Cistern and well?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Oceanrose, May 10, 2005.

  1. Oceanrose

    Oceanrose Driftin' Away

    Messages:
    745
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2005
    Location:
    Where the path takes me
    When I moved into the farmhouse last fall, I got a plumber to come out and get the water working. It did, but then stopped (pump is working but no water). Here's what we know it has right now:

    An old pump in the basement that looks like it goes to a cistern. The cistern collection pipes are no longer hooked up, but are still there.

    A well on the corner of the property which is in fairly new condition. Replaced the motor last fall. There are numerous old pump sites by the barns, but all are broken.

    I'm having a heck of a time getting someone to come out, and affording it is another thing. But I need water! At least to water the stock with. I've theorized that they may have filled the cistern from the well, but I've yet to get someone to go with me to check on this and there's no way I'm crawling into that creepy crawly well pit without someone there in case the ladder breaks or something.

    Anyone EVER seen a setup like this???? And no, I can't talk to the previous owners, it was foreclosure and they're gone. And I couldn't get it looked at before purchase for that same reason.

    Heather
     
  2. Little Quacker in OR

    Little Quacker in OR Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,126
    Joined:
    May 9, 2002
    Location:
    Oregon
    :) Boy, you are up against it aren't you? I just want to ask a question and that is regarding who you are calling? There are plumbers and then there are "Well" people like Watermasters out here.

    Just want to be sure you know the difference as I did not until I was told. Now I know to call someone who has certification with Wells and not just a plumber.

    Good luck, I know my set up confuses me and it's just a regular well that pumps into a pressure tank.

    LQ
     

  3. Oceanrose

    Oceanrose Driftin' Away

    Messages:
    745
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2005
    Location:
    Where the path takes me
    Calling well people. The problem is, due to our location, there's very few people who do work. The first guy I had in, spent 6 hours (over 4 days)fixing the motor, charged me 500.00 for it, and couldn't figure out a darn thing. I even spent hours on the phone calling water companies seeing if anyone had a record of water deliveries. Only thing I found out was you need to contact a farmer for that. They don't list them in the phone book.

    This is the same place where I'm having a heck of a time getting phone service because we weren't on te 911 maps. Qwest told me my house didn't exist.... It's definitely not like living in the city.

     
  4. mamajohnson

    mamajohnson Knitting Rocks! Supporter

    Messages:
    5,783
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2002
    Location:
    North East Texas
    Do you know if there is water in the well? Crazy question, I know, but our well goes dry sometimes, and we then use it as a cistern for creek water....but that
    is another story...
    I think I would consider just running new pipe from the well to the cistern or house. It may prove to be easier than trying to work all the old stuff. What sort of well is it? a big wide one or one of those little 6" dudes? See, we have one of those that is 3' across, slide the lid open and you see water (or not)...
    But, it may still be easier just to start over. You have a pump there that works, a pump in the basement that works, just put pipe from one place to the other. Sounds easy, but I may be overlooking something.
     
  5. Oceanrose

    Oceanrose Driftin' Away

    Messages:
    745
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2005
    Location:
    Where the path takes me
    When Repair guy Ray was out, what I saw of the well was just the main pump stuff which is located in a pit about 6' down, covered by a cement slab. It's about the same setup we had up north. But I haven't found the actual 'well'.

    I've been really held up trying to get someone to help me. I may just get mad and go down there myself but it screams at me it's unsafe..

    The cistern lid is super tight. It's got a 3" hole on top where the rainwater runoff would have come through.

    Heather


     
  6. littlebitfarm

    littlebitfarm Scotties rule! Supporter

    Messages:
    1,617
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2005
    Location:
    IL
    It is possible that your well pumps into the cistern. If the well doesn't have much capacity sometimes it is set on a timer to pump into the cistern. This allows you to have the maximum water available for use at any one time.

    I have a well and a cistern at home. I don't even use the well (hard water with iron and not a lot of it). My house and barn run totally from the cistern. The cistern is fed by rain from my gutters. When it rains I add a bit of chlorine. An inch of rain will give me about 1200 gallons of water.

