How do I set up a shared well so my neighbor can't run my tank dry?

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by Woodsman, Aug 29, 2006.

  1. Woodsman

    Woodsman New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    North Carolina mountains
    I'm going to have a shared well with one to three other households (vacation homes). How can I set up a system so that if my neighbor leaves his faucet running for days, it won't suck the system dry?
  2. alternety

    alternety Like an engineer

    Messages:
    671
    Location:
    Washington
    You could hang your own pressurized storage tank on your line with a check valve preventing backflow. However that would only give you a small amount of standby water.

    An unpressurized storage tank followed by a pressure pump and pressure tank and with a protective check valve on the input from the well would create your own water system and you would only be limited by how big your storage tank is. You would still need to know if water from the well becomes unavailable or you tank will run dry eventually.

    How much water can the well produce continuously? If a faucet is left open, or perhaps more likely, a pipe fails, will the well be able to supply this constant load and other home's needs? If so the problem becomes one of excessive power use and accelerated pump wear.

    A simple, but unreliable, solution is to have everyone shut off the water feed for their house whenever they are not staying there.

    Depending on circumstances you may want to work out a way to monitor the well. The simplest, and berhaps least useful, would be to bury some wires with the water pipe and build some simple electronics tied to the pump motor circuit to show when the motor is running. This should be done in such a way that the monitor voltage is something low (e.g., 12 Volts). You could do this with a small power supply controlled by a realy coil in parallel with the pump motor (obviously matched to motor voltage). You can run a wire to each house. I would place some resistance in the power supply output to limit current flow if someone does something stupid to the wire. A small box with an LED and a suitable dropping resistor finishes the system.

    Now this requires someone noticing what is going on and deciding wheather it should be running that much or not. A small compatible run time meter would be useful if you keep track of things.

    From there, if you get a small controller it could be programmed to watch pump runtime and light an alert light in the 3 houses if it runs more than the programmed limit in some period of time. Get really clever and you can log all the operation and look at a complete usage history.

    You could also put in water meters in each of the lines. You can get ones that provide an electrical output (relay closure) per unit of water used. Some provide a remote digital readout. This would let you apportion billing to users and if all three indications are brought to each house the realtime use of water could be observed. Electronics could be used to log, alarm, etc. limited only by skill and imagination.

    Pressure monitoring may also provide desired information depending on the well production characteristics.
  3. Bob NH

    Bob NH In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,317
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    Economic Self Interest

    Get a water meter for each household. They cost less than $50 each with fittings for a rebuilt meter from USABluebook.

    Have a written contract defining the rights and responsibilities of each user of the system. Once you become a supplier of water, you have an obligation not to cut them off. The contract should have terms for cutting off water if they don't pay the bill. There should also be terms so you can't gouge them with high rates.

    Charge a significant amount, on the order of $5 to $10 per 1000 gallons of water for the kitty to pay for maintenance and operating costs, and to pay for the meters. Any surplus is returned to those sharing the system on an equal basis. That way any water hog pays more.

    Be careful that you don't get so many on the system that you become a public water supply. You don't want to fall under those regulations. It could be as few as three on a well.
  4. Woodsman

    Woodsman New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    North Carolina mountains
    Well can't supply load of open faucet or failed pipe.

    The well cannot produce enough water continuously. If a faucet is left open or a pipe fails, the well will not be able to supply that constant load.
    That is what I want to deal with ahead of time.
  5. abikerboy

    abikerboy DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    202
    Location:
    VA
    There are two ways to do this, and since I have a shared well that I share with other households, I use both ways. Contact a pump installer, and have a device installed that monitors pump cycles. If my pump runs constantly for a certain amount of time (open faucet causes longer run times), I have a red light that lights up. Also get a low water protection device. If someone leaves a faucet open, and the water level drops before you notice, this will shut down your pump to protect the pump and well. Other way of protecting the system, I have a shut off valve in the ground to each of the other houses. If someone is going away, I close the valve. When they are due back, I open the valve that morning. If they return sooner than expected, they have my phone #, and it takes less than 30 seconds to unscrew the cap above their valve, stick my long handle wrench in, and open the valve. By the way, in my area, we are allowed to have up to 5 total houses on a well for it to be a shared well. If there is more than 5, then it becomes a public water supply. I have water useage agreements in place only for the current users, so if any property changes hands, and I dont want to supply the new owner with water, then they have to obtain their own well.
    Rob
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2006
  6. Woodsman

    Woodsman New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    North Carolina mountains
    Thanks

    Thanks for the good advice. I'll use it well (pun intended).:)
  7. Raucina

    Raucina Previous member

    Messages:
    515
    The simple answer is don't get on a shared water system - its been a way to meet the neighbors for me that I really do not wish to visit. By the time you add all the controls and bother to avert a war, you might have drilled your own well. Of course, at the very least, you need meters, and a pressure switch that incorporates a low pressure cut-out [very inexpensive safety net] that will turn off your water too when the pump is about to start running dry. That will get you to the pump house and inspire you to find the problem. I just drilled a new well on a property with a shared system to have back-up for the time when the neighbors get too thirsty or ignorant - and to be able to sell the property. Count on the shared system to scare off about half of potential buyers. Unless the shared system is the result of a 1000' deep well with 1 GPM, it is just your daily reminder of a developer maximizing his profit at your expense. I certainly do not have time to crank a valve in my neighbors yard in anticipation of his weekend visit....
  8. Woodsman

    Woodsman New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    North Carolina mountains
    I'm the developer and ...

    I don't think I have a choice about sharing. I'm on top of a mountain and my lot is near the edge of a big rock cliff and have slim prospects of getting any water on this 2 acre tract. The adjoining tract is farther from the edge of the world and has an 800 foot well with 9 gallons a minute.

    Also, I'm the developer and I drilled the well so that people who buy and later either drill a dry hole or don't want to risk the money can tap onto a sure thing, although I'm well aware of the negatives of sharing.

    Thanks for the advice.
  9. Raucina

    Raucina Previous member

    Messages:
    515
    may I testify...

    Well, allow me to reveal myself also - I am the developer that created the shared system that I later backed up with a second well.... I did it because of the exceptional quality of the water in an area with often terrible water. I only underestimated the capacity of humans to make trouble where none need exist - I made the mistake of selling to humanoids with the negotiating attitude of Hamas or Al Queda.... so I created a personal pledge to never share a well again on the properties that I am creating. On the edge of the cliff absolves you from any sin - you just have to bear up to the injustices and struggles to come.
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