Friday, February 8, 2019

Well, Well, Well


When living in the city, I never thought about drinking water.  I turned the faucet on and water poured out.  When we moved to the country, we realized it is common for homes not to have access to city water.    


Houses need a safe and reliable water source before being built.  Here in Tennessee the choices are either using a freshwater spring or digging a well which is risky and very expensive (averages $25 per foot).  If water is not found, a second or third site must be chosen.  Before purchasing this house, we turned down another because it did not have good water.  It was safe to drink but smelled of sulfur.  That well was 1,000 feet deep.

When water is discovered, it must be assessed and tested for bacteria and hazardous contaminants.  Every well is registered and the information documented with the government.    




These underground well houses were built to store perishable foods in the absence of refrigeration.




Often well houses are seen sitting in fields where they are used to water livestock. When we were shopping for land, we occasionally walked across an abandoned wellhead.  They were dug years earlier but were no longer in use because the water was either not good quality or not needed.  


This well still has the old hand crank pump.  It looks in good repair so it is probably still being used.









This one is covered in a plastic shell with foam insulation and can be lifted for maintenance.  It has a faucet and an electrical switch conveniently located on the outside wall.  It is the latest style.


Some people have chosen to build elaborate structures.





This is our wellhead and the only thing exciting about how it looks is that Scooter is beside it.  It is 157 feet deep and was dug by the previous owners.  Since the house is located 1/5 of a mile from the road, we guess it would have cost at least $10,000 to dig a trench and lay the pipe to connect to city water.  That's assuming there aren't any large solid rocks in the pathway.

Up close is a label which shows the registration number.  Ours has a pump rate of 25 gallons per minute which is awesome.  Plumbers are impressed when they see our clear water (I know I am bragging). We can safely drink from the outside hosepipe ("hosepipe" is a southern term for garden hose).  The water is extremely cold straight from the well and it's a welcome refreshment in the heat of summer.


Perhaps seeing my bladder in the basement closet might be more impressive. The water from the well is pumped first through the filter on the left, then into the bladder for storage and keeping the pressure up.  Next, it either goes into the hot water heater or up into the house.  The gauges at the bottom show the pressure inside the tank. 


I love having an unending supply of cheap water.  We were cautious a few years ago when we were in an extended drought but we usually don't worry.  I consider it a blessing to be able to take all the long, hot bubble baths I want.

"Mom, you might love bubble baths, but I hate them." groans Scooter.

20 comments:

  1. Some of those well houses are a little fancier than need be. I remember the one that was at my aunts in Virginia, but I believe she is on city water now. I remember drinking out of the garden hose as a kid, and now there are warnings not to do it. UGH!!

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    1. We have tested our water and it is safe but I agree with the warnings. If there is an industrial park or something toxic close by, I wouldn't drink the water either. We can taste the difference when we get water at a restaurant on city water - it tastes like bleach and chemicals to us.

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  2. I wish we had our own well! But we are in city limits. Our neighbor has a well that they are allowed to use for outdoor watering. Our town has a spring house that has recently been unearthed from the brambles and trees that had grown up all around it. They made a small parking place, and there is a sign now telling all the history of that spring house. There are a bunch of flat rocks, and the local Indian people used to gather there to grind their grain on the flat rocks!

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    1. I bet the fresh spring water is delicious! It's wonderful that they are preserving the history and not bulldozing it all down. I prefer having a well as opposed to city water; however, the downside is that when we lose electricity, we also lose water.

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  3. That's really interesting. A few of my friends have well houses, but they are all above ground like a shed. It would be really cool to have a place to keep produce cool. A lot of people around here have their own wells, but where we are, it's so rocky that drilling a well is extremely expensive. Our next door neighbor got a bid of $80,000 to drill down to decent water. When we bought this place, there was an old cistern (looked like a well) on the property. It had been partially filled in and was just deep enough to turn over a tractor, so we finished filling it in.

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    1. Digging a well is really a big gamble. You never know if you will hit water here in Tennessee but if you do, it's much cheaper in the long run; unless you back over the wellhead with the car. Getting it repaired was a bit pricey. I ALWAYS look when backing out of the driveway now.

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  4. SCOOTER IS SO CUTE!!!! Also, how does a well house work in terms of refrigeration? So curious!

