#13 – Got Water Woes? Your How To Guide For Low Yield Water

Published by: The Ready Life

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What We Covered

Is your well running dry? If you are struggling with a poor well or low-flow spring, this episode is for you!

We’ll walk through your most effective options for making a low-yield water source workable. And you might be surprised at how well it can work when you implement the right strategies!

In This Episode:

  • How to maximize the production of a poor well
  • Why storage is such a key component to a low-yield water system
  • Using a slow pump to match your well’s yield
  • How to live well with less water
  • Our thoughts on rainwater systems
  • And a bunch of other useful strategies packed into 28 minutes


00:00 – Intro
04:58 – Static Water Level
06:12 – Maximizing Your Well’s Output With A Timer
07:58 – Water Storage, Pump Options & Gravity Flow
09:59 – Using a Slower Pump
12:25 – Using a Flow Restrictor
14:43 – Water Conservation Tips
20:06 – Rainwater
23:04 – Recycling Gray Water
23:57 – When Another Water Source Is Needed
25:47 – Conclusion

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Hi and welcome back to the Ready Life Podcast. I’m Lisa and I’m Nick Meisner.

And today we’re gonna be talking about water specifically about dealing with a poor water source. What do I mean by poor? Well, it just means it doesn’t yield enough to give you more than enough water, which is what we all want, right? We all want loads and loads of water. At least my kids think so anyhow. So, we actually, when we purchased our homestead, it has a spring on it and that’s actually what we use domestically in our home.

And so we made sure before we purchased this place that we would have enough water for our domestic and agricultural needs, but it is a low yield spring. So we’re gonna share with you today some of the strategies and ways that you can make a low yield water source such as a well, that doesn’t produce much or a spring in our case, actually be sufficient for your homestead.

That’s right. That’s right. And, you know, as in our case, we found that, there’s gotten to be, as we’ve been using more and more water, it’s gotten to where, even with the strategies, we’re finding that it’s kind of holding us back on doing some things that we wanted to do. And so we’re in the process of, of trying to get a well drilled and that’s a backup option as well.

But what I want to tell you about is some things that could really revolutionize your situation and make it where your current water system is quite workable and in fact, very workable. You know, I, I think about not long ago we were doing some seminars at a location near us and I was doing a class on water systems. And afterwards a fellow came over and wanted to chat about his water system and he said, I’m just so perplexed.

He said, I don’t know what to do because my, my well is such a poor well and I just, I’m constantly pumping it dry and I, I just don’t know what to do. And so I asked him, well, how poor is your, well, are we talking like quarter of a gallon per minute? Poor. He said, oh, no, no, probably one gallon, maybe two gallons a minute, something like that. And I said, oh, well, that’s actually quite workable.

Did you know that one gallon per minute works out to almost 1500 gallons per day if you were to capture it all. And of course, he was quite shocked at that because 1500 gallons a day is a pretty goodly amount of water for, for most of us. But the key is storage. If I had to give you a one word, answer to the question of how do you deal with a slow water source? My answer would be storage. So, there you go. Here’s how it works though. If you have a one gallon per minute.

Well, let’s just say, let’s just take one gallon per minute. Whenever most pumps turn on, you’re gonna be pulling that water level down almost immediately and it’s gonna be going down down down because that pump in your well is gonna be pumping faster than the well is able to recharge. So you’re removing more water than is being replaced or you’re removing it faster than it’s being replaced.

And so that, because your pump is, how fast is your pump pumping?

Well, it all depends on the size of pump that’s in there. But as a general rule, a pump is going to be pumping at least five gallons per minute, often more than that.

And so, so if you have a one gallon per minute, well, and you’re pumping five gallons a minute, you can see the water level is going to go down really fast.

That’s right. That’s right. And so it’s going to keep going down, down down until eventually the pump starts cavitation. That means it’s pumping air, which means you’ve dropped, you’ve pumped the well dry and if you have a slow water source, you know exactly what I’m talking about because you’ve pumped your well dry many times probably. And, so you turn the pump off and you wait a while and eventually the water level goes up, up, up, up until it gets back to your normal static water level.

Now, what is your static water level? Static water level is the point at which the water settles out. If there’s no, if you’re not pumping any water out, eventually, it’s gonna settle out at this level and it could be 100 ft down, could be 200 ft down, could be 30 ft below surface.

So what if I look at my well log and it says my well is like 320 ft deep. Is that my static water level that tells you nothing about the static water level because you, your well could be 320 ft deep, but your static water level could be 50 ft. There are all kinds of pressures being exerted on the aquifer underground. And even if they hit water at 100 ft, the static water level could work out to be higher than that.

So, the static water level is actually on the well log, it’s just in a different place than the overall depth of the well, it just seems most people know how deep their well is, but they really don’t know where their static water level is.

