Water well problems and tenants

6 Replies

I have a few properties that run on well water. No water bill for the tenant is great but being responsible for pump and well to operate properly could be stressful. Water pump could stop working anytime, nights and weekends.

Recently, I had a problem with a newly rented property. While doing laundry and showers, tenant would run out of water or pressure would get very low and pump would need to be primed. I tended to the problem immediately. I changed the pump, pressure tank and a few other repairs. I eventually brought in a professional. He says tenant needs to space out high or excessive use.

Has anybody had a problem like this? What may be excessive use to me may be normal to someone coming from county or city water usage.


Do you know anything about the well such as depth (I'm assuming it's a drilled well but maybe you have a dug well) or rate of recharge? If it is a drilled well the well driller may have stamped the well cap with the depth or available flow in GPM (gallons per minute). If the tenant is using water at a faster rate than the well can recharge then yes, it will run out of water. If you don;t know the depth or recharge rate you can always dip the well casing with a long measuring tape (make sure it is clean). Just attached a heavy object to the end and drop it don until it hits bottom. It may hit the well pump first as that should be well above the bottom of the casing. You could always test the recharge rate as well by simply measuring depth as you use a measured amount of water and then calculate the volume using the drawdown and size of the casing. Hope this helps a little. Good luck. Mike

Not sure what your well gpm is. I have lived in a lot of well properties and have 6 unit with well water. You need a good size tank and low water use appliances. Do you have low flow shower and sink faucets? Also the biggest use is washers. Older toilets use 6 gallons a flush so that will save you some water if you convert. If there is not an HE machine then there should be one, I know some people don't like them but it uses about a third of the water, that could be your issue. Any leaking pipes in the house could also be a problem. They do need to spread out their use by not doing wash and showering at the same time...... what were they thinking, this is a well. Going dry will also burn out your pump quicker. for this reason I don't have washers in the 6 unit.

We went dry at our own home one time and had to wait for a redrill one time and it was shower at the Y and buckets of water until we were rescued by generous friend who ran a hose from the next block so we could have water until they redrilled. Gives you a real appreciation for H2O

@Kyle D. the ground around wells is somewhat porous and those spaces hold water. The amount of water that a well can pump is a function of the depth of the layer that holds water, the amount and size of spaces in the layer that holds water and how the well was constructed (may limit the amount of water that can come into the well for use even if everything else is good. There is some storage in the pressure tank and some in the well itself. So if the well will yield 2 gallons a minute (gpm) continuously and you use less than 2 gpm then no problem. If you use 3 gpm then you will eventually run out of water. Say there is storage in the tank of 10 gallons and 10 gallons in the well but you use water at the rate of 4 gpm you can see that after 10 minutes you are "out" of water. The pump will lose it's prime since it's sucking air.

There are a number of ways to address this.

1) Use less water. See @Colleen F. 's post for this.

2) Well drillers will want to sell you a new well which can sometimes be the solution. They drill the well deeper and set the pump deeper which really is just a way of creating more storage. Sometimes they can construct a better well and thereby improve the efficiency of the well (let more water in) but the water bearing layers have to support this. Sometimes wells also fail (for a number of reasons) which can reduce the rate that water enters the well. A new well is the best fix for this cause.

3) You can buy a larger storage (pressure) tank.

Ultimately if you want to use 1,500 gallons in a day but the well will only produce 1 gpm (1,440 gallons) you will come up short.

I like to disclose everything to tenants about property I have available for rent. I had no way of knowing the well may be a slow producing well. Of course, I want tenants to be happy but its not easy to tell them to curb their water use after a lease has been signed. Just curious , what legal rights do each of us have?

@Kyle D. you can't disclose what you didn't know. I'm assuming you told them the place was on a well. I would say they might ought to change their habits as it seems the problem maybe that they are using a lot of water all at once.

I don't know the law in your area. Here I would say you need to provide enough water for the day and they should be willing to modify the timing of their use. You might want to add some storage by way of another pressure tank or a larger pressure tank. If it turns out the well just doesn't make enough water I would offer to let them out of their lease and then disclose it to the next tenants. If it becomes an issue with finding tenants then a new well or a 2nd backup well would be in line.

Thought I'd chime in on this rather old thread for those reading it in the future. As a licensed well driller, most of what has been suggested above is correct (from the well's standpoint). However, installing a cistern (if allowed in your state) would allow the pump to continue to fill the cistern at lower production rates overnight for instance and allow the tenants to use a higher volume of water during 'high-use' times. As mentioned above, adding more pressure tanks can accomplish some of the same 'additional storage' purposes.

The cost of a pre-cast cistern in our area is nearly the same cost as a new water well due to the types of formations prevalent in our area. In areas with softer ground and factoring in a plastic cistern instead of a precast concrete, it might be a cost effective way to increase storage capacity with a lower producing well. 

Your local well driller can come and perform a 'test pump' to determine the well capacity and determine well parameters to help you (and your tenants) understand what is capable from your well and help to manage their water use. In fact, we frequently see buyers specify both a test pump and a complete water constituent analysis to confirm these things at purchase. 

Repeatedly drawing down the water to the pump can cause a pump to fail prematurely, which has its own cost implications.

Hope that helps.

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