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Country Discussion Topics
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Old water well or what?
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Carol from TX    Posted 05-20-2001 at 08:29:38       [Reply]  [Send Email]
I'm a city slicker, but things change. Last year we bought 40 acres of land, formerly part of a large ranch. In exploring the place, we found what seems to be an old well. The area was wildly overgrown, looking like it had been years since any human had set foot there. This is in oil country, so I suppose it's possible that it was a dry hole, but more likely not, especially since the pipe is so small in diameter. It's about a 150 feet from a more modern irrigation well. There's an old, rusted, metal pipe, about the size of a large orange juice can in diameter, sticking a foot out of the ground, and it was capped loosely. In the same area (a grove of very old live oaks) we found some old junk -- pipe sections of similar size, wire, broken slabs of concrete, and -- surprise -- a brick barbecue pit! So my question is: could this have been a working well? How can you get a pump down a pipe that small? Could we possibly put a hand pump or a windmill on it? (We plan to convert the irrigation well to our main water source for our future house.) I put a small container on a string down in it, and came up with rusty, brown water and a dead scorpion. Yuk. Any chance we could use this old well? Water level currently is about 80 feet, same as the irrigation well, but summer's coming and the rain will go away for a while. Any help would be appreciated.


IHank    Posted 05-20-2001 at 22:05:18       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Carol- You got some good posts to work from here. My take on what you say is that you'd be smart to plug that thing and go with the irrigation well like you say.

Hard telling what's in there and has fouled the bottom. You mention a dead scorpion... Hard telling what is rotting away further down and that your sample didn't show. You hit the nail on the head with your "yuck" comment.

Best thing to do is dig down about 3 feet around the pipe sticking up. Cut the pipe off. Fill the pipe with bentonite clay. Give the bottom of the hole a concrete covering, a bag of the pre-mixed "Sackrete" stuff is about right size. Fill the hole back up with dirt. Lastly, notate your property records about sealing the well and tell it's location from some permenant reference points.

The idea is to seal a well that is likely contaminated, so it won't be used and more importantly so it won't be an inflow point for surface contamination getting into the ground water aquifer and screwing things up for the whole area. Here in Iowa the big threat is animal manure and farm chemicals getting into the aquifer. Ponder what your surface contaminants are.

I don't know about Texas, but up here in Iowa the state did have a special funding program to accomplish essentially what I described. I don't have current information on well closing programs now.

Do some more public or private commo with Burrhead and your neighbors on this. Good luck, IHank


Alvin    Posted 05-22-2001 at 05:01:33       [Reply]  [No Email]
IHank--You mention animal manure and farm chemicals--don't forget that every year thousands of acres are being taken out of agriculture and covered with roofs which shed water and paved parking lots and driveways, water runs off from that onto ag land. That also comtains oil fron dripping cars and most are leakers plus the at home oil changers that dump drain oil where ever their heart desires.. It is done every day.
I live in NE WI, have a farn with land near a river and also appericate it's beauty, but on the other side of the road, got a new housing development , lots of black top, water all comes across my field, full of oil scum, pop bottles and beer cans , garbage, you name and I have seen it. They are also going across the lawn a couple times a month with a spreader putting junk on the lawn!! Before the devolpement , there was very little run off...
The more ag land that gets covered up, the worse it gets, don't put all the blame on ag. we need our soil for our business, so we do a pretty good job of protecting it, more so than the yuppies!!..


IHank    Posted 05-22-2001 at 05:56:14       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Alvin- Thanks for the reply. Your point is a good one and well stated. IHank


David    Posted 05-20-2001 at 14:45:54       [Reply]  [No Email]
Sure you can reclaim it! Sounds like an old well. Surface pumps won't draw that deep, but for less than $400, you can rig up (or maybe borrow) a submersible pump(with a safety rope), one-way valve, wiring and black plastic pipe and feed the whole works down maybe 100 feet, then hook it up and let it pump for a week into a pond or ditch. Unless it contains oil, it might be good for livestock or even for humans. If it contains enough oil, might be better yet!

If you decide it's worth using as a well, pour a whole bottle of bleach down there (to disinfect it) and let it set overnite. Then pump the bleach out, take a whiff and that's about as good as the water will get. THEN have i tested by the County Health people. Good luck!