Well, the reason they know how deep their well is, is because that’s how they paid, they paid by the foot. And so they know how deep that well was. But anyhow, you’re, what you’re gonna do is you’re going to pump the well dry, you know, blow that water out as fast as you can pump that well dry and then once it goes dry, then you’re gonna time how long it takes the well to recover.

Now how you do that could be a little tricky. It’s a lot easier if you have something like an ultrasound device that can measure the water level in the well, that’s nice, but very few people have those. So in practice, how do you do that? You kind of have to play around with it and, and try this a number of times and try it at different, lengths of time.

You let it wait for 30 minutes and then pump it dry and see if, if you get the, the same amount as you did previously and then try it with one hour, letting it sit for one hour and then turning the pump back on and keep increasing the increments until you’re not getting any more water. And then, you know that, that you’ve waited a sufficiently long time for that well, to fully recharge. That’s the best thing I can tell you if you don’t have the proper instruments for measuring that.

But anyhow, based upon that, you can put the pump on a timer on a pump, timer to optimize the pumping. So that it, you, you’ve got a cycle going where the pump will pump just long enough to where it pumps the well dry and then it goes off and it waits for the allotted amount of time for the well to recover. And then it turns on again and it’s just constantly doing this 24 7 pumping the well down and then waiting for it to recover, pumping it down that sort of thing.

And where is that water getting pumped to?

So that is where my one-word answer comes in and that’s storage. We’re going to have a large cistern buried nearby and preferably the ideal place for that cistern would be if you had a hill nearby, if you could put that cistern up that hill, that would be perfect. Because if you could get that cistern at least 40 to 60 vertical feet above your house, then you’ve got one pump in the well, that’s pumping the water up to that cistern and then it gravity flows from there with pressure.

And the reason I said 40 to 60 ft up above your house is because that’s roughly the amount of vertical feet up that it would have to, to be in order to provide a fairly normal amount of pressure, kind of like what my house normally has. Right. Exactly. So yes, if the cistern was 20 ft above your house, the water will still flow. You’re just not going to have much pressure.

So that gives you an idea. So if you can put it up the hill, that is totally awesome. You’ve just eliminated a pump and given yourself a much better water system. But if you don’t have the hill nearby or it doesn’t go up high enough or whatever, then you can always use a second pump that then pumps the water into the house and pressurizes it.

And yes, it is a two-pump setup. Two pumps are not ideal, but two pumps are better than running your well dry all the time or drilling a second. Well, true. That true. And you know that that might be your best option to drill a second. Well, if you are able to locate where water is, but that’s an expensive option and not everybody has that luxury.

So these are options, to try and, and make do with, with what you’ve got. Yes. So some other strategies, if you wanted to implement a strategy to get rid of that timer, here’s how you could do that potentially, once again, it depends, on how fast your well is. But you could put in a slow pump in the well, where it is pumping the water out at a slower rate than the well is recharging.

So in other words, the well is able to keep up with the pump in that kind of a scenario, if you put a slower pump in that well, and often your slower pumps are going to be of the DC variety. When I say DC, that’s the type of electricity that’s coming from solar panels and batteries and things like that. And so these DC pumps can sometimes be powered straight off of solar panels or from a battery bank if you have an off-grid power system, which makes them super efficient.

They’re an awesome way to go for pumping slowly out of a well, because these DC pumps typically are slow and that could be one way to make sure that your well keeps up with your pump.

So would you with a slow pump, would you then need to incorporate like a pressure tank into your home?

So what happens is this is still pumping straight into the cistern. So this is with a slow pump. This is, this is the thing with a slow pump if you tried to run that straight into your house. Yes, in theory, you wouldn’t run out of water in the well, but you might run out of water in your house because you’re potentially going to be using water faster than that pump can pump at.

So if you have somebody taking a shower and the washing machine is running and somebody’s doing dishes in the sink, your pressure is going to go down, down, down. If that pump is not able to keep up with the volume of use there. So that’s why I say with the slow pump method, you really do need to still go into a cistern, let it collect there. And then you’ve got a faster pump in the cistern that pumps to the house, right?

So that’s one option is a DC pump. It’s slower and super efficient and it can run off of solar panels, batteries, that type of thing. A second option. I don’t like this one as well, but it’s an option is to still use your conventional AC pump, but to put in a flow restrictor in the pipeline and basically a flow restrictor simply creates an obstruction there where even though the pump is pumping fast and wanting to pump the water fast, only a portion of the water that it’s trying to pump

can get through. And so it slows down the rate at which the pump is pumping. So that accomplishes the same thing, it slows it down where now the well is able to keep up with the pump. But I don’t like it because you’re still using a big powerful pump that’s trying to pump faster. It’s still using the same amount of electricity. It’s just moving less water.

So you’re going to be using more power and you still need the cistern and still need the cistern because it’s pumping slowly. Yeah, so, but it is an option and that’s something that you could do. But either way, either of those options, there are ways that you could avoid the complex timer system. since now the well is able to keep up with the pump as long as you set it up properly.

