View Full Version : Restarting a well

12-17-2010, 03:13 PM
This is kind of a follow-on to Wolfmoon's post, I had a few specific questions and did not want to hijack his thread.

Anyhoo - after some question asking and looking about, I have found the actual well site - right under my feet! The well cover is a concrete slab that I have been using as a grilling deck for years. There is an access cap (also concrete) that seems pretty tight. I have not had the opportunity to pop it open, though I plan on some intensive recon this weekend.

After some reading here and elsewhere, I plan on draining it as much as I can to refresh the water, remove any ickyness (critters that fell in and the like) and also do my best to measure the flow. The question is: is there anything else other than having the water tested that I need to worry about?

I am totally stoked about getting a well up and running for back up water and irrigation!

12-17-2010, 06:34 PM
Measure how deep the well is, and attempt to ascertain how the well fills. If the water source is from below 25 ft. (meaning the casing is solid to that point) it should be good to use. Get it sampled for coliform and fecal coliform bacteria and nitrates. Keep the well head area clean as you work on it so that you don't introduce contaminants.

If the well is less than 25 ft. deep or is subject to run off you shouldn't drink the water.

12-17-2010, 07:31 PM
Thanks for the tips!

I'm pretty sure the source is less than 25 ft. I don't plan on drinking straight from this well, I'll be using some kind of purification process for drinking water. However, barring contamination, could I use it for irrigation straight out of the ground?

I know that's a pretty "city" question, but I prefer to err on the side of caution and endure some ribbing here, than endure sickness or bad crops.

12-18-2010, 05:54 AM
It would be just fine for irrigation. All of our "grey" water goes for watering purposes. COngrats on finding your source.

12-18-2010, 07:06 AM
Congrats on finding your well!!!!! Within reason, regardless of of the condition you have a water source. It's now simply a matter of putting into place what you need to make the water safe to drink.

Yes, flush the well thoroughy, then get it tested. While 25' is a good rough guideline with regards to safety, it's not an absolute. Remember some springs yield high quality water, even though the spring casing is only a couple of feet deep.

Once you know the flow rate and the quality of the water, you'll be all set to complete your self-reliant water system. You may be fortunate and don't have to do anything, other than maybe shock the well with chlorine bleach, then having it re-tested.

Unless you have a chemical contamination or very high fecal content, you can use the water from the well for everything that doesn't involve direct human/animal injestion. (Drinking, brushing teeth, cooking, etc.) Waterng the garden is fine. As is doing laundry, as long as you use bleach and/or the sun to sanitize. (Run a separate line to the washer if you have a pressurized pump, so there's no tie in to the rest of the water lines in the house, if the water can't be used for drinking without taking additional steps.)

Do let us know how your well turns out and what you're going to do once you get the results. The more info people can share, based on their own experiences, the more that all of us can be better prepared, with regards to topics like this one.


12-20-2010, 02:21 PM
After a bit of recon, I have found that the concrete slab/lid does not lead to a well: is is most certainly a septic tank! A (roughly) 3x5x6 one that seems to been in good repair, except for being full of Granpa's poop. yech!

The pump that we though pulled from this "well" (~ 70 ft. away) actually goes straight down into a pair of 3" pipes. GPaw had it set up to pump out to irrigation pipes. Unfortunatly, those pipes have been torn all to hell and corroded over the last few decades so they are unusable, except as scrap. The pump itself is of the 220v electric variety and when plugged in, tries it's best to go but seems seized up. I dunno, something about "being left to rust and rot for 15-odd years" comes to mind as a reason.

At this point, I don't know if the existing well is useable. I'm thinking that it might be better to drive a new one down and use a hand pump and filter from there. I have looked into a few hand pumps online, but there seems to be a lot of confusion over good ones to use. I was hoping for a little help here, I have some pretty modest parameters here:

- Human powered
- Shallow well (~20 ft.)
- Somewhat cheap, < $100 or so.
- Durable. I know there are wear parts, but some reviews reported pumps failing after only a few days This is no bueno.

