Get plenty of water from a weak well

About 30 per cent of all Canadians rely on groundwater, but many households struggle with a stingy well that doesn’t give enough wate

Metal Faucet ca. 1998

Metal Faucet ca. 1998

About 30 per cent of all Canadians rely on groundwater, but many households struggle with a stingy well that doesn’t give enough water.

If your well runs dry whenever you tackle a couple of loads of laundry or give a drink to some thirsty garden plants during a drought, there’s good news. You may not have to live with a water shortage any more.

In fact, you can probably get all the water you could possibly want and more from the very same well that’s been letting you down for years.

Even particularly wimpy wells delivering a measly one gallon of water per minute can amply supply an ordinary household when coupled with the right hardware.

The key is something called the “trickle system” — several pieces of simple technology connected together to make the most of the well you’ve got.

Before you decide all this is too good to be true, you need to understand something fundamental. While it’s a fact that your weak well may not be able to keep up when you turn on a tap, most of the time your well is just sitting there doing nothing. Think about it. What portion of each day is a tap actually running? How often are you asking your well to deliver water?

Even a busy household only demands water for a relatively short period of total time each day. The key to the trickle system is that it draws and stores water from your well slowly over the entire course of a day, even when no tap is actually turned on. Then, when you want a lot of water fast, there it is, stored in a holding tank and ready to go.

Instead of a pump delivering water directly from a well to a pressure tank that supplies your house, the trickle system has two pumps, each part of the two different sides of the system. The primary side draws water from your well whenever it’s available around the clock.

This water is stored in an enclosed holding tank (typically about 300 gallons for an average household), either buried in the ground or tucked away in some corner of your basement.

A timer turns the primary pump ON and OFF for a preset amount period (depending on the recovery rate of your well), then a float switch shuts it off completely when the storage tank is full.

The second side of the system includes another pump that draws water from the storage tank and feeds it into a traditional pressure system that supplies water to all your taps and fixtures.

This second pump switches on and off automatically in the usual way as pressure rises and falls during normal household water usage. Since this second pump draws water from a large available volume in the storage tank, it’s quite capable of supplying heavy peak loads without running dry.

While all this is happening, and afterwards, the primary side of the system keeps drawing water from your weak well as it’s available, replenishing the storage tank.

And make no mistake, the seemingly limited supply of a disappointing well can actually add up to quite a bit of water.

Even if your well can only deliver a miniscule 1/2 gallon per minute (practically a dry hole) this rate adds up to a whopping 720 gallons a day — more than enough to supply even the most water-hungry household on wash day.

Empowering a weak well to supply serious water isn’t impossible. Any good plumber can rig a trickle system up once the basic concept is understood.

You can even do the installation yourself if you’re handy.

All you need is a little know-how and a little equipment to make the taps flow like they never have before.

Steve Maxwell is Canada’s award-winning home improvement expert, and technical editor of Canadian Home Workshop magazine. Sign up for his free homeowner newsletter at www.stevemaxwell.ca

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