Guide to all types of water wells: well construction, troubleshooting, & repairs.
This article series describes how to identify types of wells and water pumps, and how to diagnose & fix water well problems or water pressure or water quantity problems.
We describe various types of drinking water sources like wells, cisterns, dug wells, drilled wells, artesian wells and well and water pump equipment. We provide advice about what to do when things go wrong.
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This article series describes the different types of sources use for drinking water: wells, cisterns, springs, different well types & different locations for water wells. Here is a comprehensive list of common drinking water sources & well types:
In some older homes you may find that the water well is a drilled or hand dug well located in the building basement or crawl space.
Wells located in the basement or crawl space of a building are sometimes found, usually at older, pre-1940 buildings. On occasion it appears that the well was originally outside the building but the building was expanded over it.
Early American construction sometimes located a well (or cistern) in a basement so that a mechanical hand pump could be located indoors (perhaps in a kitchen).
This pair of photographs show my clients discovering that the plastic in the center of the basement floor covered a flimsy wood cover which covered a hand-dug stone lined well in the home's basement.
Also if the building has a problem with basement water entry, depending on the type of well in the basement, there may be a risk of well contamination.
For a modern drilled well which has been "built over" during a building expansion, it becomes impossible to pull out and replace the well piping, foot valve, or submersible pump unless someone has cut a trapdoor into the ceiling/floor above.
Well problem diagnosis continues with the articles listed below.
WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR starts
Or see LIFE EXPECTANCY of WATER PUMPS - Well Pumps: how long should a water pump last? What affects pump life?
Reader Question: identify well casing types
I was in the process of buying this home when we discovered this pipe hiding on the property. Do you know what this is? Is it some kind of underground oil storage tank? Thanks - F.L. 11/3/2012
From looking at the fencing behind the vertical steel device in your pictures I infer that the diameter is around 6-8 inches - which would make this more likely a steel well casing, not an oil storage tank.
What was mysterious or maybe misleading was that apparent oil-stain like discoloration around the steel pipe elbow and close nipple connected near the top of the casing.
Here are some further investigation steps you can take to convince us we know what this is:
(Apr 4, 2014) Jamie said:
That is a common method used for containing old drilled wells. The large pipe has been pushed over the existing drilled well pipe. If i had to guess the water has a high salt content (drilled too low) and the pipe had rotted. I know this because I have a property with the same problem.
Continue reading at ARTESIAN WELLS, Well Spools or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: spring fed cistern, how to handle overflow
(Apr 5, 2014) Chris Shields said:
I have a spring fed water system, and a concrete cistern in the upper yard of my country home. A problem I have periodically is cistern drainage. The current system I have rigged up,(don't laugh) is a garden hose that routes the overflow to a nearby (100 ft.)stream. It works fine until the drainage and/or usage exceeds the inflow, causing air to get in to the drainage hose.
Then the water will not restart into the drain and the cistern will overflow until I break the hose and get it going again. Question is, do I need more downslope in the drainage line, or is there some sort of airlock thing happening that can be remedied by air holes in the drainage hose.
Chris, this is an interesting problem since we don't want to put the hose pick-up end deeper into the cistern - that would risk siphoning out water that you want to use when cistern levels are higher.
I think a better solution would be to modify the cistern to make a spillway in the form of either a hole drilled through the cistern wall a few inches from the top. Seal the garden hose to the hole on the cistern face and when water level reaches that height, and provided the hose slopes down continuously from that point, you'll drain by gravity with no problem.
(Apr 5, 2014) Chris Shields said:
Thanks so much for the prompt reply. I would point out that I am using a proper drain hole that comes out of the side of the cistern near the top. The original drain line was compromised by a backhoe working nearby on another project, so my gardenhose rig is a temporary solution. It is running fine as we speak, however as soon as the cistern level reaches the drain hole and air gets into the line, the flow will not resume on it's own until I pull the hose apart about 15 feet below, then it flows normally until the above situation occurs.
Reason this happens is that the line from the spring begins to slow gradually from silt, which I ultimately have to blow back with air pressure to clear the line, but that's another story. Sounds to me that the hose has a few little "ups" in it that are preventing gravity flow and I need to be sure my route is continuously downslope. I welcome any further comments, and thanks again.
I think I need to see some photos or a sketch (use the CONTACT link at page bottom if you like).
I don't understand "as soon as the cistern level reaches the drain hole and air gets into the line, the flow will not resume on it's own until I pull the hose apart about 15 feet below,"
unless you mean that once cistern level has fallen BELOW the drain hole air enters the hose line and then when cistern level returns it won't drain.