    Shouldn't take a lot to hook gutters up to the cistern!

    Kathie
     
  7. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,275
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN
    _Generally_ this is how it goes:

    The cistern is old, and was used for soft water - collected from the roof. Or, it was used with a shallow well that has failed long ago.

    A new deeper well is dug, and the water is now piped directly to the faucets, bypassing much of the old piping & going directly to the main water in-pipe to your house.

    The old cistern & old pressure pump & tank are abandoned.

    However, there are plenty of exceptions to this, so we can't tell you what is really going on at your place.

    You need to know tho. You said it well - _you_ need to know, this is not city water where it always comes out of the pipe in the basement. It's all on you, & you need to learn what you have, how it works, where it goes.

    I woulda been all over that fellow you had out last time, learning everything I could about my water system. You need to know.

    You'll have to find a good well company. Can be difficult.

    For us to help more:

    1. What kind of well & pump is that 'newer' well you mentioned? Big wide shallow well (no longer allowed where I live, but I see a lot of reference to them here yet) or a deep well, with a 4-6" pipe casing & the pump down at the bottom of the well? Do you know how deep it is?

    2. You say there is an old pump by the cistern with pipes that are not hooked up. So, is _any_ of this being used any more, or is just old relic stuff occupying space?

    3. You made it confusing when you said you have no water, but the pump works. Did you mean the pump by the newer well, or this old pump that is not hooked up to the cistern any more? Which pump, was this the pump that supplied water when you had water, or????? Really thown off by this part.....

    4. You likely won't learn much going in the well pit - but is this the newer well pit? When you do get someone there to look at it, BE THERE and ASK QUESTIONS so you learn how your water system works. Typically for a deep well, all you have are some pipes & a couple of valves - I have a pressure tank in mine as well, but not really much you can learn there......

    5. Yup, you would _probably_ have the likely case where the deep well is supplying you water directly, the old cistern & old pressure pump are just left over & not used....... Note the _probably_ part.... ;) This is very very common.

    6. So, why aren't you getting water: Is the pump on _all_ the time, then you have burned it out by now. How do you know the pump is working? Are you in the middle of a drought? Have any wet spots appeared about where the pipe would run from the well to the house? Technical questions: Does the check valve work, is the pressure tank water logged, and so on.....


    So, think we need a better understanding of what kind of well you have, what kind of pump you have, to go farther in helping you. I would tend to ignore the old pump and old cistern in the basement unless you can tell us it is actually being used somehow....

    --->Paul
     
  8. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,275
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN

    Looks like we are on at the same time.....

    Did you see a roughly 5" diameter pipe ( metal generally) sticking up anywhere with a cap on it, a small 1" or so pipe leading into it - nowadays it is supposed to be above ground level, but can easily be only a foot or 2 high inside your pit? This would be the well casing of a typical deep well.

    If your water table is real shallow, you may have a jet pump in your pit. This would likely have 2 pipes going to the well casing, and it must use some tricks to suck water up to it - like dribbling water down the well first, or air bubbles, or....

    If the well is deeper than 100 feet, you will tend twards having a deep pump stuffed down inside that well casing. This deep well will be about 10' off the bottom of your well hole, pushing water up the pipes & to your house.

    Kinda need to know which type of well & pump you have to offer useful advice on what the problem can be.

    --->Paul
     
  9. Oceanrose

    Oceanrose Driftin' Away

    Messages:
    745
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2005
    Location:
    Where the path takes me
    I woulda been all over that fellow you had out last time, learning everything I could about my water system. You need to know.

    I actually was, he just couldn't figure it out.
    -------
    1. What kind of well & pump is that 'newer' well you mentioned? Big wide shallow well (no longer allowed where I live, but I see a lot of reference to them here yet) or a deep well, with a 4-6" pipe casing & the pump down at the bottom of the well? Do you know how deep it is?

