Why would somebody drill 2 wells side by side?

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Old 01-14-20, 04:59 PM
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Why would somebody drill 2 wells side by side?

I'm currently in the process of buying a house that for some reason has 2 water wells. Nobody knows exactly why. The original well, circa 1986, is a bored well about 3' in diameter. This well is currently in use and has passed inspection.

For some reason, about 2 feet away from this well is another newer well. It simply has a 6" PVC casing. It is not currently hooked up to plumbing or power but there appears to be a pump at the bottom of it. It was abandoned for some reason.

Why would somebody even attempt to drill the newer well with the existing original well still working? And stranger still, why would they have already abandoned the newer well? I don't know when the second well was drilled but it can't be more than a few years old. This is on a 1/2 acre property, not needed for irrigation, and definitely no geothermal purposes.

Can anybody shed any light on this mystery?
 
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Old 01-14-20, 07:29 PM
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How deep are the wells?
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Old 01-14-20, 07:40 PM
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No idea. All I know is that bored wells tend to be on the shallow side. When I look down it with a flashlight, I can't see the water level, but I can see a very long way down.
 
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Old 01-15-20, 02:22 AM
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I had a well fail a few years ago and the new one was set maybe 6' away from the original. It's possible it failed and wasnt capped/filled properly!
 
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Old 01-15-20, 04:38 AM
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It's possible it failed and wasnt capped/filled properly!
The old/original well did not fail. It is still working fine. With that in mind, what would prompt them to drill another well, and why isn't the newer well the one being used?

Obviously it would make a lot more sense the other way around - if the old well wasn't being used and the new one was. This is not case.
 
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Old 01-15-20, 04:46 AM
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original well, circa 1986, is a bored well about 3' in diameter
Is the well in use 3' or 3" diameter? how deep?
Since the current owners don't know why it might be impossible to find out why. You could check with local well drillers and see if any of them remember working on it.
 
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Old 01-15-20, 05:32 AM
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I very rarely see wells that close and certainly nothing from modern times. My county requires wells to be 150 feet apart unless it's an existing house and there isn't enough room. In that case they will allow you to go closer if that's the only option. Even with that I think 50'+ is the closest I've seen relatively modern wells to each other. Irrigation wells are a different story since they don't fall under the codes and are not inspected. They can be stuck wherever.
 
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Old 01-15-20, 07:15 AM
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The hooked up well is probably the replacement well.
They're close together to reuse the existing piping and electrical.

Question - is the motor in the PVC well visible, that is, is it ABOVE the water level?

The old well would likely have been buried underground.. A hard drought, (summer 1999 perhaps) dropped the ground water level below where the pump is located in the old well. Well driller opened up the buried well, new health codes generally prohibit burying wells, so the 6" PVC cap may explain why it would LOOK 'newer".

Modern drilled wells have a steel casing inside the upper section - this means the steel "sleeve" is the same outside diameter as a standard well-drill, so you can't' re-drill an existing well deeper using the same hole.

The two wells are close together because it's a pain to re-dig and re-lay the pipes and conduit needed for a well. Placing the replacement well close to the old well allows the the re-use of the trench, electric, and pipes.

The original well, circa 1986, is a bored well about 3' in diameter.
Question - Where'd you find the information? (Generally, well drillers will scratch the year and depth onto the underside of the well, many ALSO put a stamp / "for service call" sticker on the well pump control box.)
 

Last edited by Hal_S; 01-15-20 at 07:41 AM.
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Old 01-15-20, 08:25 AM
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It is all just guessing.

You said the newer unused well is working fine.
How do you know that when you said it was not hooked up to electrical or plumbing?

Seems strange to me that they would leave a pump in an unused well.
Perhaps the pump failed and for some reason they could not pull it out so abandoned it.
But again just a guess.
 
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Old 01-15-20, 03:41 PM
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Perhaps the pump failed and for some reason they could not pull it out so abandoned it.
Simpler & cheaper to just abandon it in place.

A) the newer deeper well requires higher HP motor to lift the water, the well-driller cannot re-use the old motor.

B) the old motor may be sandbound, overheated, shorted out, or burned up the bearings from running uncooled. Even if it DOES work right now, it is no longer reliable for water service.

So, that guaranteed that the well-company isn't going to re-use the old pump in a new hole.

C) Guaranteed that the home owner isn't going to pay the hourly rate for 1 plumber + 1 assistant to retrieve a ~30 lbs motor that is probably $7-$15 worth of scrap metal.
 

