Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Managing Your Water Well During a Drought

By Bryan Swistock,
Penn State Extension

There are steps that water well owners can take to monitor and protect their groundwater supply during droughts.

Over the past several months, much of central and northern Pennsylvania have experienced significant drought conditions with rainfall up to ten inches below normal. The obvious effects of this drought have been on agricultural crops, gardens, lawns, and streams. 

Less obvious are the effects on groundwater aquifers that supply water to thousands of rural homes and farms using private water wells and springs. 

These wells and springs tap groundwater aquifers that cannot easily be seen or monitored. 

The invisible nature of groundwater leads to an uneasy feeling among homeowners relying on wells that their water supply could dry up without warning during a drought. 

But there are steps that water well owners can take to monitor and protect their groundwater supply during droughts.

Monitor the status of groundwater in your area by accessing county-specific data on the USGS website. The circular graphic in each county provides more information about the status of drought indicators in that county. 

By clicking on the groundwater tab (the lower right portion of the circular graphic in any county), you can access more information about the status and trends of groundwater in your county.

Reduce water use inside and outside the home. Water conservation is always a good idea, but it becomes vital during times of drought. Water use within the home can be significantly reduced through changes in habits and by installing water-saving devices. 

In emergency situations, changes in water use habits can provide quick reductions in water use. 

Examples might include flushing the toilet less often, taking shorter showers, only washing full loads of dishes or laundry, and collecting water from roof gutters for outside use. 

More information on water conservation can be found in several Penn State Extension articles including Saving Water in an Emergency and Household Water Conservation

If your well begins to produce less water or no water at all during a drought, have a water well driller evaluate the well to rule out other causes such as a malfunctioning submersible pump or pressure tank. 

Even if the water level has dropped to near the submersible pump, you may be able to adapt to the reduced water availability by taking emergency water conservation measures until normal rainfall returns.

If the water level permanently drops below the submersible pump, it may be possible to lower the submersible pump within the existing well to access water. In most cases, this will only provide a short-term solution to the problem. 

More permanent solutions require either deepening of the existing well or drilling of a new well. 

Be aware that deepening an existing well may not increase the well yield and could produce water of different water quality characteristics. 

You should consult with a local well-driller or a professional hydrogeologist to determine the best solution for your situation. 

Local water well contractors can be found on the National Ground Water Association Find a Contractor website.

[For more information on water wells and assistance near you, visit the Penn State Extension Master Well Owner Network webpage.

[Visit the Penn State Extension webpage for more information on other education opportunities.

[Visit DEP’s Drought webpage for the latest on drought watches and warnings.]

(Reprinted from Penn State Extension Oct. 21 Watershed Winds newsletter.  Click Here to sign up for your own copy.)

Related Articles - Extension:

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-- To Harvest Or Not To Harvest: Recent Insight On Riparian Buffers

-- The Tree As A Microcosm Of An Entire Watershed

-- Agricultural Impacts Of Current PA Drought Conditions

-- Penn State Extension Webinar Series On Private Drinking Water Supply & Management

-- Penn State Extension: Water Education Remains A Priority In Distance Learning

Related Articles - Education:

-- Water Cooler Talk: Sustainable Agriculture Nutrient Recovery And Upcycling Webinar Oct. 28

-- Penn State Extension Hosts 9-Part Green Stormwater Infrastructure Webinar Series

-- Penn State Extension: 9-Part Woods In Your Backyard Webinar Series Starts Jan. 27

-- Penn State Extension Offers 4-Part Natural Area Management Webinar Series

[Posted: October 21, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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