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Water well owners: Don’t get left high and dry during drought

What Texans who rely on groundwater need to know now


The heat wave that has swept across the state has taken a toll on many water wells in Texas, which were already affected by extended drought conditions.

With a lack of moisture and record-setting temperatures, people who rely on well water need to be aware of the signs that their well may run out and take steps to prevent that from happening.

Joel Pigg, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist and coordinator for the Texas Well Owner Network, or TWON, Bryan-College Station, doesn’t want Texans in rural areas to be left high and dry. He shares some useful tips for anyone who depends on groundwater for their everyday needs.

How to identify a

If your well starts to sputter, loses pressure, or if your water looks anything less than clear, it’s a problem. If your pump is rapidly cycling on and off, turn it off, Pigg said. If your pump sounds like it is sucking air, let it rest.

Low or slow-recovering water levels will make your pump cycle rapidly and can burn out the motor, he said. Low water levels also can cause submersible pumps to overheat and damage PVC pipes. If the water level doesn’t rise, you may need to reduce your pumping rate or lower the pump. If the water level drops below the point of your pump intake, the pump could burn up.

There are warnings for well owners that their water level is dropping and may go dry. The well may begin to produce sand and air bubbles. Watch for sand in the toilet tank and cloudy-looking tap water that clears up after a while.

Understand where your water comes from

Most people take for granted that if they turn on a faucet in their home, water comes out, Pigg said. But people may not always think beyond that until that tap dries up or water starts coming out with a funny taste, smell, or cloudiness.

People, especially new home or landowners, need to make sure they know if they have a water well, a city water supply, or are on a water system.

“A lot of people who are buying properties in more rural areas don’t know that and don’t think to ask that question,” Pigg said. “Folks with a piece of property that they may not have owned for very long, or if it is their secondary vacation property, may not consider what being on well water entails and requires.”

During droughts, people rely more heavily on groundwater, which is the water held underground in aquifers. When more water is pumped out of the aquifer than is replenished by rain or other water sources, it becomes depleted.

Be conscious of your usage and conserve

Low pressure from a well may leave you needing to space out things that require water, such as showering or washing dishes or clothes.

“Essentially that aquifer needs time to fill back up,” Pigg said. “You do not want to run it down so low that you are sucking air or sediments into your pump.”

A pump without water can burn up and lead to costly repairs, he said. You may also want to consult with your neighbors on a schedule to distribute heavy water use over the week to help individual wells recover and to maintain the water supply for everyone in your area.

During drought, it is also important to prioritize what you’ll use water for and when. You may also want to add a pumped-water storage tank. This type of tank can help meet peak demand when you need more water than your pump can produce.

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