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Question DetailsAsked on 2/13/2017

Can i tap into irrigation well for some or whole house use

I have an irrigation system on a well and am trying to find out if we can tap into it in some way for use inside our home, whether for whole house or say for only toilets and washing machine?

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2 Answers


Yes, but usually not real simple - depending on how much demand it can handle (both in term of in-well storage and continuous pumping rate), and particularly whether it was built as a domestic water well or not. And finding that out could be tough, because in most areas well designs are not required to be registered - even finding who drilled it could take a lot of calling around to drilling companies (commonly not listed on building permit) and maybe to the original builder listed on the building permit, and many well drilling companiss file wells by owner name rather than property address or coordinates, so could be real tough to locate many times.

If a tract house, the original builder might have records of who drilled the well.

The problem is, an irrigation well generally does not have to be built with cemented-in surface casing to below the surface infiltration zone - unless there are specific regulations in the area to protect drinking water aquifers, it can be built pretty much any way the driller wants as long as it holds up and works and does not mix potable and non-potable aquifers (water sources). Drinking or "potable water" wells have to (in most areas) have the water tested after drilling to prove that it is not contaminated by pesticides, fertilizer, septic effluent, contaminated surface waters, escessive natural minerals or metals etc - and typically the top 10-20 feet (or sometimes much more depending on geology) has to be provided with a grouted-in steel casing to prevent shallow potentially contaminated water from getting into the well without having to flow down through the earth that far to get to the well (which usually filters it).

So - unless the well was certified for potable water use, you should not link it to the household water system - and generally non-potable water is not allowed to be connected into the house at all without a number of provisions to prevent cross-contamination, like is done in systems that recycle gray water (wash water) for energy conservation or islands where salt water may be used for flushing and such. If you are running separate potable and graywater/non-potable water systems in the house, the non-potable piping and valves and appliances and such have to be clearly marked as such throughout the house, and any possible cross-connections eliminated. And if going that route, consider what that will do to resale value- talk to your favorite realtor, but I suspect unless in a really bad water shortage area, you would be better off rehabbing an unapproved irrigation well or drilling a brand new potable water well to provide the needed clean water, because buyers really get turned off by a system that screams "water shortage".

I would first check with local building department (who will likely pass you over to the Health Department or Water Conservation District or such who handles wells in your area) about how to find out if your well is cleared for potable use or not - or even if it is regitered if supposed to be - could be it is illegal for one of several reason, and if in a water shortage area or one with both bad and good aquifers near the surface, might be violating local regulations in that way. If you are lucky, you are in a water shortage area where wells have to be permitted - those documents from when the well was drilled/dug should tell if potable design or not. (If quite old, obviously not - registration of wells generally began about in the 70's to 90's in most areas that do that). Then ask how it can be certified if it is not already - some areas require that a new surface casing be put in and grouted (or the existing casing perforated and pressure grouted from inside), other just allow water testing to EPA drinking warter standards (a standard test protocol when testing wells for home sale) to show it is currently within acceptable limits for hazardous materials - chemical, mineral, or sewage contamination. (Though that does not necessarily mean it will be year-around - for instance, many wells without grouted surface casing are fine except in th rainy or snow-melt season when contamination moves over the ground or in a shallow near-surface aquifer and contaminates the well. Other areas get contiminated in summer rains due to washing-in of fertilizers or pesticides from adjacent areas - farming or from residential lawn fertilizing or weed or pest killing procedures.

One of the first things you will need (and you may ultimately need it surveyed to document its location officially) is the distance from any other wells (of any type), and from any and alll septic tanks and leach field or septic pits. Generally a potable water well has to be 100 feet from any sewage source - more in some areas, especially in shallow bedrock areas, and sometimes elevation relative to the potential source can increase or descrase that number. Distance from another potable well varies by area, some have no regulation - commonly 50 feet or 100 feet but sometimes as much 200-1000 feet in potable groundwater shortage areas, but usually that applies only to neighboring properties not to other wells on your own same piece of property. (1000 clearance feet is the most I have seen - in several extreme groundwater shortage areas in the west and western midwest, and some of those related only to distance from mineral/oil/gas wells, not other water wells, though some in dry western/midwest areas (think Wyoming and Colorado and West Texas for instance) did limit water wells pumping from the same aquifer to 500-1000 foot spacing.