    I think it's a deep well with the cap. We have no maps of anything on the property, or anything written about depth.
    ------
    2. You say there is an old pump by the cistern with pipes that are not hooked up. So, is _any_ of this being used any more, or is just old relic stuff occupying space?

    The pump in the basement is working, it's a flywheel type, and when we got that working (had to replace the band) the water worked.
    ------
    3. You made it confusing when you said you have no water, but the pump works. Did you mean the pump by the newer well, or this old pump that is not hooked up to the cistern any more? Which pump, was this the pump that supplied water when you had water, or????? Really thown off by this part.....

    The cistern pump is still working, I did turn it off but it's one of those weird prime ones. When the water gave out, the pump was still fine. We replaced the motor on the well pump but have never tried it.
    ------
    4. You likely won't learn much going in the well pit - but is this the newer well pit? When you do get someone there to look at it, BE THERE and ASK QUESTIONS so you learn how your water system works. Typically for a deep well, all you have are some pipes & a couple of valves - I have a pressure tank in mine as well, but not really much you can learn there......

    When we opened it up last fall, the pressure tank showed pressure, and everything had power. But, there was no sign of where the water went to.
    -------

    6. So, why aren't you getting water: Is the pump on _all_ the time, then you have burned it out by now. How do you know the pump is working? Are you in the middle of a drought? Have any wet spots appeared about where the pipe would run from the well to the house? Technical questions: Does the check valve work, is the pressure tank water logged, and so on.....

    No wet spots, when on the pump works fine (the cistern one), no drought, this is northern IA, weather has been normal. No wet spots. When we replaced the motor of the well, the pressure tank filled and stabilized.

    I keep thinking that they used the well for the buildings, someone recently had cattle, hogs etc there, and used the cistern for the house. But HOW were they getting water into the bloody thing? Out by the buildings, there are the freeze free things, but they've all been broken, quite awhile ago. We know people lived in the house through EAster last year, I bought it in late September. AFter reading this through, I wonder if I got someone out to install new yard faucets if I'd have access to the well water that way, and could fill the cistern, or if I could rehook the pipes? Is this even safe to use cistern water? I do know the water seemed very soft when I was using it, for midwest water but I didn't think much of it till it ran out. LOL.
     
  10. Michael W. Smith

    Michael W. Smith Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    6,054
    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2002
    No, you don't want to go down into a well pit or cistern without someone else present. Toxic gases can build up in closed up places and once your down there, you are as good as dead. Same thing if the ladder breaks or you fall and break something!

    Hope you can find some good help and get everything taken care of.
     
  11. Sedition

    Sedition Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    93
    Joined:
    May 30, 2003
    seacrestkees, which part of the state are you in?

    I live outside Adel, central Iowa. I had the exact, and I mean exact same problems when I bought my place.

    Here is what I needed to do.

    First, that cistern almost certain IS your well. It depends on where you live in Iowa, but more than 50% of the state has excellent ground water access. My farm uses a 32” tile cased ground water well, about 30’ deep. Typically, I have 8’ of water in it – but it depends on when it last rained. After 90 dry days, my well is dried up.

    I also have a 25’ 8” cased field well that I’ve capped. The well itself was too shallow to provide enough flow, so it was only a source for contamination.

    This well is sufficient for the family basics, but there are a few problems.

    Iowa ground water is extremely hard (my water ph was 7.3 when we bought the place). This is great for your teeth and bones, but not so nice on the laundry. I recommend a water softener.

    Shallow wells like these are fickle, especially with a water-softener and three kids. I could get by with just my wife and me, 2 loads of dishes and 4 loads of laundry a week, just fine. But we use about 6,000 gallons of water a month with the entire family, and that is just too much for my well some days.

