Impacts should be addressed before they become irreversible.
By Michael Schnieders, PG, PH-GW
It’s been hard in recent years on water supplies. From extended drought conditions impacting a significant portion of the United States to numerous wildfires, the demand has been strong.
These are major stressors on our water system as a whole, including wells, treatment systems, storage, and distribution networks. These stresses can cause significant impact on a well systems—impacts that should be addressed before they become irreversible.
In many parts of the country, potable supply wells have seen little downtime this year. Ideally, as we transition into the latter stages of the year, we will see relief in the form of precipitation and cooler temperatures. The later parts of the year are an excellent time to reach out to your clients and discuss well maintenance. This includes your residential and municipal customers as well as the agricultural users.
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A few questions to ask:
- How has the well performed in the last year or since the last maintenance effort?
- Has the well been cleaned or serviced in the last five years?
- Has the water been tested in the last five years? Any noticeable change in quality (aesthetic or analyzed)?
- Has the distribution line from the well to the first point of use been cleaned in the last five years?
- Inspect the area around the well for evidence of cracking and subsidence, either recent or historical. Additionally, is the ground surface sculpted in a manner to reduce possible surface influence?
- What are the current static and pumping water levels?
- Is there adequate (and working) protection against backflow?
The goal with these questions is to assess the owner’s efforts at maintenance and to identify, in a cursory manner, possible impacts that may have occurred. With these answers in hand, you can move to a more active role.
Review historical data with regards to design, production, and efficiency. Conduct a pump test to determine current specific capacity and pump efficiency for comparison. If service is required, thoroughly evaluate the pump and all components for wear or fatigue while removing it from the column.
Collect a sample to assess the potential for scale, biofouling, or sediment influence. At a minimum, assess a few parameters to aid in disinfection but to also identify any occurrence of chemical or biological congestion occurring.
Conduct a video survey to identify signs of fouling, structural fatigue, and overall downhole conditions
These steps, when combined with the initial questions, put the groundwater professional in a position of knowledge and in a position to better respond to the well’s needs. All too frequently, wells are run to a point of no return, requiring replacement, or at a minimum, far more invasive (and expensive) means of repair than typically required.
Once the necessary cleaning or repairs are conducted, walk back through the same steps. This reverse checklist will allow you to assess the effectiveness of treatment and establish a guideline for the well owner.
Beyond the well, the elevated temperatures and extreme dryness of summer can impact piping systems, water storage and treatment systems, and in the agricultural market, pivots and irrigation systems.
At a minimum, these components should be flushed and disinfected when treating the well. It is advised that these components be evaluated at the same time to insure they were not damaged or impacted by the summer’s weather and high usage.
Addressing maintenance needs now, in conjunction with the well, will save time and money and reduce potential impacts on the well and system as a whole.
Michael Schnieders, PG, PH-GW, is a professional geologist currently serving as the principal hydrogeologist and president of Water Systems Engineering Inc. in Ottawa, Kansas. Schnieders’ primary work involves water resource investigation and management, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of fouled well systems. Schnieders was the 2017 McEllhiney Distinguished Lecturer in Water Well Technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.