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Top 5 Warning Signs Your Water Well Is In Trouble

Top 5 Well Water Warning Signs That Tell You Your Water Well is in Trouble

Your water well is an amazing resource and can produce many years of fantastic water with little or no maintenance.

Precisely because most wells perform for many years with no maintenance, many homeowners may not realize that their well needs service or maintenance until it is too late.

The Top 5 Well Water Warning Signs Leading to these problems are:

1. The well is pumping air
2. The well is pumping sand or large amounts of sediment
3. The power bill has skyrocketed
4. Low water pressure
5. The pressure switch and pump continuously cycles on and off

Fortunately, there are some tell-tale signs you can look for that can alert you to correct well water problems.

well pressure tankThere are four common symptoms that are associated with most water well problems:

1. Reduced well yields (lack of water)
2. Sediment or other contaminants
3. Changes in water quality
4. Dissolved gasses or bubbles in the water.

Note that in many cases the well problem can be the result of a combination of causes. Correcting the problem may require more than one action.

How A Typical Well Pump System Works

Diagram well water pumpTypical residential water wells usually have a submersible pump that is submerged under the water and pumps water directly to the house.

Some wells have pumps called “jet pumps” that are located on the surface or top of the well. Most well pumps are used in conjunction with a pressure tank

The goal of the well water pump system is to maintain a constant supply of pressurized water in the house and piping system. In order to maintain the water pressure, the well pump is switched on and off with a pressure switch.

This usually means the pump is turned on when the pressure switch senses the pressure is at a low point (the “cut-in” point) and off at a pre-set high-pressure point (the “cut-off” point).

n some systems, there is no simple on and off pressure switch but rather a pressure sensor that works with a controller to allow the pump to pump more or less in a gradual method, which is called a “constant pressure” system.

well water warning signs - draw down water well


This uses a variable speed pump, which allows the pump motor to spin faster or slower, and pump water faster or slower based on the pressure sensor. These are becoming increasingly popular but the most common is the simple off and on pump system uses a simple pressure switch

The Well Is Pumping Air

If you turn on your water tap and out blasts a mixture of air and water, this a warning sign that something is wrong in the well. The worst-case scenario is that your water table has dropped to a point that is at or below the well pump, and the pump is sucking in air at some point during the pump cycle.

Another cause is that the well pump drop pipe (the pipe that connects the pump to the top of the well and the water system) is broken. Drop pipes are made of either iron pipe or plastic PVC or poly pipe.

They can become broken or corroded and develop holes or in some cases break apart, allowing air to be sucked in.

Is the air dissolved in the water, or is it spurting out of the tap in big bursts? This type of problem needs to be investigated and repaired by a professional well or pump contractor

In some cases, the water level is fine and there are no broken pipes or fittings. Some groundwater tables do contain distinct types of gasses. These gasses may be dissolved in the water, but later come out of solution and cause water to spurt or sputter at the top.

These gasses might be carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen sulfide or other gasses, and can be dangerous and cause serious health and safety problems. If this is an on-going problem the well can be treated to remove these gasses through aeration and degassing systems

The Well Is Pumping Sand

well water warning signs - well pumpIf your well suddenly starts to pump sand, this is often a sign that the well is silting in, or filling with sand and silt. Typically, the well pump is installed so it is at least 10 – 20 feet above the bottom of the well.

When the pump turns on the water level in the well can drop to a lower level. If the pump is down near the bottom of the well, sand and sediment can be sucked in.

Other causes for sand in water can be that the well screen has become degraded and is allowing sand or sediment in from the gravel pack around the well screen.

Sand is very hard on the well pump and can quickly wear out the pump, valves and fill up the bottom of the well.

In any case, a sudden presence of sand is not a good sign and the cause should be determined.

Sand can be removed from the water before the pressure tank or storage tank by means of a centrifugal sand separator or a 60 mesh filter screen with automatic purge valve

The Electricity Bill Is Suddenly Very High

When a pump wears out, becomes clogged with sand, silt or iron bacteria it has to work much harder than if it was in good shape.

This can lead to an increasingly higher power bill. Another common cause of a high power bill is when the check valve in the well goes bad.

This allows water from the pressure tank to stream back down into the well.

This, in turn, lowers the pressure and signals to the pressure switch to turn the pump on again and re-pressurize the pressure tank.

This on and off cycle may occur every few minutes and essentially allow the well pump to run practically 24 hours a day, causing a high power bill.

 Low Water Pressure

There can be many causes of low water pressure including a failing well pump, stuck check valve, partially closed or bad gate or ball valve, and leaking or failing pressure tank. In some

In some cases, iron bacteria clog up the pipe nipple leading to the pressure switch which causes the pressure switch to incorrectly sense the pressure.

If your well water tests high in iron bacteria, your pump and/or well screen may become clogged with iron bacteria. Having the well cleaned with a special solution designed to remove iron bacteria, slime and scale can often restore the well to a better condition.

In some well systems, the pressure is often set to turn on at 30 PSI and off at 50 PSI. For today’s homes and appliances, this pressure can be too low. Often it is possible to raise the pressure so the pump turns on at 40 to 50 PSI and off at 60 to 70 PSI providing

Often it is possible to raise the pressure so the pump turns on at 40 to 50 PSI and off at 60 to 70 PSI providing an adequate water pressure in the home.

The pressure switch can often be adjusted to accommodate this higher pressure, assuming the well pump and well can operate without difficulty at the higher pressure. Air pressure inside the pressure tank must be adjusted if the pressure switch is adjusted.

Pressure Switch and Pump Continuously Cycles On and Off

This can be caused by a leak in the home so the well pump is continuously running. Look for leaking toilet flush valves, reverse osmosis systems, iron filters, and other backwashing filter systems that may be malfunctioning.

The most common cause though is a failed check valve. The check valve or foot valve prevents the well pressure tank from sending water back down into the well after it has built up with water pressure. If the valve fails water streams back down the well and the pressure switch turns the pump on again. Replace the check valve and the problem is solved.

Possible causes:

Corrosion of well casing, liner or screen, causing holes. Holes can allow water of undesirable quality to enter the well.

What to check for:

  • Change in water quality, often coupled with the sudden appearance of sediment in the water.
  • Failure of the annulus or casing seal
  • Change in water quality and the possible appearance of sediment.
  • Consult with a licensed drilling contractor about possible repair.
  • Iron bacteria or sulfate-reducing bacteria (biofouling)
  • Change in water quality such as color, odor (e.g. rotten egg) or taste. Check inside of toilet tank for slime buildup and inspect pump.
  • Shock chlorinate well water and piping system
  • Contamination from man-made sources
  • Changes in water quality as indicated by color, odor or taste. Compare results from regular water analyses for changes.
  • Limited aquifer extent/Reduced aquifer recharge
  • Increase in constituents such as hardness, iron, manganese, and sulfate. Compare results from original water analyses for changes. Taste and color changes in the water may also occur.

How to correct well water warning signs:

  • Consult with a licensed drilling contractor about possible repair. Alternate construction materials may be required.
  • Calculate the Langelier Saturation Index to determine the water’s corrosion potential.
  • Identify and remove the contamination source.
  • Have water analyzed to ensure it is safe to drink.
  • Install treatment systems to remove sand either in well or before the pressure tank.
  • To remove excess gasses in the water, install aeration and degassing system.
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  • Clean Water Systems & Stores, Inc., Water Treatment Equipment,Service & Supplies, Santa Cruz, CA

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