    At least once a month, I need to drive to the “town well”, and bring back 400 gallons of water for the well. We discovered this within about two weeks of buying my farm. We then needed to buy a $4,000 pickup, that bombed out and cost me a $2,500 engine, $1,000 in brake work, and $1,000 in tires – and we finally just paid all of this off last month, after almost three years. So if you live near Des Moines, NEVER do business with Mid-States Ford. They did not treat my pregnant wife fair in selling her this truck or working with me to resolve our problems with it.

    Most county-seat small towns in Iowa have an “appliance store” that can help you out with pump and pressure tank problems. I do business with Adel TV and Appliance. They are square dealers that know their stuff, and somebody like this should be able to come out and fix your problem.

    So that’s what I’d do. Get a hold of the appliance store (or farm store) in the county seat, and ask if they know somebody that can come look at your well pump. If your pump is working fine (they usually are), then your water level is just low. You need to either buy a truck and tank and haul water. OR you can call the nearest Ag service and ask them if they can help you find somebody to do this. County Extension through Iowa State University can also help you out. Hauling water is usually done by the county “Rural Water District”, and usually costs about $40 per 1,000 gallons. This is much, much more expensive than doing it yourself. It costs me $.75 for 400 gallons, and is only 2 miles to the DeSoto town well. All across Iowa, there are “town pumps” in most any town with 1,000, and there are “Rural Water Pumps” at the big-blue water towers out in the middle of the country.
     
  12. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,275
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN
    Ok. Can you describe the 'cistern' part better? Where is this cistern? Is it a room in the basement, or a hole in the ground a bit away from the house? Would it be up on a hill a bit? Is it about 3' across, or does it have a 2' neck sticking out of the ground, wider when it gets under ground. Is it empty, or can you see a concrete floor on it, is it about 10-15 feet deep, or does it appear much deeper with a dirt floor.

    I'm trying to see if you have a cistern, or if you have a shallow well here. :)

    I'm not too far from you in Minnesota, so kinda familiar with old farm houses. When I was a kid we had a shallow well about 30' deep & 3' across driven by a windmill which fed a cistern in the front yard which gravity fed to a pump and pressure tank in the basement to provide water for drinking & toilets. This water was somewhat hard.

    As well we had a cistern room in the basement which was fed from the house roof down spouts & fed to a seperate pump & pressure tank & provided soft water for wahing clothes & us & to the water heater.

    Now we have a deep well 250' deep with a 6" casement & a pump at the bottom, pressurizes a tank in the pit and feeds water to the house & barn for drinking, toilets, and outdoor use. This water is very hard. We still use the roof collection cistern to provide soft water for washing. And, that oudoor cistern is still being used (fed by the deep well pump) to provide water to the livestock.

    I need to turn the eave spout to fill the cistern a few times over summer, and I need to turn a valve on in the basement for 3-4 hours every 4 days to fill the outside cistern for the cattle water. Run out when I forget.....

    At any rate, I have always had 2 seperate water supply systems independent of each other on this place. One supplies hard water in great volume, and the other supplies soft water in limited quantities, depending on when it rains & if I remember to turn the water in to refill the soft water cistern....

    So, I'm probably familiar with your setup, just need to identify what you really have, and that is the fun part of this. :) For us, I understand the troubles for you.

    Now, you say the water was pretty soft naturally. This could come from a roof - collection system or perhaps a shallow well would produce soft water. Most deep wells in this region have hard water to extremely hard water, tho I'm no expert on Iowa conditions.....

    So, if this cistern is kind of a room in your basement, it will have a hatch to look in it. Is it empty? Does it look like the eve spouts from your house are routed to it? Would there be a flipper on the spout to direct the water into or away from the cistern? This is a common feature of mid-west farm houses, to supply soft water. (Not drinking water tho - the birds!!!) Many many have been discontinued..... But some are still working this way.

    If this cistern is off in the yard, It would be good to make sure if it is a cistern, or a shallow well. That can look to be about the same sometimes.

