For many of us, we turn on the faucet, flush the toilet, or take a shower without considering where exactly our clean, potable water comes from. A national average shows that about 90% of the nation’s public water systems use groundwater, or commonly known as a well water. Even if you don’t own your own well, there is a good chance the water you use every day comes from a well. For example, residents in the city of Chico get their water from a system of over 60 wells and almost one third of Redding’s water supply comes from ground water wells! But how does a well work? And how do you maintain your well? Earl’s Plumbing is here to help you out with “Getting to know your Well”!
Water Well Basics
Your well is essentially an access port to an Aquifer: a saturated, porous geological formation. As precipitation and surface water flows percolate through the soil, it reaches a point where all the pores in the ground are filled and gravity ceases to pull it any deeper. This is called the water table, and is the water source for your well.
Anatomy of a Well
- Casing -The Casing is a tube placed within the bore of the well. Its purpose is to prevent the bore from collapsing, and prevent contaminates from mixing with the water.
- Annular Seal -The material between the borehole and casing, used to keep surface water and other contaminates out of the well.
- Pump- The pump is the heart of the well. They come in two main styles – jet pump and submersible. The jet pump sits atop the well and uses suction to pull the water from the well. Most jet pumps require water to work and thus must be primed before operation. Submersible pumps sit at the bottom of the well, and through a series of impellers, push the water out of the well
- Screen -A screen may be affixed to filter out excessive sediment from entering the well. They are usually attached to the bottom of the casing.
- Well Cap- The well cap covers the top of the well and prevents surface water and other contaminates from entering through the top. Typically extended 6-8 inches above the ground, and have a vent to allow for equalization of pressure when the well is being pumped.
- Drop Pipe – The drop pipe is the delivery pipe for the water. When a submersible pump is used, it is affixed to the bottom of the drop pipe.
- Pressure Tank – The pressure tank allows for storage of water under pressure, so that when you turn on your faucet, you are not relying on your pump to provide the supply of water. This allows your pump to cycle less frequently, thus extending it’s life, and saving your wallet.
- Pressure Switch – The pressure switch is what monitors the pressure in your water system and is responsible for signaling the pump to turn on.
The first step in maintaining your water well is to have an annual inspection performed by a qualified professional, like Earl’s Plumbing. A properly maintained well will last you and your family for decades to come, and can save you money in the long run in costly repairs.
What Should Be Checked?
- Flow test, checking the level of the well before and during pump operation
- Check Pump Motor Performance, including amperage draw
- Inspect and test Pressure Switch
- Visual inspection of Well Cap
- Inspect Control Box & Wiring
- Inspect Pressure Tank/Bladder Tank if applicable
- Water Quality Test including testing for Bacteria (Coliform Bacteria), pH Test, and other applicable screenings for your area
- Detailed report of general state of the well, as well as any needed repairs to the system
Other Tips For Maintaining Your Well
In conjunction with your annual Well Inspection, you should keep all hazardous materials away from your well. These include fertilizers, paints, oils, pesticides, etc. Also, periodically visually inspect your well cap for cracks, proper fit, and any signs of tampering. Be attentive to any changes in the behavior of your well. Is the water cloudy? Does it have an odor or odd taste that wasn’t there before? These are all signs that their might be an issue with your well. But be sure to have the quality of your water tested annually as many forms of contamination will not show up visibly or give you water an odor or taste.
Another aspect to maintaining your well is accurate keeping accurate well logs. Keeping track of the findings of your annual check ups and water quality reports can give vital insights into the health of your well and help prevent costly repairs in the future. If you do not already have a copy and are the owner of the well, you can request a copy of the Well Completion Form from the State of California Department of Water Resources, which will have useful information from when the well was constructed and registered with the state.
Finally, if your well has reached the end of its useful life, properly handle the abandonment of your well according to local and state regulations, as this can be a source of contamination of the water table, as well as a danger to the public and wildlife.
Understand Your Wells Problem
Hopefully this brief overview gives you some insight into the inner workings of your well. But if a problem does arise give us a call, and more importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions! There are many varying factors as to why your well might not be performing as expected. For example, if the yield of your well has decreased, it may be due to a drop in the water table. Other times it may be due to a clog in the well casing or mineral encrustation on the screen, or perhaps the state of your pump might be in disrepair. Being informed and confident is essential when moving forward with repairs, and as always, Earl’s Plumbing is here to get any issues with your well Fixed Right, Right Now.