OK , here we are! We have a producing well. Yay! The pump is connected, but not turning on. Paul heads out to troubleshoot near the end of the day and runs out of daylight. He'll be back in the morning to continue the search, and decides to leave the cap off the well for the night.
The next morning he heads back down to eventually determine that the problem was indeed in the well. The well guys came back out that same day and pulled the pump back up from the depths for a look. Sure enough, there was a defect somewhere in the 720 feet of wire running down the well. The entire 720 feet had to be replaced. One of those highly unusual problems that seem to only happen to us.
The sick part was that when the pump was pulled back out, it brought bits and pieces of squirrel with it! Yuck! So, they rigged up a fishing line of sorts in hopes of lowering it back into the well and snagging the rest of the squirrel carcass. It did not work. We ended up bombing the well with bleach and letting it sit a few days. Then, pumped the fouled water. We never did find any more evidence of squirrel in the water. No smells, fur, or weird taste. Water test results showed no bacteria. Our wish for the problem to disappear came true!
Never leave the well uncapped. Not even for a night.
Dirty Rotten Squirrel
We Really DID NOT See
This One Coming
We thought it would be nice to get a head start on the well and perhaps have it ready to rock & roll by the time we moved to Colorado.
Following common protocol for this area, we got a referral for a local water dowser. She went out to the property and found a spot she felt confident would provide a good supply of water.
Soon after, we put down our $3.5K deposit and had a local well drilling outfit come out and get started. Let the cash hemorrhaging begin! Being the greenhorns we were, we had in mind a depth of 100, maybe 200 feet.
Drill they did. 200...300...400...500 feet and only a "whisp" of water. However, the methane blasting from that well could have heated a mansion. We had to stop. The budget was blown. Our driller sympathized with our situation and extended an offer. He suggested that since the equipment was still set up, we continue drilling. If they didn't hit water by 1,000 feet, we wouldn't be charged for the additional 500 feet. Compelling, but it still didn't sit well. A water well possibly 1,000 feet deep? We decided to pass on the offer and have them cap it up.
So, we paid the total $12K already racked up and put the project on hold until we got ourselves moved to the mountains.
Absurd: Those pesky assumptions. Why would the well depth be any different than the Midwest?
Sensible: Chances are, the more you are elevated from the nearest valley, the deeper you'll have to drill. Folks living down in the valley actually do have wells 100 to 200 feet deep.
"Curiouser and Curiouser"
Here we are in Colorado! The house is built. Like most folks here, we have been hauling water from town. A year has past and we're ready to revisit the well scene. All confidence is lost with the original well location and we decide to start over from square 1.
Our driller recommends we try the other local dowser this time. Why not? The new dowser comes out and explains that he has a slightly different approach to water dowsing. Instead of focusing on water, he focuses on the large cracks in the rocks below. It is here the best water sources reside. OK, makes sense.
He came up with 2 promising locations. One was about 15 feet from the front door and the other was about 20 feet from the original well location. "X" marks the spot near the original location and drill away we did...once again. 400...500...600...700ft. Then Eureka! At 710 feet, we hit a 4+ gallon per minute "gusher". That's actually pretty good for around here. They drilled an additional 50 feet to create a silt trap. This is where silt and debris could settle without interfering with the pump.
The guys finished the process of installing the well liner and pump.
So far the well setup has worked great and over time the water quality has improved!
Absurd: At this point it was nearly unspeakable to ponder, "I wonder what would have happened if we would have just continued drilling at the original site?"
Sensible: Let it go...move on.
Absurd: A total cost of $42K for water! That's almost embarrassing.
Sensible: As long as fracking doesn't rupture our well casing, we have water!! In the early 2000s drought, local towns were no longer selling water to haul. Perhaps we'll be spared in the next bad drought situation.
Absurd: The whole methane thing! The 2nd well was blowing methane too. Wish we had a picture, but at one point when the guys were shrink wrapping electrical connections, they accidentally lit about a 10' torch over the well. I saw it from the house. Make sure to read our methane story in the YIKES!! section.
