Need advice on an irrigation well on property

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

SanPancho

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
Messages
2,731
Reaction score
851
Location
West Coast Island in the Bay
so im out in the SF bay area, central bay area. hasnt been farming around here for close to 100 years. nonetheless, as we started clearing out overgrown bushes and trees and crap from the yard at my new house- i found a 4" abs pipe sticking up out of a big concrete pad, with 4 threaded rods in it. looks like a pump pad.

so i'd like to be able to rig up the well to irrigate my lawn. i hit water 12 feet down, and there's something "solid" at about 25 feet- which i assume is the bottom of the well shaft. i'm going to try and pull up some water and send it over to ward lab for an analysis to make sure it isnt salty (we're about 1000ft from the bay).

assuming it comes back clean, what's my next step? i have no idea what the bottom of the well looks like- could be a gravel pack, could be a crappy plastic strainer, could be nothing but the 4" abs pipe just rammed into the bottom of the shaft. i guess i dont really have a way to find out do i? there's at least 12 feet of water in the shaft, and no light obviously. unless somebody has an underwater camera with lights that has a 25' extension not sure how i'd be able to tell whats down there at the bottom....

anybody have an idea of the best course of action here?
 

madscientist451

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 10, 2014
Messages
5,496
Reaction score
3,273
Location
Bedford
Best course of action: relax and have a homebrew. A shallow well 1000 feet from salt water is most likely going to be salty, or unreliable as far a quality goes. If its Ok, go with it for now but realize it could go south any time.
 

day_trippr

"This Space For Rent"
Joined
May 31, 2011
Messages
38,351
Reaction score
21,446
Location
Stow, MA
Talked to your neighbors yet? They might be able to give you some idea of the history and viability of your "well".
That said, a four inch pipe 25 feet long holds...~20 gallons. Unless it's planted in a rather large volume of coarse rock I wonder what its maximum sustainable flow rate might be...

Cheers!
 
OP
OP
SanPancho

SanPancho

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
Messages
2,731
Reaction score
851
Location
West Coast Island in the Bay
i had the same concern about salt water. but after speaking with some folks in the ag world, they said it might not be a problem at all.

1- the area was agricultural in the late 1800s. no aquaducts, federal water projects, etc. back then. farms used well water. crops didnt die. well water was fine.

2- since the ground water here hasnt been used for irrigation in almost a century, there hasnt been any drawdown of the water table at all effectively. so the pressure of the fresh water should be keeping the bay salt water out. and the bay mud is super heavy with clay, which also reduces the oermeability/salt intrusion.

so, the opinion of these folks is that it could very well be perfectly fine for the lawn. 50/50 odds.
 
OP
OP
SanPancho

SanPancho

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
Messages
2,731
Reaction score
851
Location
West Coast Island in the Bay
actually, its 25ft deep but water line is at 12 feet. so roughly 13 feet of water, or maybe 10ish gallons.

but yeah, without some sort of crazy video scope ( maybe the kind they use to scope sewer laterals?) i have no idea what the well head (?) is - gravel, sand, filter screen, nothing but soil.....

that's why i figured smartest route would be to test water first- then if quality is ok shell out for a pump and see what sort of flow i can get.

we're headed for some bad drought times again, so if i can keep the lawn green without paying up the wazoo for it im all in.

oh- and nobody around here has any clue about wells unless they grew up in rural area. while SF may be considered "the city" pretty much all this area is urban. i've been all over the bay area for work over past 20 years and the number of actual wells i've seen in the central /core bay area is probably less than i can count on two hands, and they were all landscape irrigation. pretty rare.
 
Last edited:

Tom R

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
594
Reaction score
722
Location
S. Puget Sound
I live on Puget Sound. Our well is about 150' from the high-tide line. The well head is about 5' higher than our bulkhead (which is underwater at extreme tides). It's 35' deep (I've pulled it).

I was told by an old-timer that "the fresh water holds the saltwater back". I have no idea if this is true. He also said that if the aquifer is ever pumped so low that the saltwater can intrude, we're all screwed.

Let's hope THAT doesn't happen. So far we're fine, been here over 20 years, and the house was built as a summer cabin in the 50's.
 

Deadalus

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 3, 2020
Messages
1,381
Reaction score
1,504
A bit expensive for the homebrewer https://www.amazon.com/MABELSTAR-underwater-borehole-inspection-control/dp/B06XGZBPRC.

I think it would be more illuminating to know the geology there than just a picture of the pipe because what is at the bottom of the pipe may be disturbed sediments. It might help indicate age if the pipe material is specific to decades just a thought. A well boring company might be helpful to ask, depending on what you want to pay out for information.