About clogging, it's no surprise on a line that does not slope continuously downwards; not just air but debris will collect at these interrupt points.
You could try a larger diameter drain, a spillway (which probably is no good for your situation), maybe a clever use of check valve?
I've successfully drained various things using a garden hose that extended far enough that it could siphon over the little ups and downs, but any of these will have the problem you describe once air can get into the line - you have to start the process over again once siphonage is interrupted.
It'd be worth making sure the line slopes continuously downwards without high spots.
I'll research this further but without adding power and pumps or a local spillway, air in an up-and-down drain hose seems to me to be an innate design problem; just like those perpetual motion machines, expecting free energy doesn't work well.
(Apr 7, 2014) Chris Shields said:
Your comments [above] in paragraphs 3 and 6 are exactly the condition I have. Currently the cistern drains fine until the level drops below the drain hole, interupting the siphon., until I pull the line apart about 15 feet below the cistern, then the water flow begins on its own. How about if I drill some little holes in the garden hose below that point to relieve what seems to be an air lock? Failing that, I will dig a trench to eliminate the few little up bumps that are in the line. Thanks, again, any further thoughts welcome
You can drill holes in the top surface of the hose if you want to vent air out - and of course expect water to exit and possibly dirt to enter at that point. You could drill air vents, place geotextile over the vents, hope the system works, and it may, but
Ultimately you probably want
- a larger diameter overflow drain - unless the inflow to your cistern is very slow
Question: muddy artesian well
(Sept 20, 2014) Diane said:
Could an artesian well cause water and mud to come up through the thin layer of concrete covering our crawl space floor? There seem to be little peas of mud appearing on the concrete. It also seems awfully damp down there. What shall I do?
Possibly yes if the well spool in the artesian well is leaking and the well is under the floor (which would be odd but not impossible)
Or if there is a well piping leak under the floor. Any other water source could have similar effect.
Question: worry about possible collapse of underground cistern
(Sept 28, 2014) Caitilin said:
Hello! I have a home that will be 100 yrs old in a couple of years. Between the detached garage and the back of the house, there is an underground cistern made of brick. I believe the cistern is 12 ft wide and 12ft long and approx 10ft deep. We have never used it. The hole at the top has always been covered by a cement moveable cap. There is a planter on top of it. We have lived here for approximately 15 years.
I am concerned about the possibility of it collapsing one day. I do not have a very big budget, but I would like to know what my options are as far as filling it in. Someone suggested filling it in with pea gravel, which would still allow water in there, but would keep it from becoming a collapsed 12 x 12 hole that could also effect the garage and/or home structure?.
At SEPTIC TANK ABANDONMENT GUIDE you will find suggestions for abandoning any large underground tank, cistern, etc. Generally, provided it is safe to enter the cistern, we'd break a few holes in its bottom and then see that the cistern is filled with rubble (stone) and sand.
Question: odor in water from concrete cistern in Ensenada Mexico
(Oct 28, 2014) Al said:
We have rented a home in a little south of Ensenada Mexico. We have a 2000 gallon concrete water holding tank that is filled by truck, not potable, use for daily needs. The water is very hard and has slight odor. What is safest solution to kill bacteria and soften water.
Al, A chlorine injection system may be effective. At WELL CHLORINATION SHOCKING PROCEDURE you'll find information about both the bleach concentration and the contact time necessary to effectively disinfect water.
(Dec 31, 2014) Laura said:
Laura it is difficult to deliver potable water from a spring source. After having your water tested you'll know what treatment is needed. In the More Reading limos above see WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES where we describe the various approaches including the ones you ask about. When you've read Thad do let me know if any of that nformationis unclear. If you like, a search of InspectAPedia for Spring as water source. Will direct you to articles about that water source.
Question: dug well sanitation: a snake got into my well
Lois it is difficult if not impossible to guarantee that water from a dug well remains sanitary and potable as it is so easy for surface water to enter the well. For this reason it makes sense to test the water for common contaminants found in your area, including but not limited to bacteria, and then to install a water treatment system that will address these. A one-time well shock, as you agree, won't permanently fix a dug well.
Indeed you do want a critter-resistant cover as well as one that is safe against kids or anyone falling into the well, but depending on how the well is constructed even a solid thick reinforced concrete cover may not keep animals from entering the well through its sides. So periodic inspection and testing remain in order.
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