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We Ran Into a Well of Problems - What to do?

 
Posts: 23
Location: Rioja, Peru
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We've been working with a family member with experience in water pumps, to help us install a pump for our well. The problem is that our well is basically just a pond. We bought a $600 Italian-made submersible 1hp pump, and did the piping and wiring from our off grid house where we have a 1500L tank that holds rainwater, and, hopefully soon, will also hold well water

We dug a hole next to a seasonal creek. The creek flows most of the year, but if there's a rare dry spell of one month or so, then it's basically guaranteed to turn into just a few mud puddles here and there.

The excavated area is also located at the base of a slope from which seepage leaks out from all over the hillside above, and begins to funnel down into the area that we excavated. The area was completely inundated soil year round with a cm of water above the surface of the soil. Many parts of our property are similar: remove a shovelful of soil and the space immediately begins to fill with water.

What we'd prefer is to actually go deeper than this surface water, and get to isolated groundwater. We've been getting plenty of subsoil seepage. water down at about 2.5m deep.

We've been digging manually, and everytime we make progress it rains hard and the sides have small landslides, which have refilled a lot of our progress. At this point we're too deep to keep going without concrete or brick encasing to keep the excavation area safe.

Options:
1. Get brick or concrete tube and keep digging. We're at a relatively inaccesible location: a 650m trail hike from the nearest road. Heavy materials like this need to be pulled by a yoke of bulls. It's hard to tell in advance how much we'll need. Maybe we'll only go another meter...maybe 4 more meters... We've hit rock, but not sure how thick the rock is. It's a relatively soft rock.

2. Abandon the spot, Rent a well drilling machine and drill a tubular well on the other side of the seasonal creek or wherever else might be a good spot. Fork over the dough and listen to, or have the local experts do it all.

3. Just use surface water. It will probably mess up the pump too soon, and requires further filtration and another pump or otherwise some gravity filter-system built above the level of our household water tank.

The seasonal creek originates entirely on our property, which is a big bowl shaped hill that serves as the catchment and funnel to produce the seasonal creek. Our house sits on top of one of the hills overlooking this seasonal creek. We are at the very top of that hill, which is quite steep

Here's some photos of our excavation so far.

One photo shows the seasonal creek passing under a wooden board.

Other photos show the problematic landsliding/erosion on both sides of the excavation.
GOPR1226-min.JPG
Hand dug well
Hand dug well
GOPR1227-min.JPG
hand dug well
hand dug well
GOPR1228-min.JPG
hand dug well
hand dug well
GOPR1244-min.JPG
land cleared for well
land cleared for well
GOPR1245-min.JPG
small pond
small pond
GOPR1246-min.JPG
small pond in clearing
small pond in clearing
GOPR1247-min.JPG
small pond on hillside
small pond on hillside
 
pollinator
Posts: 2580
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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I can see somebody being crushed in that hole.
I suggest abandoning the whole idea.
Reason being the water quality is poor.
I suggest you look at rainfall collection rainfall collection
because it looks like the rainfall will be high where you are.
Is that correct?

I would get a much bigger tank, enough for 3 months supply to the house.
 
Scott Obar
Posts: 23
Location: Rioja, Peru
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Rainwater harvesting. That's actually what we're currently doing. We built the house with a reinforced concrete pad outside the bathroom to accomodate our 1500L poly tank. Our metal roof and gutter is hooked up to a homemade first flush system that overflows into the 1500L tank.

Right now we're in the dry season. There's still some rain, but usually not enough.

I wonder about the economics of a massive overflow tank vs. piping a well. A big tank itself is pretty expensive. We could use our submersible pump and tubing we already invested in to move water from the overflow tank to our 1500L tank when necessary.

However, how would we site the the tank? Bury it? Build another bigger concrete pad? Both buried and with concrete pad? Those are costly undertakings as well. I remember reading that you can't just place a tank on bare soil for some reason. I don't remember why.

I am going to sit down and analyze the costs of a well vs. large rainwater overflow tank for our specific situation.

I am a fan of our rainwater. Showering with it is luxurious. I had always showered with municipal water my whole life. I'm amazed at the difference.

The advantage of rainwater is that it's basically pure. Our roof is high up on a hill, and no trees overhang it, so the first flush is almost not even necessary.

The potential disadvantage with well water is that you might end up with something bad naturally in the water. Maybe there are parent materials with a high lead content or naturally occuring radioactive elements.
 
John C Daley
pollinator
Posts: 2580
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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A 20,000L tank will cost about $2000 and need a pad about 12 feet diameter.
Pads stop the tank from settling at different heights when full of water.
Crushed rock 20mm minus spread with a minimum of 100mm thick is ok.
It needs to be levelled.
Dont bury it, the sides may cave in when its empty.
I used a 12V pump from RV;s to pressurise the house for 30 years.
 
Rocket Scientist
Posts: 4542
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
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Hi Scott;    
Wow that is quite the ambitious project!
Were you wanting drinking water or just household use water?
If drinking water is your goal, I would  have your water tested now rather than later.

I use an artesian spring at our home.  It bubbles up from underground high up on the mountain and flows just a few feet before entering our water tank.
When we bought the place we had the water tested.
Clean of all bad bacteria but, according to  the testing facility it had a too high a mineral / sediment content...
They  claimed it failed the test... We did not care!
We have been drinking this icy cold clear water for over 40 years now... no health problems.
Maybe the "sediment" has been washing our belly's clean???

We do have the occasional bear that eats the water cress around the water tank.
From time to time they have been known to poop  partially in the water....
Salamanders and tadpoles have been known to slip into the line as well.
Still no health issues even then.
Our water flows thru the line constantly. This may be why we have no health issues with the water.
Supplying the house and feeding our hydro making electricity.
Then flowing down to the animal pens and giving them constant fresh water.
Before being released into our fields.

As John suggested your excavation is looking unsafe.
At the least I would shore it up so it cannot  cave in and harm you.

Renting a drill might be a better option.



 
pollinator
Posts: 827
Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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A large diameter metal culvert (2-3 feet) placed on end would be an alternative to lining a hand dug hole...

Drilled with holes, backfilled at least a foot or two on the outside with gravel would hold a significant amount of semi filtered "surface" water that would be suitable for garden/livestock certainly, and possibly for drinking (once tested). Make sure you build a "well house" over top and create a lid for the culvert to ensure rodents etc do not get in.
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