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    1. The water is very cold. I looked it up and here in Tennessee it is 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13c) when it comes out of the ground. Compared to a 90 degree day, it is cold. The well houses are covered in soil, which is a great insulator (think cool, dark basement), plus there is a water trough inside which is filled with cold water. Perishable foods are placed in the water to be cooled down. As the water warms, more cold water is pumped up. The Amish still use this method since they don't have electricity. When I go to buy raw milk every few weeks, it's stored in cold water in their well house. Other things are also floating around in the water (sealed in plastic bags) just like we have things in our refrigerator. Milk should be stored at 40 degrees f (4c) so I carry ice in my cooler. I don't worry too much. When raw milk sours it's good for you, when pasteurized milk sours, it makes you sick. The difference is the bacteria.

      Scooter was not happy about being in the bathtub. He had been outside digging in the muddy garden hunting moles and was nasty. He doesn't like water and even walks around mud puddles in the yard. Too bad. Being clean is the price he pays for sleeping on the foot our bed top on the electric blanket.

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    2. Is the water in the troughs manually replaced? So fascinating! Thanks for sharing and explaining!

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    3. I have seen it pumped by hand and and also with gasoline powered pumps. For some reason, no one can explain to me why, but using gasoline instead of electric powered machines is acceptable. When they turn on their well pumps, it sounds like a small lawn mower running. I have seen small children swinging up and down on the long, tall handles getting water. It really looked like fun.

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    4. Margaret, I was talking about the Amish in the paragraph above.

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    5. Fascinating! Thanks for explaining!

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  5. Poor Scooter. You are lucky. Water has been a real challenge here. Our well is 500 ft, gives 1 gallon per minute, and has double the recommended amount of arsenic (naturally occurring in the rock), which is why we collect and filter rainwater for household use. It also has extremely high iron and manganese, and it's stinky. I considered trying a second well, but a nearby farmer some years ago dug 5 wells, and they were all this bad.

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    1. Oh, that is difficult. You are probably way to far away to even get city water and buying water gets expensive. It's something I never even thought about when we lived in the city, but it's extremely important.

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  6. I was on a well for most of my life, but am on city water now. I agree with you. It tastes like chemicals and chlorine. But, it's safe. At least now it is. Last summer we had a water crisis, and there was an algae bloom in the lake where the water comes from so it wasn't safe. We bought a lot of water last summer, and also filled our jugs at my sister's house, who was not affected, and at the National Guard filling station which was really fun for my nephew and niece. They loved the soldiers and big trucks.

    We are fortunate that we have the old well from when they first built this house and the previous home-owner hooked it up so we can water our garden and yard all summer for free. We'd like to test that water so if there's ever another problem with the city water, maybe we could drink that. That well is a huge blessing for us, as we grow a huge garden.

    You do see the most interesting things on your little walks and trips and drives. I love the well houses. Growing up, ours was a little shed. At our last place, a little plastic cover. Here, a little wooden box-like enclosure with a lifting lid.

    I loved well water when I had it. The only downside was that when our pump failed, we had to replace it with a costly replacement and were out of water until we did. Also, when the power was out, we were out of luck. If we had stayed there longer, we would have made it able to be run by a generator. That last well was very deep, but very good water.

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    1. We get our water tested for free at the water treatment plant in the city. They only test for bacteria, not for heavy metals. We also use a filter which makes it even safer.

      Having water for the garden is awesome. It's the only reason I can grow one in the summer. If I had to pay for all the water I used, it would be a much smaller garden. You can drive down the road in August and tell who has cheap well water and who has expensive city water. The vegetable gardens show the difference (I suppose I should be looking at the road instead of people's gardens but I can't resist).

      Years back during the extended drought, my neighbor's well went dry so we were worried. He has livestock and had to get water from the city for them. He put a huge tank on the back of his truck and filled it once a week. As soon as he could, he hooked onto city water but his house is right on the street so it was not expensive.

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  7. Those pictures of well houses were an enriching experience for me, as I have not seen things like
    that before. Each one looks different. People seem to have lots of fantasy designing their wells.
    (Like they have with the mail-boxes you had shown us a while ago.)
    I wish you will have enough water all the time and many more relaxing bubble bathes.
    Christel

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  8. Interesting posting and great pictures, Jeannie. We have our own well and a wellhead very similar to yours. We added a purifier a couple of years ago to be sure the water is safe. I would love a brick or stone wellhead, but am grateful to have clean water. Sadly, there are too many countries in the world where potable water is still not available. P. x

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    1. We have discussed getting something to cover our wellhead since it is located right beside our drive. It was one of those things on the some-day-in-the-future-to-do-list. When the horses got out of the fence recently and were stampeding around in the yard, one missed trampling the wellhead by inches. We have put an ugly plastic storage container over it for the time being. It has moved up higher on the to-do list since that happened.

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