PS: I'm no pro -- but i DID stay in a motel last nite! :)


Burrhead    Posted 05-20-2001 at 16:30:02       [Reply]  [No Email]
That's not right David. Gorman Rupp and A O Smith both manufacture deep well surface pumps for up to 175'. Pump, foot valve, pipe and all would be around $300 to $325 in this area.


David    Posted 05-20-2001 at 20:44:57       [Reply]  [No Email]
I don't doubt you for a minute but that's a new one on me, Burrhead - how do they get around the 32 foot maximum lift where atmospheric pressure limits it? Do they pump from the bottom and stage it with "leathers" or something?
You got an old guy ready to learn something now - heh heh




Salmoneye    Posted 05-21-2001 at 05:31:24       [Reply]  [Send Email]
I was wondering about how they get around the 32 foot max lift also...


Burrhead    Posted 05-21-2001 at 07:05:27       [Reply]  [No Email]
I don't know why or how the 32' rule works at all.

We put a 1hp deepwell A.O. Smith on a 270' well here all the way to the bottom and it does fine to supply a house.

We put it with a 1" pressure line to the foot valve with a 1.25" return line and set the control at 60/40.

Maybe ignorance is bliss since we just did like everybody else does around here.

I really don't know. We are at 17' above sealevel. The water table here is only about 6 to 8' but we blocked it off down to 200' so as to not get any groundwater runoff of chemicals and fertilizers from the rice fields.


Carol from TX    Posted 05-21-2001 at 18:08:36       [Reply]  [Send Email]
I think the 32 feet thing is that you can't pull a vacuum over one atmosphere, or the water boils? But-- I am assured by old timers around here that the old windmills pull from deeper than that, presumably the way that electric pumps work, only powered by wind. I think I'm going to try putting another can down the well and let it sink farther down before I do anything drastic like capping it, although the suggestion is appreciated. I would hate to waste a good well. I may also just try to find someone who worked/lived on the ranch and ask them.

Thanks to all who answered.


David - water pressure    Posted 05-21-2001 at 16:49:49       [Reply]  [No Email]
Thanks for that info. BTW, if you want to have some fun this summer with an old cracked 50-foot garden hose that's laying around, try an easy-but-spectacular water-pressure test. Fill it with water, cap one end and start dragging the open end up a ladder, hayloft or somewhere it can be nearly vertical. We'd drag ours up the windmill tower, and somewhere along the way it would rip and burst and whip like a cartoon grampa's britches! Everybody got wet at once!


Burrhead    Posted 05-20-2001 at 09:08:34       [Reply]  [No Email]
Carol that's probly the old waterwell and a foremans house place you found.

They may have been drilled like we get them around here in SE Texsa.

When the drillers come across your place drilling sisemagraph holes you get them to drill a water well while they check for oil.

You don't have to put a pump down the well. You can use a deep well pump that sits above ground and has a foot valve on it. That way you can use a 1" to 2" foot valve and it only takes a small shaft to run the pipe and valve down.

The rusted off steel pipe could be a piece of drill stem they cased the well off with when the crew went through there for the oil companies.

Once you pump the well down that will clean the water up and it will be as good as it originally was to begin with.

The way I check these wells around here for depth is this. I take a fishing reel, put a weight on the end of the line and let it down to the bottom. Pull the line back out and measure the depth.

If you let it down slow and be quite then when the weight hits the water tie a knot in the line. Now let it on down to the bottom.

When you pull the line back out you will be able to tell both how far down the water table is and how deep the well is.


Carol from TX    Posted 05-21-2001 at 18:18:47       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Thanks. What a great idea about the fishing rod -- makes it a lot easier to pull back up, I'll bet. We kind of suspect that this was an old deer hunter's camp from the fifties or sixties, and maybe they had a camper and used the well for water. In any case, we were really pleased to find it. I do love a good mystery. I'd love to put a hand pump or a windmill on it just for the pure heck of it. I remember about a hundred years ago, when I was a kid, there was a farm that we kids used to visit with an old pump in front of the farmhouse. No visit was complete without pumping that thing and drinking the water out of our hands. Never mind that the sweet old ladies who owned the place were happy to give us tap water out of a glass. The pump was soo-o-o- much cooler. Thanks for your input. I'm gonna give that fishing pole thing a try.


Burrhead    Posted 05-21-2001 at 18:30:54       [Reply]  [No Email]
You're welcome Carol and good luck with it.

Yes them old pitcher pumps were fun when I was a kid too til you were big enough for chores and it was your turn to fetch water.


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