    Hope I'm helping some with my questions, I'm not trying to ask redundent stuff, just hoping we can figure out some help for you. :)

    I'm not sure how the 'newer well' fits into your whole system, it sounds to me like it works but you really aren't using it??? So I've left it out for now. Perhaps this well should be feeding your cistern, and you just have not turned on the right valve to do so. These things are not often automatic, you need to run the well for several hours to a day to fill the cistern, then depending on the size of the cistern & your use you don't need to fill it again for days or weeks or months. But we'll get back to that.

    These things can be put together from many different ideas & work with new & old stuff as things evolve over the years (water runs 'backwards' through my system now compared to when the windmill was used...), and are a nightmare for the average plumber from a city to figure out. An older well guy from the country often is much better at it; I understand your problems with trying to find one.

    --->Paul
     
  13. Mike in Pa

    Mike in Pa Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    352
    Joined:
    May 29, 2002
    If a concern is "toxic gasses" then another person isn't any help either Michael. A harness and pulley with a able body at the other end is the only way.
    I highly doubt there will be a problem but if playing it safe then you hav eto go all the way. A second person will basically do nothing except call for help which will be too late (although they could help from a fall standpoint).
    While not proper, you could get sampling equipment from MSA or somewhere else and check at all different (some gasses will suspend at certain height in pit) levels then go in alone if OK.


    Again, to be honest, I'd probaly go in alone (actually already have) without much worry but it is a potential concern and a valid point Michael. You should put safety first.
     
  14. Oceanrose

    Oceanrose Driftin' Away

    Messages:
    745
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2005
    Location:
    Where the path takes me
    I'm in Pocahontas, NW Iowa.

    The house was built in 1917, and was a farm till (according to the notices on the corn crib) the mid 80's anyway.
    ---
    At least once a month, I need to drive to the “town well”, and bring back 400 gallons of water for the well.

    OK ran into problems here because no one could give me info on 'hauling water' they just told me to call a farmer! I didn't know any.

    Most county-seat small towns in Iowa have an “appliance store” that can help you out with pump and pressure tank problems. I do business with Adel TV and Appliance. They are square dealers that know their stuff, and somebody like this should be able to come out and fix your problem.

    I did that, they recommended people to call but most didn't handle the well issues.

    OR you can call the nearest Ag service and ask them if they can help you find somebody to do this. County Extension through Iowa State University can also help you out. Hauling water is usually done by the county “Rural Water District”, and usually costs about $40 per 1,000 gallons. This is much, much more expensive than doing it yourself. It costs me $.75 for 400 gallons, and is only 2 miles to the DeSoto town well. All across Iowa, there are “town pumps” in most any town with 1,000, and there are “Rural Water Pumps” at the big-blue water towers out in the middle of the country.[/QUOTE]

    I will do this! This is a huge help :) Thanks.
     
  15. Oceanrose

    Oceanrose Driftin' Away

    Messages:
    745
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2005
    Location:
    Where the path takes me
     
  16. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,275
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN
     
  17. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    8,275
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2004
    Location:
    MN
    Here's the problem. You have a well with a pump, you likely have a cistern but it could be a shallow well, you have a pump in the basement.

    It appears you are drawing water from the cistern (or possibly shallow well) for use in the house.

    But, we have no idea how water gets into the cistern (unless it actually is a shallow well.....). A cistern is only a big tank to store water. If you are using water out of a cistern, there has to be some method of adding water back into the cistern - eave spouts, pipe from a well.

    So the priorities are to identify what that thing is - a cistern or a shallow well. And if it is a cistern, then how does water get routed into it.

    Then we have to wonder, why would a new well be dug on your property? Likely it is supposed to provide water to you, or why bother making it right?

    So, we need to get that new well involved in the process - I would think.

    Yup, it's real hard to track down this old piping & how everything was hooked up. :) Just how it is. :)

    So, step one: If you know your water is coming from that cistern thing, figure out what it is. I will assume the pump in your basement is on the wall closest to the cistern, and there is a pipe going out the wall to that side? Gain access to the cistern, if a 3" hole is all you got, use that with a flashlight and a string. Find out how deep, how wet......

    --->Paul