Thursday, September 15, 2016

Water Woes

The local drought has been a concern ever since we returned home, but up until recently, our spring has had enough water in it to allow us to use it. Not any more. I checked the water level yesterday and it had dropped into the danger zone.

Our spring is actually a dug well, 20 feet deep. Water flows into it from a vein of water deep in the ground. There is an interesting story behind it. Back in 1973, when we built the house, we were foolish enough to start building before we had determined that we had a source of water. We were well into the building process when we asked a friend and neighbor, Frank Hicken, who was a dowser, to locate a spring for us. He came over with his forked stick and did his thing, and he located a spot at which he said we would find water 20 feet down. It was in a good location in relation to the house, and we were thrilled. So we asked Pete Loomis, the local back-hoe guy, to dig the well. He came over and dug down as deep as his backhoe would reach, and the hole was dry as a bone. "How far down have you gone?" I asked. "About 19 feet," he answered. "As far as I can reach with the bucket." "Well," I said, "Frank said the water was at 20 feet. Couldn't you get your backhoe to go deeper? Maybe you could lower the backhoe by digging out holes where the pads rest on the ground, and set it down a bit." Now I can tell you that Pete Loomis was pretty skeptical of dowsing in general and of Frank Hicken in particular. So he was not enthusiastic about this suggestion. But I had hired him to do a job, and he was the sort of guy who honored a commitment. So he dug three holes about a foot deep, lowered the backhoe pads into those holes, and used the bucket to dig a foot deeper.  We looked in, and by golly, water was trickling into the bottom of the hole! Pete was flabbergasted, and I was elated. Yay, Frank!

The way the system works is that there is a pump and pressure tank in the basement of the house, with a line going out to the bottom of the well. There are five concrete tiles stacked in the well. Each tile is four feet high, and the seam between each tile is clearly visible. You can measure the level of the water in the well by counting down the number of seams you can see. The intake pipe is set about three feet above the bottom of the well to avoid sucking in sediment. So that means that we cannot allow the water level in the well to go below three feet, because then the pump would suck air, and that would burn out the pump. So when the level goes below the top of the bottom tile, we are in the danger zone. And in fact, when I checked the level yesterday, it was about two inches below the top of that bottom tile - i.e., the water level was at 3 feet, 10 inches. When we get that close to the intake pipe, I shut off the pump and we start hauling water. This has only happened a few times in the last 43 years. I think it has happened once before since Ellen and I have lived here together. Usually, the water level stays above 5 feet in the late summer and early fall, which is the driest time of the year. After the fall rains, and all through the winter and especially in the spring, the water comes virtually to the top of the well. It has been a great well, and the water is especially tasty. But when we have a prolonged drought, as we have this year, it gets very low. We are not alone in this. Others are hauling water also.
We now have a system. I have two big tubs in the kitchen. I go up to Dummerston Center to the church and fill buckets there and bring the water back to the house and fill a tub. That is water for washing dishes. We save the dishwater and put it into another tub, and we use that waste water for flushing, which we do once a day. We buy drinking water at the supermarket in those 2 ½ gallons tubs that have a spigot, and we use that for drinking and cooking. We go to the Laundromat for washing clothes. I shower at the pool. Ellen showers at the house of friends. This weekend, we'll be at the Feinlands taking care of the grandkids and she can shower there. It's inconvenient, but it works.

A last word about the water at the church. When I came to be the minister of the Dummerston Center church in 1957, there was no water in the church. We talked about drilling a well, but the church is located at the top of a hill and we wondered how far we would have to go down to get to water. Back then, one farmer down in the Connecticut River valley had recently drilled a well and had gone down 600 feet and gotten only 2-3 gallons a minute. But we decided to do it, and the drillers went down just 100 feet and hit a water vein that was close to being a true artesian well - 30 gallons a minute! I preached a sermon the next Sunday on the image of water in the Bible as a metaphor for God's abundant grace. There was enough water that the church offered to supply water to both the Grange and the Town Office, which are near the church in the Center. That arrangement continues to the present day. So I feel ok about going to the church and filling buckets. 

This is what the spring looks like - I keep a metal sheet over the top to keep it free of debris

Now I've taken off the metal sheet and opened the cover so I can use a flashlight and look down into the well
This is the tub for dishwashing water
Here is the sink set-up

This shows how low the water is - you can see the reflection way at the bottom of the well

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