The physical tapping in or the wells will depend on types of pumps and water availability in each well, and of course will need some backflow prevention devices isntalled - because you do not want the pumps fighting against each other or normally one pumping into the other well and filling it up or overflowing it. Normally, in this situation, one would be made the primary well and the other a backup well - pumping into a storage tank that the primary pump also pumps to and another household pressure stabilization pump drawing from to provide water to the house, with the primary pump set to keep the tank fairly full and the secondary set to kick on only when the tank level gets low. Sometimes if the primary well (usually the one that can produce the most water in a day) is pulling from the same aquifer as the secondary, and has a lot of storage capacity (deep or big around) sometimes the secondary will pump directly to that well for storage. It all depends on how capable one well is of keeping up with normal demand, whether you want both to supply water as needed automatically or if you can accept having to do something manually, and whether the water quality is such that it does not matter which supplies the water at a given time - sometimes both wells will be used as primary, alternating as they get low.

And of course the present well/pump/supply piping configuration and ability to produce water will affect the layout, as will storage needs (either because of low well capacity or because of a need for water for potential wildfire or house fire fighting ifin remote area, so as to reuse as much of (and hopefully besically all) the existing system with only minor modifications.

BEfore going ahead very far on this, you should also do a pump test on each well - measuring the drawdown versus time, and the total amount it can pump before it starts going dry and also the sustained pumping rate it can handle. Then, assuming these are reasonably close together and potentially pumping from the same aquifer, after they have had a chance to recharge, do the same test with BOTH wells running to see if one is pulling the water from another. I have seen this situation where two wells within a hundred feet or so of each other (and much further with deep wells in water shortage areas) "steal" water from the other well.

One thing - be sure the design has simple, clearly marked valving and power switches with plastic-coated instruction sheet "by the numbers" to allow for manual selection of either of the wells (assuming both are potable water) so if one well/pump has a problem you can manually cut that one out of the system and use the other by itself for awhile. And this valve/switch numbering and cheat sheet should be readily followed by any adult or neqar-adult in the house, especially if the usual outdoor chore person travels for work or such - but should be easy to comprehend even for a housesitter while away on vacation, say.

You also want low water automatci shutoffs so you don't burn the pumps out by running them dry.

You may also be looking at needing water treatment, depending on the well water quality.

Cheapest solution for the design/work - a Well and Pump company - but sometimes you end up with something that does not work well at ALL because most of them have little or no experience with multi-well systems - most of them are limited to simple well/pump/single control installations. Better - have a Civil Engineering firm who does new development design in your area with a well and groundwater expert on staff (or cinsulting to them) do the design, usually in conjunction with the well company to come up with a design that will work, have limits and controls that match the capacity of the wells and your needs, and be something that contractor can install reasonably and professionally. May cost some hundreds to maybe max $1000 but should avoid a rube goldberg piping nightmare.

BTW - on the toilet and washing machine issue - generally, if the water is not potable due to mineral content or contamination (unless only not suitable due to low levels of poisons like arsenic or lead or such which are dangerous only if ingested), it is likely not going to be real suitable for those uses either. High mineral content or such will cause graying and rapid aging of clothes and rapid buildup of deposits in the toilet, and of course if pesticides or man-made contaminants are the issue one would have to consider whether the residual level in washed clothes will constitute unacceptable exposure (especially for children)- I have worked several projects where pretty low level chemical or pesticide contaminants were unsafe in clothing (especially clothing that will get wet from sweat or drink spillage, causing possible poisoning from absorption of the poison into the skin).

Answered 3 years ago by LCD



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Answered 3 years ago by Member Services

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