Shallow Well Trouble/Issues

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by Michigander91, Apr 7, 2012.

  1. Michigander91

    Michigander91 New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Michigan
    Hello everybody.

    This is my first time posting anything about my issues with a shallow well. I finally decided it was time to search for extra help.

    My family owns property in Isabella County, Michigan. Two years ago we decided to take on the adventure of putting in our own shallow well. I was barely 18 back then, and wish I knew as much when we started as I do now. We got the pipe, drive point, couplings, check valve, pump, etc, and began. We did a pretty good job and reached water and were really happy. The pipe was simply driven down with a modified fence post driver rented from the local hardware store.
    This was done during the summer. Eventually fall came around and we arrived for hunting season. The well was no longer drawing water. We made the assumption that the water level had dropped now that spring/summer was over, and decided to take the pipe deeper. This was two years ago, so I don't remember the specifics, but we think we hit something hard and broke the pipe half way down. We were unable to pull it up, even with a come-a-long, so it was left where it sat.

    This past fall/hunting season, we decided to give it another go. We bought another well point, more pipe, and started driving it down once again. The well hole is 5' deep, and we were successfully pumping water with a pipe length of 20'. 23' if you include the point. So that is 28' below the surface of the ground [23' below the pump]. As I said, we were pumping water find. We attached a pressure tank and the pump would automatically shut off. However, if we let this sit for a good amount of time [30min to several hours], and then turned the hose on, the water in the pressure tank would discharge, the pump would kick on, and the water would stop coming. There was a check valve on the suction pipe directly before the pump. So it was as if the water was not retaining suction below the check valve, but retained pressure above the valve. We never did figure out why this was happening. I am almost sure there is no leak anywhere in the suction pipe, and the water level had to have been over the top of the point, otherwise we would have never gained suction to pump water in the first place.

    We left for the winter and arrived back this past weekend. We tried pumping, but now we could not even gain a suction at all. We measured the water level with a string and discovered that the water level was now only 1' above the bottom of the point. The water level had definitely decreased since the fall, but we want this well to be sustainable all year around. So we decided to go deeper. We ended up pounding another 5' section down. We tried pumping every 1' deeper we went, all the way up to the 5' of pipe being down. Nothing at all. We left the well overnight. When we woke up [no rainfall] the groundwater level had increased and we were now measuring water at 8.5'. So that means 5.5' of water ABOVE the top of the point. That is great, correct? We tried pumping again. We still could not create a suction to pump the water up. Every time we would remove the check valve, it would release some suction, but not very much. So we new the pump was trying. We even tried letting it run for over a half hour [making sure the pump stayed filled with water]. Still nothing!! We finally had to head home, but this has left us frustrated.
    The very last time that we dropped the string down the pipe, my father and uncle claimed that the water seemed to have a lot of clay dissolved into it. So now we are fearing that the entire point is in clay. Which I THINK explains why the water level is showing 8.5' from the bottom of the point, but that we simply cannot pull the water up to pump.
    With 25' of pipe now, plus the 3' point, that equals 28'. I know there is supposed to be a limitation of 25' on shallow wells. Our pump says it can handle up to 32' though.

    Could out point actually be clogged in clay? In which water is able to slowly drain in, and fill the pipe, but it's not enough to be able to prime all the way to the pump?
    Or is the 28' from the bottom of the point to the pump simply 3 feet too much?
    We just dont know what to do. With the 25' depth limit, we cannot try to push through any possible clay. But even if we set the point right on top of what we think might be clay, what if the water table drops again next fall or summer?

    If anybody can offer any help at all, or advice, I appreciate it.
  2. masterpumpman

    masterpumpman New Member

    Messages:
    729
    Location:
    Virginia Beach, VA
    If there are no leaks in the suction line your pump should be able to pump water to 25' reguardless of the well depth. I'd suggest that you start again with a new hole. Wash a 2" PVC pipe down until you get clean sand returning around the 2" pipe. Then install your sand point and 1-1/4" pipe into the 2" pipe until you feel that you have hit clay or something hard. Then I suggest that you install a shallow well hand pump (pitcher pump) and see if you can pump water, if you can install your jet pump. Or you can run a small air hose in the 1-1/4" pipe and connect the air line to an air compressor (like blowing on a straw in a glass of water). By blowing you can develop the well and test for gallons per minute.
  3. Michigander91

    Michigander91 New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Michigan
    I have another question as well. I read on a website that "it is just as important to prime below the check valve as it is to prime above the check valve". I never understood that statement, because if water is poured down the pipe below the check valve than it just disperses and never fills to the top. Typing this actually reminds me of something though. If we are clogged in clay and the water cannot enter fast enough to pump a prime, then if we were to try pouring water down the pipe as is, the water should eventually fill to the top and slowly sink, correct? But if it leaves the pipe just as fast as we put it in, then we should be able to pump?