That about does it! I think my next weekend adventure will be to actually try to drive a well down to see if I can hit water at less than 20 feet (the depth most shallow pumps are rated for).

12-20-2010, 02:46 PM
I haven't been following all the posts on previous threads, so excuse me if I'm off base here.

I gather that you already have a source of water, and you want the shallow well as a backup and or irrigation source?

If so, you can "drill" your own well. Use a 1/2" steel pipe nipple with one end smashed in to create a jet of water. Connect that to a 3/4" pipe (steel is best, but PVC will work) and that to a garden hose. Turn on the water and just start poking the "drill bit" end into the ground. It will sink to 4 or 5 feet quickly. Use some 4" PVC (larger if you want) to case the well and just keep washing the dirt out of your well. When you hit water, go as much deeper as you want to provide a reservoir and space for dirt to settle. Keep pushing the well casing down as you go so the well hole doesn't widen too much and prevent dirt from washing out of the hole.

When you decide to stop drilling, remove the casing and install your screen and drop it all back in the hole.

With a 20' water table, it should be a piece of cake.

12-20-2010, 03:02 PM
Wow, I never though of using my hose as a water jet, that should be MUCH easier than hammering pipe in! I also have pretty soft/moist soil, so it should be double-easy.

As far as purpose, this well will be for irrigation primarly and back up in case the utilities fail, I am on city water but would like to wean myself off a bit at a time to become a little more self-sufficent.

Just to clarify: I would use the PVC just as a casing, and then drop another pipe down just for the pump? This is after pulling the PVC out from the drilling and installing a mesh screen to filter out debris, correct?

12-20-2010, 03:31 PM
Sure. You just need something on the bottom that will let water get into the hole but not dirt. They make slitted pipe for that, but you can use lots of things, such as regular Sched 40 4" pipe with lots of 1/2" holes drilled in it, and then fiberglass window screen wrapped and glued around it. Mostly it just depends on how much you want to invest and how willing you are to do repair work in a couple years.

The pump will always have a separate pipe, whether it's manual or electrical.

12-20-2010, 03:42 PM
Excellent, I'm glad I understood all that! It sounds like this will be a fun project - maybe I can get The Wife involved to.

As far as the initial investment is concerned, it seems like 30 odd feet of 4" Sched 40 PVC, glue, fittings, a hose nipple for smashing and some window screen is all really need? In addition to some sweat and time, of course!

I'll just use string and a small cup or something to clear out the well and get water for testing before I invest any further in a real pump. I'd hate to go through all the work and expense just to have a problem with water quality.

12-20-2010, 04:21 PM
Well, not a "hose nipple." A pipe nipple. It's a regular piece of steel 1/2" pipe, only short, say 6" long or so, but the length really isn't important. The idea is to smash the end of the pipe so it makes a jet of water to cut into the dirt. Using steel pipe for the "drill bit" will also let you smash through any rocks you might encounter, assuming they aren't too big. To keep the hole straight, you also need a fairly stiff longer pipe to feed the "bit" down the hole. A garden hose would work, but it will bend and could go anywhere.

Once the well is done, it will have a lot of dirt in the bottom and will take a fair amount of pumping to get to clean water. I suppose you could wait a few days for the dirt to settle, but your water will still have any contaminates that might be present from both the casing and the well itself.

Regular well drillers recommend letting a regular pump run for 24 hours before drinking or testing the water. They also say that the more you use a well, the better the well will be.

Something you might consider after you strike water and case the well would be to rent a pump of whatever size you think would do the job. Probably $20-$30 dollars a day for a gasoline powered irrigation pump. That will also let you determine the production of the well, that is, the number of gallons per minute (GPM) it will produce. If you ever intend to use it for household or irrigation water, that's a number that would be handy to know.

