Sunday, January 4, 2009

So you want to buy a house? ... Part 3-well water

Well Water. Yes I promised and it is time. Did you know there are over 5,000 homes in Stamford that use a private well for their water source? There are a significant number of wells in Darien, more in Greenwich, still more in New Canaan and Pound Ridge.
The best news here is that the water from a well is basically very good and many times more desirable than even water company water. Having said that there are issues and some non-issues that a home with a well may have.
1) Quantity of water. Although most wells will not run dry and produce copious amounts of water, there are enough that may not support both an irrigation system and home use, may not produce enough for large households and may run dry in severe drought. There is a section in Northwest Stamford where wells 1,500 feet deep produced only a quart of water a minute. That is not sufficient for general use. On the other hand, three wells that produced only about 2 gallons a minute ran the Crystal Rock water company for years.
During the last water emergency, wells were mostly unaffected and there were reports of only 2 wells going dry.
So perhaps an explanation on how a well gets its water is in order. Basically it comes from water which is within a defined distance, maybe as much as 200 yards from the well. The distance varies based on the wells depth, yield (gallons per minute) and the make-up of the subsurface in the area, but 200 yards is a good average distance in lower Fairfield, eastern Westchester counties.
The draw is conical, meaning that the strongest pull is closest to the well. For most wells this obviously includes all the rain, any streams, ponds or lakes and yes, the septic system.
There is also a general movement in this area of the water from North to South, so you would expect a general migration of any contaminants in a well to come from a northerly position.
The cost of having a well, besides the initial drilling, is the electricity to run the pump and certain repairs that may need to be done. The pump should last for about 20 years and the repairs usually come only with floods, earthquakes (yes we have earthquakes in the area), heavy construction (using dynamite) and things directly associated with disturbing the rock and soil around the well. In general a well is cheaper to have than city water.
My next post will be on water quality and may be in several parts.
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