It isn t only machinery and buildings that need regular maintenance, your water supply does, too.
Un f o r t u n a t e l y, we l l s don t come with a manual and that s one reason why Alberta Agriculture water specialist Melissa Orr says drinking water may be the most neglected resource on the farm.
Nobody worr ies about their water system until they have a problem, she says. When we hold a working well workshop, almost everyone who comes is there because they ve had a problem, and nine out of 10 water problems are related to well maintenance.
The simplest maintenance you can do to safeguard your family s drinking water is to send a sample from the kitchen tap for bacteria testing. Health specialists advise having the test done twice a year, but many farm systems are checked far less often.
Testing well water for harmful chemicals is also advised. Those samples need to be taken closer to the well than any treatment system, and should be sent for analysis every two to five years or any time you notice a change in colour, taste or smell.
If you have a new well, chlorine shocking it every year keeps it free of bacteria and other microbes. But care needs to be taken when starting a maintenance program on an old one. Orr advises talking to a certified well driller or a water specialist before starting work.
Talk to a specialist first, says Orr. You don t want to remove bacterial slime that s holding an old casing together, or release large amounts of bacteria that can cause water problems for a long time.
It s important to use the correct amount of chlorine bleach (200 ppm) to shock a well, says Orr. That means measuring water depth, either with a dip tube installed when the well is drilled or a sonar device.
Just adding plenty of bleach doesn t work, she says. Too much chlorine can change the chemistry of the water and cut the killing power of the bleach.
Wells going dry don t usually mean the aquifer is becoming depleted, unless it s a shallow well where water levels can fluctuate with seasons, according to Orr. It s much more often a well problem, she says. Biofilm, sediment or mineral build-up may be blocking the holes in the casing and limiting water entry. Shocking the well may help, but the well may need professional cleaning.
It s a job for a driller, says Orr. Depending on the cause, it may need to be scrubbed, treated with jets of high pressure water or with acid to descale the casing. But, the well may be on its last legs and need replacement.
If the aquifer is becoming depleted, a restrictor or a smaller pump may be needed to prevent over-pumping.