12-20-2010, 05:00 PM
Ah, I think I have it now, I'm glad I asked, or I would have just screwed the nipple onto the hose directly and ended up making a deep puddle instead of a well!

Looks like next paycheck or so I'll be trying this out.

12-20-2010, 05:20 PM
Brrr!! Playing in the water in January? I say again, BRRR!! <GGG>

Hope your next check doesn't come until it warms up some.

Good luck with it. I sure hope you get good water.

oh, and a PS -- this method relies on the flow of water to flush the dirt from the bottom of the hole to the surface. So, the more water you can get into the hole, the better it works. The purpose of pushing the casing down as you go is to prevent the top of the hole from getting so big that the water flow isn't fast enough to push the dirt out to the surface. If your bit stops going down, you can try using a smaller casing pipe and then enlarging the hole for the 4" casing.

12-20-2010, 10:11 PM
Glad you didn't try to drill through the septic tank! That would have been unpleasant, to be sure, LOL.

Just a thought - you said you're on city water. As you move forward with jetting in your shallow well, try to do it behind a fence or tree or something. Most municipalities will not allow someone who is on city water to drill a well. Don't be surprised if they try to cause you trouble on it.

12-21-2010, 09:52 AM
Big Ditto on that!

Around here, when county water lines are run, all wells are condemed. They inspect to make sure the wells are disconnected when the tap is done for the county line.

Well permits are required here, too. Can't get a permit if the county line is available.

Keep your well a secret, even if there aren't any restrictions now with regards to your city water and having a well. That can change next week, as we're being "regulated" to death with what we can/can't do on our own property. If no one knows about your well they can't stop you from using it. Just take the approach that what you're doing in your back yard is nobody's business. Take whatever steps are needed to make sure that no one can stick their nose in your business.


12-21-2010, 12:16 PM
Thanks for the tips all! Belive me, this is a very.... "discrete" project. Since there is already a well, and has been since settlers came in from the east, I figure I could move it around a bit and nobody would take to much notice. I also have a nice fence, and the well site is behind the house so I'm not too terribly worried about unwanted attention.

I just think it's sad that I have to do "Guerilla Self-Sufficency"; we are not permited to do even the most basic of prep work without permission!

12-23-2010, 07:56 AM
You can make your own well 'screen' by cutting slots in the side of the pvc pipe just like the pvc screens at Home Depot with a hacksaw.

When you sink the screen and then add a piece of pvc then sink it again, work as quick as possible as things will dry and become more difficult to move the casing. Cutting a long taper on the couplings makes things easier to move. Going down there is no need for glue but if you want to pull it you will need glue. Working 1/3 rd of a 10 foot section of pipe at a time is easiest for me and 2 in will feed a shallow well pump. If the water stands lower than 20 feet life gets more complicated and a 4 in casing is better.

Hydraulicing a 3/4 in pipe down to 68 feet in sand is easy and checking the water level with a string and float will let you find water and serve as a guide to set down a 2 or 4 in pipe for a shallow well or a shallow deep well.

It does not work well with rocks, that takes a rotary bit. A post hole digger and some extensions with small rocks.

Remember to grout the top of the well to prevent contamination from surface water.

12-31-2010, 01:52 AM
how about hooking up a hand pump to an existing well? does anyone know of any website, maybe with lot's of pictures, that explains this? thanks

12-31-2010, 05:00 AM
Not a problem, they all work ftom the plastic ones for poor countries to the high dollar brass and SS pumps.

The rules stay the same - don't contaminate the well - surface pumps will lift 20 feet to the pump - deeper wells need to mount the mechanism closer to the water or under the water.

You WILL HAVE to know several things about your well to avoid getting misinformation. If you don't know, the probability of doing more than talking is remote.

01-01-2011, 08:05 AM
how about hooking up a hand pump to an existing well? does anyone know of any website, maybe with lot's of pictures, that explains this? thanks

How deep is your well?

The answer to that is the starting point.