Friday, June 2, 2017

The Well Test Dilemma

Many people are buying rural homes to enjoy the privacy of a rural setting and a bit more land to sprawl out on. This is all fine and well, a little pun for fun, but rural properties are often located in areas where public water and sewer services are not available. Septic and wells are ultimately the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain. Buyers need to be certain for their own safety and health and to keep the banker lending the money happy, the well and sewer are working properly.

In the case of a septic, there are licensed service providers that come and check the system to ensure both compliance with local laws and regulation, as well as overall condition of the equipment. Wells however are a different animal. A well has a pump and often a pressure tank and other equipment that should be checked by a pro. One thing for certain is that the buyer and their lender need to know that the water quality is not compromised.

Generally in Washington State, we check for three types of contamination; bacteria chloroform, arsenic, and nitrates. Should the home buyer wish to conduct the test themselves, that is fine. If they are using a lender, they will need to hire a neutral third party to handle the sampling and delivery to local lab. No one connected to the transaction can be a part of the process. The lender wants to make certain it is an above board, arms length arrangement and no foul play is involved.

Buyers should note that well equipment is generally very reliable like most plumbing. The main concern is the flow rate of the well and the quality of the water. Having a flow test and water quality test are not that expensive and should be done by any home buyer considering a property serviced by a well. The flow rate should be in excess of 5 gallons per minute to enjoy good pressure with multiple sources running. Anything over 10 is pretty solid for a single family residence and would likely never cause any loss of pressure for typical family home usage.

I often hear questions about the well running dry. Although our abundance of precipitation may seem like a guarantee of forever flush aquifers, we can and occasionally do have wells that go dry. Many factors can play into this problem. Sometimes a local aquifer gets to heavily used and the natural replenishment can't keep up with the draw on the system. Generally local governments try to regulate the usage through zoning that keeps the possibility of dense development in check with geological facts affecting water supply. I don't hear of too many wells going dry around here, but any homeowner must know that it could happen and if it does, the expense could be very high to rectify the situation.

Locally in Clark County we have a pretty heavy population living on a relatively small piece of land. nearly half a million residents occupy just 620 square miles of land making Clark County one of the most densely populated counties in the Northwest. According the state estimates from both Oregon and Washington, Clark County has the third most dense population behind number one Multnomah County (Portland) and number two King County (Seattle). FYI: Multnomah County has a much smaller population than King County but it is also much much smaller is physical size making it more 'dense'.

The population density can play a role in the status of the aquifers in the region. Geological activity unseen beneath the surface can as well.

Buyers should consult professional well contractors for information about flow rates and how they might effect their personal usage on any given property. I am providing basic overview material here.


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