Last edited by Hal_S; 01-15-20 at 03:58 PM.
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Old 01-16-20, 02:40 AM
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First, the newer well (6" PVC) is NOT currently working. The original large bored well is the one supplying the property. (without any known issues) I am guessing at the age, the house was built in 1986, so I assume the well is from around that time. I don't believe they usually drill wells like this anymore and the concrete housing around it looks very old. Yes, the hole really is about 3' in diameter, I could jump in it - and we almost lost a cat during the inspection! The old well has a very old concrete enclosure, the new well has an almost new enclosure, it is very easy to see which came first.

Both wells appear to have a submersible pump. There is a set of 3 wires and a pipe running down both wells. No above ground pumps, just a pressure tank at the house. The newer well is not currently attached to any electrical or plumbing.

The real big question here is why would they ever drill the second well, if the old well works just fine? And then the mystery only gets deeper when you find out the new well is not in service. There could be lots of reasons a well stops working, but it seems they did this in the wrong order.
 
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Old 01-16-20, 03:20 AM
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A 3' diameter well sounds like a hand dug well and likely predates the 1986 house by a lot. I'd assume there was an old house that was torn down and then the current house was erected. My grandfather had a farm house with a hand dug well. When my mother was a child it was the typical drop a bucket down the hole and pull up it up full of water. Somewhere along the line plumbing and power was added.
 
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Old 01-16-20, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by zeezz
First, the newer well (6" PVC) is NOT currently working.
The original large bored well is the one supplying the property. (without any known issues) I am guessing at the age, the house was built in 1986, so I assume the well is from around that time. I don't believe they usually drill wells like this anymore and the concrete housing around it looks very old. Yes, the hole really is about 3' in diameter, I could jump in it - and we almost lost a cat during the inspection!
A 3 foot wide well with concrete well house supplying water.
A 6-inch wide well with PVC casing not being used.


I know this setup. It's a result of a"perched water table" and a dry summer.


The 3-foot well is almost certainly older than the house, probably hand-dug, and taps water from a "perched water table." These shallow wells are usually beside a farmhouse, a barn, but are also dug as a "field well" for livestock.

The house is built around 1986. Local practice and health code probably require a drilled well into the deeper aquifer , so the deep 6-inch PVC well is drilled.

Sometime (1999?) there's a summer drought, and the aquifer water table feeding the deep well drops, leaving the house without water.

However, the homeowner notices that the shallow well into the perched water table has water. So, the homeowner dis-connect the deep well and connects to the shallow well.
 
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Old 01-16-20, 02:08 PM
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zeezz-

Did they do a bacteria test for you when the well with the concrete casing was tested? Iím thinking if the concrete casing has problems (cracks, etc.) maybe ground water would be getting down into the well causing coliform to show up in the test results (most coliform is harmless but it would tell you ground water is getting down into the well, which isnít good). So if the previous owner had gotten test results showing coliform, which could squarely point to leaking concrete casing, then maybe the best solution would have been to drill a new well with new PVC casing.

But Ö if your water was tested and no contaminants were found, then that explanation would not be correct, and besides, I guess that wouldnít explain why the new well wasnít put into service. UnlessÖ the previous owner just didnít get around to finishing the job since it wasnít an emergency. (You can drink well water with coliform, many people do, -as long as it isnít the bad e. coli).

All above just a WAG with several ifs!
 
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Old 01-16-20, 08:35 PM
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Did they do a bacteria test for you when the well with the concrete casing was tested? Iím thinking if the concrete casing has problems (cracks, etc.) maybe ground water would be getting down into the well causing coliform to show up in the test results (most coliform is harmless but it would tell you ground water is getting down into the well, which isnít good).
Close but not quite. Yeah, among other odd certificates and awards, I have an "on lot sewer system installer" certification.

The primary concern about drinking water wells is that SURFACE water will get into the GROUNDWATER.
This is why drilled wells are now required to have a water proof (steel) casing going down 15-45 feet (depends on local regulations). AND it's also why many county health departments will not certify a hand-dug well for household drinking water.

Secondary concern about drinking water wells is to keep them ~50 from septic tanks and ~200 feet from sandmound/drainfields. The general idea is that any pathogens in sewage effluent moving through the shallow groundwater will be absorbed, eaten or neutralized by the trees, plants, grass & good soil bacteria before they get close to the drinking water well.
 
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Old 01-16-20, 10:23 PM
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You'll just have to trust me, the big bored well and the house are the same age. It was not hand dug. It is lined with large concrete sections down to farther than I could see with a flashlight. From what I understand these are not unusual in this area for older houses, it is done where a smaller drilled well does not yield much water. The giant underground pipe is sort of like a water tank, and water slowly seeps through the concrete sections to fill it.