What we might do differently: Hire both dowsers and get them to agree on a site. Ask better questions in advance about area well depths for a reality check BEFORE even starting to drill. Maybe even do all this BEFORE purchasing the property.
With Well Water
Filtration for Drinking Water
A 450 gallon cistern made just for the pick-up. Filler up in town. Empty into the cistern at home. 3-5 cents per gallon. Delivery services are available for a premium...or dig a well.
We had started with a smaller, under sink model. But, found that our 30-50 psi line pressure did not jive well with the 40-60 psi suggested by the manufacturer. The well water needed more push to get it through the filtration. Also, the 3 gallons of waste water to 1 gallon of drinking water ratio was a little disturbing. Our new system has a much better 1:1 ratio. The 120v pump pushes the water through much more effectively. This system takes care of the remaining dissolved solids and high fluoride issues.
Our well water provides interesting challenges to the health of our indoor, outdoor, and greenhouse plants.
For the most part this is due to the higher than average well water pH levels. The more tolerant xeric garden plants seem less affected as they are fed mostly by rain water. In addition, they are already acclimated to the high alkalinity of the soil they grow in. But, during years of lower rainfall, even the xeric plants appreciate a little drink here and there.
As for the indoor plants, we had a struggle trying to figure out what the problem was. They came into the house happy and then began either failing to thrive, or going down the road of a slow painful death. It was a huge frustration.
Here is what WE THINK we figured out. The higher alkaline water creates a slime coating over the roots, preventing them from soaking up water and nutrients. Then, the roots rot and add to the demise of the plants. This "Ah Ha" would explain why after watering the indoor plants the old way, the soil would stay moist a month or more after watering.
Once we learned the symptoms pointed to elevated pH levels we purchased a batch of pH test strips and started experimenting. First, we tried adjusting the level with good ole vinegar. It took about 1/4 cup in our 2 gallon watering can to bring the level down to a 5 or 6. Then, over time, both the indoor and outdoor plants began to burn out. Fail...
The next attempt was a purchase of "pH Down" from Walmart. It did a good job, the plants were happy. But, it was pricey. We had planted a good size batch of hearty, water wise natives last year. Until established, these little guys need attention with regular watering. The pH Down went fast. So, We looked again at reviews of other products.
The fix we are using now, is powdered citric acid. We started in the fall, so the guinea pigs are the indoor plants. We made up a huge batch of pH adjusted tap water, added a little Dyna-Gro plant food, took the plants to the kitchen sink and flooded the heck out of them. It was important to try and flush as much of the root slime as we could. From then on, normal waterings when needed.
Over the course of the next couple months, the waterings became more frequent and the plants were drinking again. They began to actually green up and grow! So far, the one-two punch of the citric acid and Dyna-Gro works. The powdered citric acid is less expensive and you need to use less for an adjustment. It is potent stuff. So you want to avoid touching it or accidentally rubbing it in your eyes. Just use care and common sense. Because of our nutrient depleted water, I use a light dose of a few drops of Dyna-Grow with each watering.
We're hoping for equally good results with the outdoor plants. Especially, the scattering of annuals. They seemed especially sensitive to alkalinity.
Over time, there has been good improvement in the water quality. We no longer have to use an iron filter, and the amount of sediment is far less, making the filters last a lot longer.
We currently use a simple 2-part system for the water coming into the house. It includes a carbon filter to remove tastes and smells, and a string filter for fine sediment. This in itself provides very nice, water for general use. We are only changing out the filters once a year at this point. Here are the main components:
Filtration for General Use
High alkalinity of well water and outdoor soil.
If you like to garden, pay attention to the water pH and know that making an adjustment is doable. Add potting soil to the soil around where your annuals go in. This will help neutralize the soil environment. Garden mostly with native plants that are already accustom to alkaline soils.
We experimented with both the tap water and the RO, drinking water. The RO water with far less dissolved solids needed about half the amount of citric acid to achieve the desired pH. Although, we presume the RO water also contains less nutrients.
More info in article to the left, Watering Plants With Well Water.
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