A hydrologist or geologist though might be able to direct you to information regarding the locale geologic layers. The federal government surveys those types of features (USGS) much like you can get an idea of your local soil type from NRCS soil maps. (The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) used to be called the Soil Conservation Service.) NRCS is part of USDA and they do a lot of extension work to farmers and gardeners and usually pretty approachable and have local offices.
 

grampamark

“That’s what”.—She
HBT Supporter
Joined
Sep 1, 2017
Messages
12,731
Reaction score
31,982
Location
The Frozen Tundra/The Magic City
It’s possible that you don’t have a well at all. The borehole and pipe could have been put there for some other purpose, or just be a dry hole that was left with the pipe in it. Before you get too far into this project I’d suggest you beg/borrow/rent a pump and find out if you can sustain a flow or if the water in the pipe is just accumulated rain/runoff water. Don’t ask me how I know. :cool:
 
Joined
Apr 23, 2009
Messages
35,386
Reaction score
15,099
Location
☀️ Clearwater, FL ☀️
so im out in the SF bay area, central bay area. hasnt been farming around here for close to 100 years. nonetheless, as we started clearing out overgrown bushes and trees and crap from the yard at my new house- i found a 4" abs pipe sticking up out of a big concrete pad, with 4 threaded rods in it. looks like a pump pad.

so i'd like to be able to rig up the well to irrigate my lawn. i hit water 12 feet down, and there's something "solid" at about 25 feet- which i assume is the bottom of the well shaft. i'm going to try and pull up some water and send it over to ward lab for an analysis to make sure it isnt salty (we're about 1000ft from the bay).

assuming it comes back clean, what's my next step? i have no idea what the bottom of the well looks like- could be a gravel pack, could be a crappy plastic strainer, could be nothing but the 4" abs pipe just rammed into the bottom of the shaft. i guess i dont really have a way to find out do i? there's at least 12 feet of water in the shaft, and no light obviously. unless somebody has an underwater camera with lights that has a 25' extension not sure how i'd be able to tell whats down there at the bottom....

anybody have an idea of the best course of action here?

You can call Roto-Rooter (or other plumbing service) and ask them to do a camera survey of the pipe. Here, they charge $300 for that. They do this all the time looking for root intrusion or other obstructions in sewer pipes, etc.

For that money, you could also buy a submersible well pump that would fit down that pipe. I agree with others - I'd find a diaphragm / self-priming pump to borrow and see if it sustains flow, and if it is salty, before I'd throw much money at it.
 
OP
OP
SanPancho

SanPancho

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
Messages
2,731
Reaction score
851
Location
West Coast Island in the Bay
so here's results

6.9pH
sodium adsorption ratio 0.6
TDS 142
sodium 13ppm
potassium 10
ca 23
mag 5
hardness caco3 78
nitrate 0.2
chloride 6
carbonate less than 1
bicarb 112 ?
total alkaliinty 92

so doenst seem like there's much salt in there at all. should be fine for irrigation, no?
 

Beerstein

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Aug 13, 2021
Messages
332
Reaction score
474
Location
Willamette Valley
That water profile should be fine. The question is how much water can you pump per minute without the well drying out. The good news about a well that shallow is that you can use a non sub Merged well pump. These are cheaper. You can find them at Home Depot/Lowe’s for a few hundred bucks. you can call a well driller to benchmark the well with an airlift, but that’s going to cost some $$. You might be better off buying a $150 pump just to test this.
 

mashpaddled

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2018
Messages
776
Reaction score
528
Location
Denver, CO
My thought too was that you don't know for sure if you have a well or if this was the foundation for some structure that filled with rainwater over years. It's an interesting experiment but probably one you need to test by bringing out a plumber or well service company that could scope the pipe and would have more experience with what older wells in your area look like. Chances are good if there is one well in the area then any others in the area probably include others built in the same manner and timeframe.
 
OP
OP
SanPancho

SanPancho

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
Messages
2,731
Reaction score
851
Location
West Coast Island in the Bay
we finally got our first water bill, and between watering the hell out of the new lawn for a month, plus all the dishes, showers, toilets and what not it was not much to be honest. and i've cut the lawn watering in half now that its established. so will be interested to see how low it goes.

long story short, not such a rush to get this all set up now. but the drought keeps going, so not going to abandon it either. need to buy a well point/filter and a check valve, connect the buried lines and then test. you can get cheap pumps with pressure tanks for 200-300 on amazon with decent reviews. so once i get done with the landscaping, that's the next move. no idea what sort of production i'll get and nobody around the neighborhood has a well so no point of reference. just gonna have to try it and see.
 

AkTom

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jun 19, 2013
Messages
1,923
Reaction score
1,439
Location
Soldotna
You could get some 1” pvc pipe and jam it in the bottom, to see what comes up in the pipe… you could probably reuse it too.
 

