We Took A Poll-Water Wells

Hey there All and hope that you are doing well.  We took a poll by the time this gets posted about a week / week and a half ago to find out what you all would like to learn from visiting this site and there was a pretty good mix of results; which is great as that broadens our topic base greatly however there was a contender that came out ahead and love that a majority of people do want to hear about the off grid technologies that we intend to utilize and maybe some upcoming ones as well.  That being said, we’ll start with some of the basics and one of the universal needs for life-Water.

Water wells are something that is very regionally dependent and water tables abound.  The water levels and quality are going to very greatly from one spot and a location as few as five miles away or less could have very different structures needed and varying analytes of interest.  After all, drilling a well by a river will be different than in the mountains or even the high plains.  Another interesting caveat of water wells in Wyoming is often times in areas of oil & gas development is that when oil & gas is produced, water is a byproduct.  When the life of hydrocarbon production is reduced and the operating company decides to plug and abandon the well, the landowner may petition and / or work with the oil & gas to convert the drilled hydrocarbon well into a producing water well.  

Now I am going to acknowledge and preface this by indicating that I am incredibly over simplifying how they do this.  When an oil or gas well is drilled, they will drill past the better quality water bearing zones which are completely isolated from oil or gas bearing zones of interest geologically speaking.  Multiple diameter casing and cement layers protect those water zones from the production zone where the hydrocarbon production occurs.  After the resources have been extracted, the operator will close and cement off the perforations in the well bore and plug the well up to the level where the known water aquifer of interest is.  Then the well is perforated in the aquifer and pumps installed to convert the well to a water well.  Again, I want to stress I am greatly simplifying this process and yes, I do actually know what I am talking about…I work in the oil and gas industry in natural resource protection.  

Now to complete the transfer, the landowner paperwork has to be filed here in Wyoming with the State Engineers Office and some of the transferred wells have access to deep encapsulated aquifers.  The basic construction of a water well will definitely have less to it compared to a hydrocarbon well, but they are simultaneously very similar.  You will have the well bore or the hole itself, your casing which can be a variety of materials from PVC to steel / carbon steel.  At the bottom of the well you’ll have a screen to prevent too much foreign material plugging up the pump mechanism of choice.  Often times and hopefully you will have two specific depth associated with your water well. You’ll have a static water level and you’ll actually have the depth of your well.  

The static water level is how far deep into your well you will have to go to hit water while the total well depth is the bottom of your well and typically where we’re going to be seeing the screens / perforations / access to the water formation.  Some things to keep into consideration with what would make a better well than others is the water quality itself which we can go into greater detail later and the quantity of water produced for the home.  Typically for a well to subsidize a home we’re going to want to see the well produce at least five gallons of water per minute.  Now this absolutely doesn’t mean that you can’t get by with less and there are definite work-arounds and perhaps some of those work-arounds suit others life styles more, but for us, we know that we’ll be hoping for a well of that five gallons per minute range or better. 

We do know that from our research using the links referenced in We Had to Help Adult that we should have good water quality to conform to primary and secondary EPA drinking water standards.  We also know that in the area (within one mile of our section that Prickly Peak sits on well depths vary from 500’-25’ with static water levels from 180’-3’.  Therefore with this knowledge we are hoping to have a well in the 500’ deep range or shallower; fingers crossed for shallower.  Additionally the gallons per minute range from four gallons per minute up to twenty so we should be good to go on that front.  

Another option that we would have available to us if the well is not an option though is to maintain a cistern and haul water.  We could have a large tank and we are actually luck in the respect that there is a water station by both the Dogfather and my work for this exact purpose.  The water tank would be placed in the bed of our truck or on a trailer and water brought from town.  One of the perks of obtaining water from town is the fact that we would have treated water and we would not have to perform treatments on the water ourselves.  Any water which is provided to the public for purchase, even horribly overpriced bottled water has to provide what is called CCR’s or Consumer Confidence reports.  You should be able to go to your water supplier website and find a link to the annually required report.  What the report tests for does change as some tests are required quarterly, some annually, some once every three to five years, but regardless, they are required to provide this to the end users.  From looking at municipal sites, they are listed as CCR’s or the consumer confidence reports; for bottled water it is typically listed as water analyses or something to that effect.  As a note of this writing (February 10, 2022) the annual reports for 2021 are not required by law to have been posted yet.  It also is good to note that everything that I am stating is for the United States.  Also as I personally am in Wyoming I am most familiar with Wyoming websites and this is a link where you can find out testing schedules and results of results.  

https://casperwy.gov/government/departments/public_services/public_utilities_division

Wyoming:  https://sdwisr8.epa.gov/Region8DWWPUB/

That being said, if you were to just google “Drinking Water Watch” you will be able to query the results for your state.

