Living in the country, we are not on city water. Like natural gas for heating, cable for television and internet, water and sewers are just not an option here. We have to rely on our own well.

Water running from a kitchen faucet

In previous posts, I alluded to some of the issues we’ve had with our water at the farm (these issues are separate from our stinky hot water, which is now fixed). Today I’m going to go into a bit more detail.

Most people when they buy a house these days do a home inspection. We did that, and we also hired a special inspector just for the well. The inspection included looking at the well itself along with the pumping and treatment systems, performing a flow test to see the rate that water flows into the well and testing the water for bacteria contamination.

The reviews came back mixed.

The good:

  • The flow was continuous and steady, with an average of 5.08 gallons per minute–adequate for the size of our house and our needs.
  • Zero coliform and zero e. coli–no bacterial contamination
Water bacteria test form

The official form from the public health lab

The bad:

  • The pressure tank (which makes sure that you have water pressure even when the pump isn’t running) had a torn bladder. The exact wording from the inspection report was “it is in bad condition… The tank is the heart of the system and needs replacing as soon as possible.”
  • The filter in the house that was supposed to be removing iron from the water was “exhausted and needs replacement.”
  • There was a water softener in the house, but it was not hooked up to anything.

The ugly:

  • The pump and pressure tank were in the barn. This is a problem for several reasons. First, the barn is about 100 feet from the house. Therefore, by the time the water gets to the house, the water pressure was not very strong. The second issue is that the barn isn’t heated. The “pump house” was an insulated plywood box heated by a light bulb–okay until the bulb burns out or the power goes off. The city girl in me just couldn’t handle relying on that light bulb for a warm bath in the winter.
  • The well itself was “a homemade construction… modified as the water table dropped.” But it was still only 25 feet deep, which means that the source was surface water, not ground water, and therefore it was much more susceptible to contamination. The penultimate sentence in the inspection report was probably the most impactful: “There is no provision for sanitary protection and/or sealing of the well.” Lovely.
The plywood box that housed our pump and pressure tank

The plywood box in the barn that housed our pump and pressure tank. Note the light bulb.

We went ahead with our offer on the farm knowing we’d have to do a lot of fixes. As soon as we moved in all of the issues with the water quickly became apparent.

The first time I showered, the water pressure was very… shall we say… gentle. The first time Matt showered, he came out of the bathroom and said, “We’re fixing that.”

Over the course of a week, the tub and toilet slowly turned orange. At first, I thought it was just dirt. This is the first time Matt and I have shared a bathroom, so, of course, I blamed it on the boy. But I soon realized it was the iron.


This is not actually a photo of a dirty toilet. The water in the toilet is clean, but all of the iron in the water and the staining on the porcelain makes it look yellow. (Sorry, but this is the best illustration I have of the iron in our water, aside from psycho shower.)

Boiling eggs for our weekend breakfast left the pot with a scale of hard water stains.

We did another water test to check for bacteria, and it again came back zero coliform and zero e. coli.

Despite this good news, the issues were piling up.

We started to look critically at the existing water infrastructure at the farm and investigating solutions. Coming up I’ll share what we did to fix our water woes.

6 thoughts on “H2-uh-O

  1. We just switched to our back well (pump also located in the barn) on Friday, due to the front well level starting to fall and hitting iron and sulpher. Country living at its best!

  2. I can so relate. We just moved onto a forty acre property. The hubs grew up in the country and was unafraid of the well but I, on the otherhand, was and still am a little terrified of it. Our pressure tank is in good condition and we have a decent poly storage tank (1800 gallons, I think?). The seller was an electrician and rigged the pump to come on only for a few hours a night – yep, we ran out of water pretty much immediately. The hubs has since set the timer to run a little longer and we’re okay now. We had coliform show up in the test – we’re told that is very common for our area and to test every six months to every year and add chlorine as necessary. Our well is 350ft deep but we are located several hundred feet up a hill from the river which means our iron content is low. But, the crack in the well casing allows for random discoloration of our water. It’s just a really weird deal when you go to turn on your faucet and you’re not sure the water is going to a) turn on or b) be clear. City folk take so many things for granted!

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