When I first saw the big, open well I thought that was bad - but the bank doesn't care and my home inspector has seen them before. The water was tested, no bacteria was found. The septic system is at least 100 feet away. The home inspector said the only real concerns are that some banks won't lend on those wells, and it could potentially get contaminated easier.

....but that still leaves the question of the other well. It could be the "perched water table" talked about above. This house has been used as a weekend only type place for basically it's whole life - it is next to a lake. The septic system is too small to support full time occupancy, and we will be adding to it. This also tells me they never should have needed very much water. Both my realtor and inspector know the area very well and neither have any idea why they would do this.

I might try to look up the permits with the county, but all it will say is somebody drilled a well. The entire county has less than 20,000 people, they don't exactly keep the best records or have high building standards. They have not been able to find the original septic permit but basically nobody cares.
 
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Old 01-17-20, 04:01 AM
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I'd still try and contact your local well drillers for info. The odds are there are only one or two with a county that small. They'd have a better idea than any of us why there are 2 wells and with a little luck they'd remember the property or who would have likely drilled the well back in 86.
 
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Old 01-17-20, 05:05 AM
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This is a big mystery for sure.
I have 2 wells about 12' apart, one being unused.
The unused one was installed when the house was built but months later it began pumping out sand..
The drillers came back and redriilled 12' away and deeper finding good water.
Here unused wells are required to be properly filled in but before that was done I was able to repurpose it with a hand pump and pail hanging on it.
 
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Old 01-17-20, 07:18 AM
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You'll just have to trust me, the big bored well and the house are the same age. It was not hand dug. It is lined with large concrete sections down to farther than I could see with a flashlight. From what I understand these are not unusual in this area for older houses,
Around me, that is a sign that it IS a hand dug well.
What happens is that the stone walls start to buckle, but It's impossible to find a stone mason willing to re-lay a hand dug well, so the solution is to vertically stack several 3-foot diameter concrete pipe sections to keep the well from totally collapsing.

Example, there are 3 hand dug wells around my old farmhouse. One 10' from the house "house well", another 10' from the barn "barn well", and a third about 500' feet away in the hedgerow between two fields. "livestock well."

Sounds like you might have an old "livestock well". Farmers prefer to put horses and cows out to pasture in a field that has access to water. If your property line doesn't reach the nearest stream or pond to let the livestock drink, then the old solution was to dig a well, usually at the lowest / wettest point of the pasture. Often times there is a small hay barn nearby to store hay for the horses or cattle, and give them some shelter when it's cold.
One the farm is gone, those old hay barns often get recycled into cabins or fishing shacks.


Most counties will have a Planning Commission, which often has reasonably detailed aerial maps going back to the 1940s and 1950s. You might check those to see if there were any structures at the current home site.
 

Last edited by Hal_S; 01-17-20 at 07:40 AM.
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Old 01-17-20, 07:36 AM
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Regardless of what the old well really is, I don't really care. It's there, it works, it passes inspection. It may not be ideal in a modern world but it will do, especially with the water test showing no bacteria. This land was likely a cotton field before they subdivided in the 80s, this was originally a big slave area and they didn't build the lake until the late 60s. After that some farmers in the middle of nowhere got very rich!

The big mystery is why two wells? It's going to drive me crazy if I don't figure it out. It could be the perched water table thing, though this was not a full time residence. I have no idea if the second well may be salvageable, if so I would love to install a geothermal heat pump.

I kind of like the big bored well, it would be super easy to add a hand pump or a battery powered backup.
 
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Old 01-17-20, 09:47 AM
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zeezz-

I would look at the well flow rate. Maybe the owner wasnít happy with the rate and was in the process of switching to a new deeper well with a higher rate and just didnít bother to finish as he/she decided to sell Ė and since the minimum well flow rate isnít usually mandated (I think), things could be left as they are.

If the test results you have arenít conclusive in that area I would do my own testing. You might find that the rate might be acceptable to you, but you may be able to see that someone else might not be so satisfied, and that at least might clear up the mystery.
 
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Old 01-17-20, 02:50 PM
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I will take your word for it "It's going to drive me crazy if I don't figure it out."
So while you are still sane find a nice facility to be housed in.

There can be many more reasons why so unless you can find the driller and they remember or the owner who has it done then I cannot see how you will find out the reason.
You could make it your life's work but still find that facility as it will still result in crazy.

Just to add some confusion.
Had a drought.
We are going to need a new well.
Drilled it.
Have you noticed the water tastes like crap.
Yes I have but the drought is over so lets use the old well which has delicious water.
Sounds good but lets keep the new on as a just in case well.
See it is even starting to drive me crazy but I do not have to worry because I think the kids have already chosen a facility!!!



 
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