At this point you may wonder what qualifies as good quality water or not, what makes water from one area taste better than others.  In my opinion there are three different tiers of human consumption water quality: potable water, primary drinking water standards and secondary drinking water standards.  Potable water is from a laboratory / EPA perspective is the absolute minimum that they would recommend testing for to ensure that your water is safe to drink. Primary drinking water standards are components of water that can impact health and secondary drinking water standards impact the flavor, color, aesthetic of water quality but are not in “normal” quantities associated with health impacts, but with anything, any large quantities of anything will impact your health.  

So there actually isn’t much to potable water other than insuring that there is no colony forming bacteria, coliform bacteria and that your levels of nitrates in the water are below 10 mg/L and nitrites are below 1 mg/L.  These are limits are in place as high levels of nitrates and nitrites can rob your body from it’s ability to move oxygen and bacteria in your water is well…not good for copious reasons.  Bac-T P/A tests (Bacteria presence / absence testing) is a time sensitive test on both the sampling end and the analysis end.  Samples have to be collected in a sterile specific bottle, when I ran these samples, they were 100 mL and they have to be submitted to the lab within 24 hours.  If you are looking for more specific bacteria like fecal or E. coli, then samples need to be provided to the lab within 8 hours of collection.  The second component of this test is that the sample’s results have to be read 24 hours after the initial incubation of the samples.  Therefore unless you are willing to pay extra to come in on a weekend, total PSA / the more you know shooting star moment, don’t collect / bring in samples on a Friday.  Nitrates / Nitrites also have a short hold time for the analysis to be run, so collecting your samples for a lab to run on Monday or Tuesday is best.

Depending on where you live there are several different options that you can investigate to get your water analyzed, but you don’t necessarily need a certified or accredited laboratory to run your samples.  Your best friend on a plethora of topics is going to be reaching out to your local conservation district about well water sampling.  Some will do an annual free sampling day, others will network with labs to provide year round reduced rates to ensure your health and safety.  Other potential resources to investigate would be a local college or university or even to contact your local public water supplier.  They have to get samples done and would be able to help refer you to who they might use. 

If you are curious as to what the primary and secondary water quality standards per EPA, that information can be found here in the links below:

https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations

https://www.epa.gov/sdwa/secondary-drinking-water-standards-guidance-nuisance-chemicals

The link for the primary standards does have some really good resources on it explaining the intricacies of water well, why you need to test your water if you are a private well owner and what to do about it.  

The last bit we want to cover is how to care for your private water well.  There are a lot of aspects to maintaining your water system compared to if you purchase your water from a municipal water supplier.  Those include making sure that your seals are well maintained; that the well cap is secured, your casing has good integrity, that your pump is in good working order and that your water is safe to use.  Ultimately, the ounce of prevention by having someone come out once a year could be worth more than the proverbial pound of cure; but it’s also understandable that it’s not always practical. Protection of the will sometimes will have a well house or pump house on top of it.  By having a well house you can protect the well & well cap from tampering from exterior sources whether evil or a curious pronghorn who decides they need to utilize the facilities right then and there.  You also want to be sure to perform the annual testing and if you get a positive hit on bacteria, you will want to chlorinate your system. 

Wyoming water well contractors board http://wwcb.state.wy.us/

Chlorination is definitely a little different compared to chlorinating a pool and really quite simple.  There are different products available, however, we’ve seen that using standard sodium hypochlorite aka bleach is the simplest / easiest.  You don’t want any specialty, scented, or improved version of the bleach but depending on how deep your well is and the diameter will impact the quantity of the bleach to use.  Then, all you have to do is run water from your faucets  until you can smell the bleach and let it sit for twenty-four hours.  This ensures that the disinfection occurs not only in your well, but also the pipes carrying the water.  This method however also requires consideration of your pump system and whether it can tolerate the bleach process.  

There are different disinfection processes you can use from bleach to UV to filtration, your certified well driller will be able to help you select the best system for your specific well as they know the area, the type of pump that will work best with your well and the general characteristics of the water in your area to assist you. 

SO now you tell me…

What did I miss, what else can we tell you about?  We’ve reached the length that I try to limit my posts on and I tried to hold back my nerdiness on water wells as it is literally my job right now but if there is something else that you would like to know; comment below, give me a shout out and take care of yourselves!

Bye All Y’alls!

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