InspectorJon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 3, 2018
Messages
810
Reaction score
715
Location
Placerville
ABS pipe was invented in the 1950s but not used much until the mid to late 60s. So the hole may be older but the pipe is not that old.

When a well is tested up here in the Sierra Foothills they try and pump it dry and then measure the recovery rate. You will need a minimum of 5 gallons per minute to do any significant lawn irrigation unless you have a storage system. I don’t know what they get in the Bay Area but a well test costs a few hundred dollars around here. I would not spend much on trying to develop it without verifying that there is some output capacity. Call a few well testing and repair companies to learn more about what you might have.

For what it is worth, many municipal water districts do no allow you to have a well and their meter on the same property or at least not without some kind of anti-back flow device. They don’t want the risk of the well water getting diverted into their system. Might be a case of don’t ask, don’t tell.
 
OP
OP
SanPancho

SanPancho

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
Messages
2,731
Reaction score
851
Location
West Coast Island in the Bay
so was finally able to circle back to this, and here's what ive got. 3" submersible pump at the bottom of the well. its too much flow. sucks it dry pretty fast.

1st run
[email protected] [email protected] 18.5gal before it petered out, roughly 2min 30ish seconds
waited 15min
[email protected] [email protected] about 1:30 and petered out
waited 15min
34.2 @1min [email protected] about 1:30ish, petered out
waited 15 min
[email protected] 45.5 and petered out after 90 seconds
waited 15min
[email protected] 53.3 and petered out after 90 seconds

so essentially, unless something changes underground, im looking at roughly 1/2 to 3/4 gal per minute. obviously thats not worth it. however, as i noted before there are folks here on the island that have old wells and they seem to use them. not sure what kind of performance they get, but seems like its gotta be better than this.

so- i've looked into changing up the sprinklers to go super low flow/high efficient. i'd need to break up things a bit but essentially i'd just split one big zone into two. then i'd be looking at 2.45gpm to 3.3gpm max. lawn gets about 100ish gals a day.

typical pressure tank seems like it wouldnt work, as my recharge rate is too slow from the well. id need a very big pressure tank. crazy expensive.

but then i figured if i get a decent size bulk storage tank of say 150gal, i could get a second pump that actually ran the sprinklers. more gear, more tinkering, but doesnt seem too hard.

need a fill level sensor on the tank running to a relay.
relay powers the timer unit.
timer tells pump to run for 2min every 30min.

that should be somewhere about 14gals, so (conservatively i hope) 28gals per hour. and it would just run for as long as it takes to fill the tank and shut off the system via the fill level switch.

then need to pick up a dedicated irrigation pump, only need 35/40psi and less than 5gal per minute.

dont think the irrigation pump should be hard to source. worst case i could snag 3 big plastic barrels for ~165gal storage. rest of the stuff seems pretty easy to come up with also.

i guess biggest issue is figuring where the hell i'm gonna put a 150gal tank.......
 

Beerstein

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Aug 13, 2021
Messages
332
Reaction score
474
Location
Willamette Valley
so was finally able to circle back to this, and here's what ive got. 3" submersible pump at the bottom of the well. its too much flow. sucks it dry pretty fast.

1st run
[email protected] [email protected] 18.5gal before it petered out, roughly 2min 30ish seconds
waited 15min
[email protected] [email protected] about 1:30 and petered out
waited 15min
34.2 @1min [email protected] about 1:30ish, petered out
waited 15 min
[email protected] 45.5 and petered out after 90 seconds
waited 15min
[email protected] 53.3 and petered out after 90 seconds

so essentially, unless something changes underground, im looking at roughly 1/2 to 3/4 gal per minute. obviously thats not worth it. however, as i noted before there are folks here on the island that have old wells and they seem to use them. not sure what kind of performance they get, but seems like its gotta be better than this.

so- i've looked into changing up the sprinklers to go super low flow/high efficient. i'd need to break up things a bit but essentially i'd just split one big zone into two. then i'd be looking at 2.45gpm to 3.3gpm max. lawn gets about 100ish gals a day.

typical pressure tank seems like it wouldnt work, as my recharge rate is too slow from the well. id need a very big pressure tank. crazy expensive.

but then i figured if i get a decent size bulk storage tank of say 150gal, i could get a second pump that actually ran the sprinklers. more gear, more tinkering, but doesnt seem too hard.

need a fill level sensor on the tank running to a relay.
relay powers the timer unit.
timer tells pump to run for 2min every 30min.

that should be somewhere about 14gals, so (conservatively i hope) 28gals per hour. and it would just run for as long as it takes to fill the tank and shut off the system via the fill level switch.

then need to pick up a dedicated irrigation pump, only need 35/40psi and less than 5gal per minute.

dont think the irrigation pump should be hard to source. worst case i could snag 3 big plastic barrels for ~165gal storage. rest of the stuff seems pretty easy to come up with also.

i guess biggest issue is figuring where the hell i'm gonna put a 150gal tank.......

