it's about sailing and being surrounded by seawater, but it seems appropriate this morning.


  1. One of the not so pleasant points of rural living, our pump went out on the well this year, but it was twenty years old and time to replace.

    Our biggest problem is when the power goes out, the water gone also. Living closer to the coast we have to start filling water tanks when hurricane threaten, were just close enough to be out of harms way, but risk the chance of no power.

  2. Wow...and I thought my water was bad. I'll be interested to hear what the cause of your current dilemma is - hope you're able to resolve it quickly and without breaking the bank. I haven't had to replace anything except for one faucet so far, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time. You know about the miracle of Lemishine, I hope.

  3. What a bummer!
    I've always wanted to have a house with a well, so I wouldn't have to be so dependant to water companies. I also wanted a house totally solar and off-grid, too.

    We are the last neighborhood in this area that has community water. We don't have wells here, though we do have a septic tank.

    All the homes south of us have wells and most are bone dry. It's common sight seeing trucks driving past our house, towing trailers with very large plastic water tanks on them.
    All of their water is trucked in. Even with wells dug 900-1,000 feet deep, they can't touch the water.

    We have a fire hydrant on our road and we've caught several people pulling up to it and trying to refill their water tanks off of it, too.

    Good thing you have that pool, but I suppose you can't drink the water from it, right?

    I hope you can figure out something to get your water working again. Have you also tried a reverse osmosis system?


  4. Am thinking your 'well' is the same as our 'bore'?? We pump from underground through closed pipe (well, to me, conjours images of an open hole and a bucket on a rope!).

    As ours goes low it turns very muddy - as a result everything that requires water here is a shade of terracotta! We use rainwater (harvested from roof and stored in tanks) for bathing, washing up - and washing clothes when the bore water gets too filthy!

    The joys of living close to Mother Nature!!

  5. I hope you figure out that well issue. I love the little garden rain barrel we put in this year. I use it in the outside sink too, and when I wash my hands there, the water is so incredibly soft it feels as though I can not get the soap rinsed off! I just rinse a few minutes and figure it must be gone, even though my hands still feel slippery with soap! Amazing. So very different than hard well water....

    I will pray you don't have to drill a new well!

  6. parents suffer with these same issues. I remember going through it as a kid...ugh. Sorry for the pain in the butt you are dealing with...
    and as my grand-pappy always said...
    May your spit stay wet and your feet stay dry

  7. Jim, nice to 'meet' you. Our power seldom goes out because all our lines are underground (knock on wood). Twenty years is good long time for a well pump!

    Linda, yes, I do know the miracle of Lemishine! Saves the dishwasher and all the dishes in it.

    Lisa, keep your city water! :) As for having a whole house RO system. It would be great, but it takes too long for them to do their thing and it makes the water pressure go down to nothing. We have a small tank under the sink for drinking.

    BB, I'm thinking the same thing for our house. Rainwater collection and keep the well for watering the gardens, occasionally washing a car,--outdoor stuff. We have what you would consider a bore. Our well is lined, but only about 750 ft. of the 902 ft. depth.

    Penny, I ssoooo want a rainwater collection system. We'll see??? I haven't priced them.

    Warren, I like your grandpa!

  8. Ceecee, I'm glad I tapped (sorry!) into this because I am obsessed with rainwater collection and I was born to it! We in Oz expect to see large tanks attached to houses and sheds as the norm in rural areas. Materials are concrete, poly; steel is becoming more popular.

    Some city councils have promoted tank usage for laundry and toilets, and outdoor use; often though they've encouraged small tanks which don't fit with the rainfall pattern and long droughts.

    Our acreage place which is rented out has 4 x 5000 gal tanks in an integrated system. On 20 December, a storm dropped 4 inches in less than half an hour and I had to realise that losing most of that from leaves blocking inlets was education for the tenants. The dam is full to the brim and these people only use it to top up the pool.

    I'd call your well a bore too.