It began with the pressure dropping on March 27th and ultimately we found out that our water association’s well pump was failing. We have black sand underground in our area and sometimes that sand moves and wells that did fine before suddenly begin plugging up. We believe that’s what happened to our well. The perforations in the pipe probably became plugged up and the pump began pumping fine sand. So we put a new pump in the well in hopes that this would solve the problem. My husband Jerry, who has been our system operator for the last thirty years, didn’t believe that it would, but he kept a good thought anyway. This was about 5 weeks into the process and after the new pump went in, the well began pumping even less water, at times only 7 gallons per minute, other times at 25 gallons per minute, so it’s never been consistent since the pressure began dropping.
Jerry found that if the water in our 25,000-gallon cistern fell below half, then it would be difficult to get it to recover so he decided to imitate a process called developing the well which is essentially what drillers to do get the water flowing. Every half hour he would turn the pump off and then a half hour later back on to try to stimulate the water to flow. Amazingly enough, it worked although not consistently. So for the last two of the three months he’s been dealing with all of this, he’s been out at the well every half hour on most days. Occasionally he’s been able to go an hour or two if the cistern is relatively full, but then the flow unexpectedly changes and he’s back to his every half hour adjustment. But it did seem as if he got that sand to move a bit so that it wasn’t moving through the pump anymore.
Last Thursday, the drillers finally came and began drilling our well, finishing up on Friday. We have more paperwork to submit to the state and then the pump can be transferred over to the new well, but in the meantime, the drilling disturbed the area enough that the old well is plugging again and at times, the water flow is little more than a dribble. So, we’re on water restrictions again. We each have five acres with some of it lawns and gardens, but the rest is pasture. Although we each have flood irrigation for our pastures, horses and the like still need fresh water and they drink a ton of it. So to be on water restrictions is difficult for all of us.
And then last night Jerry had to shut the water off to the homes until this morning. The water was down to about a third of the cistern and that’s not enough to get us safely through the day. We can’t have water hauled in until Monday and we need time for the cistern to try to recover without anything going out to the homes. And after filling all night long, it was only up to half this morning. So we’ll continue to conserve until this is done.
We’ll be begging the state on Monday to expedite our paperwork so that we can get the pump transferred over. We didn’t know about this additional paperwork or we would have had it submitted long before now. With luck, they’ll sympathize with our plight and let us install the pump sooner than later. This has been so expensive as it is and our funds aren’t endless and $350 only buys us 16,000 gallons of water, not enough to even fill the cistern and if Jerry can get the water to stabilize today the way he did before the drillers disturbed the ground, then we may not need other water hauled in, but at this point, it’s not looking promising.
The gratitude I feel for my husband is endless. I know what he’s done for us over the last thirty years to keep our costs down and the water flowing because I was secretary of our association for seventeen years so I know the money he’s saved us. When we moved here in 1981, we were told of our responsibilities on the second day we were here. He was to help with maintenance and repairs. The only people who weren’t expected to help were seniors, disabled people and women living alone, except the women were expected to go to town to retrieve things. What those things were, I never knew. But we all helped out. Work parties would locate leaks on the mainline as well as on the various properties and together we would make repairs. Jerry and the guys would get together and rotate the external pumps to take in for service. It saved us a ton of money over the years and it fostered a sense of community among the owners in the water association. We were in this together.
And then we weren’t. And we haven’t been together in this for a very long time.
It’s been a difficult three months. He’s had zero help and he’s tired and feels more used now than he’s ever felt in his life. We’re about to become grandparents for the very first time. It can happen any day now. We’d like to be focusing on that and all the things we need to do around our property. Some of the pressure is off because the new well is completed and the guy who drilled it happens to be the best driller around. In fact, this is the same driller who drilled our community well some forty years ago. Jerry worked with him when we first moved to the area as his drilling assistant and learned so much from him so it was like old home week when his former co-worker showed up to drill our well. It was the first day I’ve really seen Jerry smile since all of this began.
The good news is that our well is now at 288 feet instead of at 230, and no black sand came through when they drilled. We have 40 feet of perforated pipe at the bottom and 82 feet of water to place the pump in. And the best part? When we start getting water from the new well, it will be pumping anywhere from 60 to 100 gallons per minute, more than enough to sustain 14 homes. The drilling couldn’t have gone better and Jerry is so pleased.
I know everyone appreciates what he’s doing. And their gratitude is appreciated, always. But it cannot be in lieu of someone’s presence when that’s what’s needed and when they’re more than capable of helping. He’s asked for help for years to no avail. But still, he continues to take responsibility for this well and cistern because he’s qualified to do so and takes his commitment seriously. We both do. It used to be when the water went off or had problems, owners came over with their shovels and wearing irrigation boots to see what was up. Now they stay in their homes and wait for a guy named Jerry to do something. And I’m so thankful that he does so.
It drives home the notion that we’re all in this life together whether we want to be or not. It’s better when we work together on things instead of standing back or getting in the way of it all. The shared sacrifice is worth it in the end, when we can all feel gratitude for one another.