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An Ounce of Prevention: Water Conservation Guidance for Homeowners with Wells

 

Water conditions can change rapidly (As New Englanders say, “If you want to know what the weather is, stick your head outside!). Currently, our area of the state is experiencing a moderate drought. This has prompted the Regional Water Authority (RWA) to request that people reduce their water use and are asking for a 10% voluntary water reduction as the lack of precipitation is expected to continue through the end of the year. If everyone saves a “few drips” it can make a big difference.

However, many people in the health district do not have their water supplied by the RWA, as their water comes from private wells. Don’t think that if you are not on public water that this admonition doesn’t apply to you! When there is a drought, water conservation applies to everyone.

The following information is taken directly from the guidance prepared by the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to help people cope when groundwater levels are low and private wells may run dry.

Do I have a Problem? If you hear your pump going on more frequently than normal or experience water outages, or if air bubbles come out of your faucet, you well may be having trouble keeping up with your demand for water.

Where is My Well? How deep is it? These are some basic questions. If you do not know the answers, call your local health department who may have records on your well. The well driller who installed your well may also be a useful source of information. A metal detector may prove useful in tracing buried pipes to locate your well. New pipes are generally plastic, but iron is often used in the installation of wells.

Why Conserve Water? Cutting back on water use by refraining from outdoor use or doing laundry and limiting toilet flushing and bathing can significantly reduce your demand for water. Timing water use to spread out your water demand over the entire day may also help.

How Do I Increase My Available Water? A licensed plumber or well driller can inspect your well and may be able to lower the pump. This may increase the useable storage in the well and increase the extent of the aquifer from which the well can get water if the well is already deep. Deepening your well is another possibility. Consult your local health department about the advisability of deepening your well and to obtain a list of licensed well drillers. Increasing the amount of water storage through the installation of an atmospheric storage tank and/or transfer pump by a licensed plumber may help. Water in storage will be available for use as needed, for longer periods. This allows well water to flow into the well (recover) for a longer period of time before recharging the tank.

What Happens if I Run Out of Water? If the groundwater level drops below the bottom of your well you are out of water. Deepening your well or drilling a new well may be a solution. If that is not feasible, it may be possible to connect a tank to your home and have water delivered by a bulk water hauler, although this may require the installation of an atmospheric storage tank and transfer pump. Your town health department may have information on local facilities for bathing or filling containers for drinking water. Bulk water haulers are available but limited on their ability to deliver water.

What About Safety? Any time work is done on your well, or you add water storage, or change delivery, your system should be disinfected to kill any bacteria that may have entered the system during the work procedure. A description of disinfection procedures is available from your local health department. Also private well owners should test their water annually for bacteria and other indicators and whenever there is an evident change in quality contact your local health department for advice.

Things to Remember: Do not fill your well from other water sources. The water will disperse into the aquifer. Your well is not a storage tank.

The DEEP and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) offer suggestions on how to conserve water. Below is a partial list. Visit either website for additional suggestions.

Bathrooms:

  • Do not let the water run while shaving or brushing teeth.
  • Take short showers instead of tub baths. Turn off the water flow while soaping or shampooing.
  • If you must use a tub, close the drain before turning on the water and fill the tub only half full.
  • Consider using bath waste water for another use such as watering a plant or garden.

Kitchen and Laundry:

  • Keep drinking water in the refrigerator instead of letting the faucet run until the water is cool.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables in a basin. Use a vegetable brush.
  • Do not use water to defrost frozen foods, thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Use a dishpan for washing and rinsing dishes.
  • Scrape, rather than rinse, dishes before loading into the dishwasher.
  • Add food wastes to your compost pile instead of using the garbage disposal.
  • Operate the dishwasher only when completely full.
  • Use the appropriate water level or load size selection on the washing machine.

Outside:

  • Sweep driveways, sidewalks and steps rather than hosing off.
  • Wash the car with water from a bucket, or consider using a commercial car wash that recycles water.
  • When using a hose, control the flow with an automatic shut-off nozzle.

Equipment:

  • Repair all leaks. A leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons per day.
  • Install ultra-low flow toilets, or place a plastic container filled with water or gravel in the tank of your conventional toilet. Be sure it does not interfere with operation of the toilet’s flush mechanism.
  • Install low-flow aerators and showerheads.
  • Consider purchasing a high efficiency washing machine which can save over 50% in water and energy use.

Water Efficiency Measures for Landscaping

Watering:

  • Detect and repair all leaks in irrigation systems.
  • Use properly treated wastewater for irrigation where available.
  • Water the lawn or garden during the coolest part of the day (early morning is best). Do not water on windy days.
  • Water trees and shrubs, which have deep root systems, longer and less frequently than shallow-rooted plants which require smaller amounts of water more often.
  • Set sprinklers to water the lawn or garden only – not the street or sidewalk.
  • Use soaker hoses and trickle irrigation systems.
  • Install moisture sensors on sprinkler systems.

The information presented in this column is intended to offer suggestions about water conservation. It is compiled from the DEEP website. Questions by Quinnipiack Valley Health District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven and Woodbridge) may be addressed to info@qvhd.org or by telephone, 203 248-4528.

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