Ive got a vertical 165. its about 30” dia. i very seriously reget not getting a 1000.
 

Deadalus

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 3, 2020
Messages
1,381
Reaction score
1,504
These hold around 275-325 gallons. I just finished installing mine, I have it collecting rainwater for my garden. A little more compact than barrels.
1653316162749.jpeg
 
OP
OP
SanPancho

SanPancho

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
Messages
2,731
Reaction score
851
Location
West Coast Island in the Bay
Ive got a vertical 165. its about 30” dia. i very seriously reget not getting a 1000.
i think the limiting issue for me is the fact that the well is such a low producer it might not make sense to try and hold that much in reserve. not to mention there isnt a whole lot of extra space in the yard for something that big.....

These hold around 275-325 gallons. I just finished installing mine, I have it collecting rainwater for my garden. A little more compact than barrels.View attachment 769658
i thought of totes last night while i was "shopping" on craigslist for used barrels. although its larger and more compact than 3 barrels, i think i might end up using the barrels anyways. three of them against the garage wall will be a nice heavy base for a 24" deep and 6ft long plywood "workbench" top. (just need to figure out how to secure the worktop.

then i wont be so bummed about giving up floor space in garage...
 
OP
OP
SanPancho

SanPancho

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
Messages
2,731
Reaction score
851
Location
West Coast Island in the Bay
now that i think about it more, the tote might not be so bad. it will work out with a 48X48 shelving system i have but have never been able to use. and in middle of summer when i have to up the water to more like 150gals per day it should handle it no problem.

i should be getting this timer later today from amazon. looks like it will just do a constant loop of 2min "on" for well pump every 30 min, until the fill level switch i install shuts the system to "off" on a full reservoir. i'll set it to run tonite when it gets here, and i'll just see how much the well puts out over the next 24hours. even if im only getting 10gal per hour in total, that would be plenty to run sprinklers full blast. and a tote will be able to hold it all.

51h4DEwmWUS._SX425_.jpg
 

Deadalus

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 3, 2020
Messages
1,381
Reaction score
1,504
The tote I have is 48"x40"x48" (LxWxH) and I think is 325 gallons. I bought this cap for the bottom outlet, you have to be careful matching the threads as different types are used. I thought about putting a table top on mine, it's about bar height. I drilled the top cap out with a hole saw where I used an 1 1/4" PVC male adapter to go to a female adapter on the other side. I put a union on the lid inflow in order to unscrew the top lid if necessary. I put the overflow on the side with a bulkhead. It was a little hard to reach the longer side and I didn't want to drop the back side of the bulkhead inside. It's pretty tight hand snug but I could have gotten a pair of channel locks on it if I wanted to and probably is doable the longer way. (I wear 33" sleeves.)
 
OP
OP
SanPancho

SanPancho

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
Messages
2,731
Reaction score
851
Location
West Coast Island in the Bay
i ended up getting at 275gal tote, and putting it in the garage. didnt take up too much space, put some boards on it and a shelving unit and a table top, so at least now i get some storage and work space out of it. wired it up to the timer noted above, with a float switch in the tote, needs adjustment but over less than 8 hours i got about 160gals. (the float switch kicked in so no idea how much more i would have gotten for the full 8 hours...)

now here's the issue- as i noted long ago, the island was mostly mud flats from what i've been told. and it makes sense as the soil is super fine and silty. when you dig it fluffs up like crazy. in any case, this is what i'm getting in the tote.
IMG_8898.jpg

looks like a clogged toilet thats been sitting for weeks. now, a day later im looking at this.
IMG_8899.jpg

pretty much no change. there might be a little bit of settlement/clearing at the top of the tote, but its hard to tell and that might just be the lighting.
so here's the issue- how bad of a problem is this for your typical sprinkler system?

the fact that it hasnt settled leads me to believe this stuff is super fine. and if its super fine, i dont really see it clogging the sprinklers. when the sprinkler heads get clogged its from little pieces of sand or grit. stuff big enough to notice if it was in your sandwich. but this stuff seems too fine. i initially thought about putting spin down filter on it, but all the cheaper ones i've seen are at like 40 micron which seems like its so fine it would clog constantly.

so i know there's really only one way to find out- plumb it to the sprinklers and see what happens. but i'd also need to buy another pump, wire it up, plumb it to sprinklers, etc. not a ton of work but more than it takes to finish a beer or two.

am i overthinking this? or is stuff this fine likely not to be a problem?
 
Top