    Also, regarding the 25' depth, is that measuring to the bottom of the point, or to the top of the "pumping water level"?
    For example.. what if someone has a pipe that is 30' long, and 15' of it is in water. Would the pump be able to pull the water up the pipe, even though it is 30' to the point? I would assume so, because the 15' of water outside the pipe is weighing down and pushing water 15' up the pipe naturally, and then the pump simply has to pull another 15'? Some please correct me if this is not true!

    As for your reply, Porky, thank you! We have not tried the pvc washing technique yet, although I have seen a lot about it on the internet. That would be a challenge for us because we do not have running water for several square miles around us, nor do we have any sort of mud pump or storage area, etc. You mention though, "until you get clean sand returning around the pipe". Where our property is, everything is sand. The sand is pretty clean even just a couple of feet below us. It certainly made digging much easier!
    Now that you mention it though, I do recall my father saying "I think we hit something hard" half way through pounding extra 5' section. He later made a comment "it felt like I busted through it".
    If we are able to pull the pipe up, we are going to. And check all of the connections and the point for damage. If everything is fine, we want to try and put it back in the same hole. I forgot about the air compressor though. Do you simple run the hose down the pipe? Or would we simply connect a hose to the top of the pipe to get a good seal.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2012
  4. masterpumpman

    masterpumpman New Member

    Messages:
    729
    Location:
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Right, if you are in water! Pumping water level means to the the top of the water in the well while you are pumping but unfortunately that's hard to do on a closed well (a 1-1/4" or 2" well).
  5. Michigander91

    Michigander91 New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Michigan
    Thank you for the responses Porky.

    I am a lot more confident that we will be able to solve our issues the next time we take a trip to the property.
    The first thing I plan to do is use the string to check water level. If it still shows that we have 5+ feet of water in the pipe, I will at least know we are still in water. I will then begin pouring water down the pipe, and hope that the pipe does not fill up. If it doesn't, I would see that as a good sign and hook up the pump (or should I try the air compressor first?)
    If it does start to fill up the pipe to the top, I will assume that the point is in clay, or at least clogged with clay. We plan to use the hydraulics on our tractor to attempt to lift the pipe if we think clay or clogging is the issue. The way I see it, if we can get it to lift up, we might as well take it out completely and give it a thorough walk through before placing it back in the ground. If we pull it up and it doesn't appear to be clogged, I would assume it was just stuck in the clay. And we will try to put it back in the hole, but lifted up several feet from where it is now, and re-measure water and so forth.

    I brought the pump home with me to test it and make sure that isn't the problem. When first taking it apart I was confused as to how the insides allowed for the pump to pull water up a pipe. But now I realize that it doesn't "pull water up" so to speak, but it creates a vacuum which allows atmospheric pressure to push it up. I think? Or the lack of atmospheric pressure within the pipe allows it to flow upward? Either way, the pump appears fine. Propeller is intact and turning fine.

    I wonder if by the time this is all over, we will receive an award for longest time taken to successfully complete a shallow well!
  6. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,974
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    If you are in clay now, there is a chance that below the clay will be another aquifer that may have a higher water table than the aquifer above the clay. You won't know until you get through it. My father and I used the washdown method to drill 120 feet down and once we got through the clay, the water table came up to within 15 feet of the surface. Neighbours at a lower elevation tapping into the same aquifer had flowing wells. We did not rely on the 2" casing to hold suction but rather put down a poly pipe with foot valve.

    By pouring water into the casing, the speed at which it takes water can give an indication of whether it makes water. A well that doesn't take water won't make water. If the point is clogged with clay, surging it should clear it.

    As for the pump maker purporting to be able to draw from 32 feet, that seems to defy the laws of physics. If the level is too low, you will need a deep well configuration with a packer injector. You also need to ensure that the casing does not leak regardless of a deep or shallow well configuration.
  7. Michigander91

    Michigander91 New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Michigan
    So the 25' limit does not apply to the length of the pipe, but only from the pump to the water level in the pipe?

    Also, we might try the poly pipe with a foot valve as well. We've had a poly pipe up there that we test with every time as well, to rule out the suction pipe having a leak, but we haven't tried putting a foot valve on it. I love the idea of a foot valve because you can then fill the pipe up and begin pumping right away. But we didn't want to put the foot valve on the drive pipe in case it were to ever malfunction. So using the poly pipe with the foot valve is a good idea. Should be a quick way to test if your in good water or not without having to wait up to a half hour for the pump to prime a pipe full of air.
  8. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,974
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Correct, and try with a footvalve.
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