So you found your perfect piece of land, and are in the process of building your dream home. The power has been connected to your property giving your builders the juice they need to run their tools. Now is the time to work on getting water on the property.
When it comes to water, the two most common methods are via municipal supply or a well. You could of course go off grid and collect all your water from the rain or a nearby spring however that solution is not for everyone, and for those that choose not to ration their water supplies, municipal or well water is the way to go and will be what I’ll focus on in this article.
Gettin’ Hooked Up
With a majority of homes in the U.S. being serviced by municipal water supplies, it could be said that this is the easiest and cheapest way to get your water. Long story short, you call the county, they connect you to a pipe, and you have water. Of course we all wish that was really the case but in actuality there are a few hoops we need to jump through before hooking up to the water main.
With all utilities operating a little differently, the very first step you should do is contact the water company or town works department. They will be able to spell out the exact procedure and requirements they will need for your home to get hooked up. This is also when you find out if you need to file for any other permits, although most times they will just require a copy of your building permit. They will most likely need some money too, as nothing is free this day and age. Depending on where you live this setup fee can be a few hundred bucks or it can be as much as $5,000. In case you get a little sticker shocked, some municipal departments will offer financing where you only pay the initial hook up amount up front and then any additional charges can be paid for over a period of time.
Once you’ve paid “the man” and they put you on the schedule, it’s time to get your home ready to be connected. The water department should give you the specs of exactly what they want but know that they will only run pipe from the water main under your street to the edge of your property with everything from the property line inward being your responsibility. Most times a licensed contractor or plumber will be required to put in the pipe running from the property line to your home however some utilities will allow a homeowner to do the install themselves with some signed paperwork stating they know what they are doing, or at least understand what they should be doing. The water company will also provide specifications on where the meter needs to go and proper valving that needs to be in place prior to them making the connection. The water pipe itself can be copper or plastic (PVC) as long as it meets the specs provided by the water department. The colder the climate in your area the deeper the water line will have to be laid. For example, Klamath County, Oregon has a frost line of 24” so you would want to bury your water line at least 36” below grade to keep it from freezing. This logic applies to municipal and well connections alike.
Once you have everything ready, and you have put yourself on the installation calendar with the works department, they will come out and make the final connections along with turning on the water to your home. From here on out you’ll get that monthly or quarterly bill from them reminding you how much money is going down the drain, figuratively of course.
No Risk of Timmy Falling in This Well
If you live out in a rural area that is not serviced by a municipal water system, then you are most likely looking at putting in a well for your water. These days wells consist of a narrow pipe, or casing, that gets put into the ground at varying depths depending on where the water is. Needless to say, no longer is there a risk of Timmy or any other little critter falling into your home’s water supply as was the case with old open style wells. There are ways that you can put your own well in without the use of big sophisticated machinery, however for the purpose of simplicity; I will explain the process utilizing a professional well driller. Check out this website for more information on self-drilling a well.
The first thing to happen when you decide to put a well in is to determine where you are going to put it. For this you’ll want to check in with your well driller as they will have the expertise to pick the ideal location where you have the best chance in finding a reliable water source underground. They’ll look at previous wells in the area, soil and rock composition, topography and a number of other factors that all affect water supply and quality.
Once your location is determined the driller will come out with a large drilling truck. This truck will use one of a variety of ways to get the well casing in the ground, determined by the ground’s makeup. The driller will slowly work to drill, pound, or jet a casing in to the ground. Here’s where you keep your fingers crossed that they strike water earlier rather than later. You need the well to be at least a certain depth to allow the soil to filter the surface water but then after that depth, any good water supply will work. Another thing to note, the drilling process is usually messy as there will be a lot of water and mud getting spilled all over the place so it’d probably be a good time to keep the kids and pets away otherwise you might need to break out the pressure washer on them.
Once the well is drilled and the casing in place, the well will be flushed of any remaining sediment and debris and a water quality test will be performed to ensure there are no remaining contaminants. Following this step you or your plumber will lower a submersible pump down to the bottom of the well. This pump gets piped into your homes plumbing and will kick on whenever you turn on or use a plumbing fixture as it senses a drop in pressure within the plumbing system. A pressure tank in the plumbing system can help reduce how often the pump kicks on as it stores a small amount of water under pressure for those times you kick the faucet on for a brief moment.
For a more detailed explanation of the well drilling process, the American Ground Water Trust produced this excellent YouTube video on how wells are installed.
As you can see, drilling a well professionally requires a good bit of experience and equipment which lends to it being a somewhat costly endeavor. Typically well drillers charge by the foot which can mean if your well goes deep, you’ll also be digging deep into your pockets too. A well can range from a couple thousand bucks to over $10,000 in extreme cases.
Well Water Test Is a Must
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all well water be tested regularly. Right after your new well is put in will be the first chance to test the water available. From there you will be able to determine what additional equipment might be needed within your home to make your water drinkable. In most cases no additional equipment is needed unless you elect to install things like water filters and/or softeners voluntarily.
Subsequent water tests should be performed annually at a minimum. You’ll want to check your well every spring to make sure there are no mechanical problems that may have developed over the winter; along with testing the water for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids, and pH levels. These things are affected by soil composition, surrounding land use activities and overall rain and ground water quality.
Usually your state or local health or environmental department, along with some companies, will offer a testing service for a fee. Usually the test consists of you collecting a sample of your water straight from the tap and mailing it in to have it analyzed. They will check the levels of the above named factors and determine if any of them are unsafe. Once you have this data you can determine if any water treatment needs to happen to make your water safe and potable.
Easy As That
As you can see, there are a couple options for getting water to your new home. If either of these methods seem scary or you are more interested in alternative ways, be sure to check out my earlier post on Off the Grid Water which talked about how to collect and use the rain water that runs off your home. Also be on the lookout for a future post on water treatment where I’ll talk about water softeners and filters.
Image Credits: Wikipedia, Mom Goes Green, Flickr.