So, you know, like I said, still going to a cistern with that setup. So we’ve looked at some options and, and there’s, there’s a, 1000 different ways that, that you could do this. But this is just, these are some of the options that I shared with that gentleman that came to our seminar. And I remember the look of relief on his face.

He was like, thank you so much. I know what to do. Now. He says I was at a complete loss to know how to make this work. I thought I was gonna have to drill another $30,000 well, but now he knew how to make it work and he’ll have plenty of water with the amount that he had.

So the cistern is really the key to making all of this work storage is your one word answer.

We’re actually going to be installing a larger cistern too for our set up here.

That’s right. Storage is key. So let’s also take a look at something that would be really helpful for folks in this situation and that’s ways that they could conserve water.

Yes, that’s true.

We’ve had to do that a number of times too when our, when our spring kind of dried up or not dried up but slacked off a little bit right during, we had a really, really dry year and it slowed down, still had enough domestically, but we really struggled with irrigation.

Yes, we did. So, what’s an option?

So, some of the ways that you can conserve water is to just simply turn the faucet off while you’re doing things like brushing your teeth, washing dishes. I know some of us just run the water while we wash dishes and I’m guilty as charged. But just, just make it a habit to turn the water off, while you’re doing different activities like that.

True. Another simple thing is shower head. There are shower heads that blow through a bunch of water and there are very efficient shower heads switched to a very efficient shower head.

Yes, or another thing is toilets, toilets can use a lot of water very quickly if they’re not an efficient toilet and toilets have gotten more and more efficient through the years.

So, in fact, there’s, I’ve even seen toilets where they’ll have two separate buttons one for just flushing liquids where it uses a very small amount of water and one for flushing solids, it uses more water. That’s really, really cool. And that actually makes me think of something. I hope this is not in bad taste, but I’m gonna share it for what it’s worth. I’ve been in a number of locations that operated on the rule of if it’s yellow, let it mellow if it’s brown. Flush it down.

I remember the first time I saw that we were down in Roan and we went scuba diving for the first time in my life and the, the little shop there where we would get our scuba gear and all of our training and everything they had in their bathroom. They had a little sign that said exactly those words. If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.

That was on our honeymoon. That was a fun trip.

That was anyway, we’ve had to u we’ve had to use that strategy a time or two. Like Nick said on that year when it got really, really dry, we had fires really bad that year and our spring slacked off on us. And so yeah, we had to implement some strategies like that.

So one area where you can save a ton of water though is irrigation. I should say save or use a lot of water that’s going to be by far. Your number one consumer of water. If you do any, you know, great extent of irrigation, whether it’s your garden, your lawn, whatever you can plow through so much water that way. So one thing that comes to mind is, I mean, obviously, the obvious first thing that folks are going to look at is the method of irrigation.

You know, are they using impact sprinklers, which is the most inefficient way to water? You’re losing so much evaporation, so much of it is getting in places where it doesn’t need to all that sort of thing. So, you know, drip irrigation obviously is a much more water conservative method. Also, I’ve seen these little micro sprinkler systems where, you know, there are little tubes running and it puts a little micro sprinkler, right?

It’s needed. Yeah, you can do that kind of a thing if you want or anything that’s getting the water very targeted, right, where it needs to go and exposing it as little as possible to the air and the heat where it evaporates and, and that sort of thing.

Yeah. Another strategy for saving on irrigation is what time of day you’re watering, you know, watering in the morning or in the evening, you’ll have less evaporation, try and go out and water in the middle of the day and that hot sun is just going to evaporate a lot of that water. So that will help also.

And another thing that we’ve found to be really effective. Is mulch, a good thick mulch can really, really help to hold the water in and especially in our soil because our soil is a naturally silty sandy type of soil. And so the water disappears so quickly. But if we use a good mulch, then that can really help to hold the moisture in better.

Yes. And also you can build up the quality of your soil if it doesn’t hold water. Well, that’s what we’ve been working on because our, like you mentioned, our soil here is just mostly sandy salt and so you water it and boof, it’s just gone.

In fact, one of our projects for this year is to start a worm farm because this is one of the things that vermiculture that worm castings is supposed to really, really help with is increase the soil’s capacity to hold water and things like this.

Yes. And of course, we can add compost which we have been doing some that will also help to hold water as well.

Very true. Very true. So another obvious answer or question that comes up regarding this topic of, of not having enough water is well, what about rain? And yes, I totally agree that rain could be a great supplement for you. If you have a poor water system, it’s amazing how much rain you can or how much water you can catch from the rain. In fact, if you got one inch of rain, which I realize that’s a lot in one downpour, but over a period of a month, that’s actually not much water over, you know, when it’s spread out.

So just take one inch of rain on a 1000 square foot roof house. That’s a relatively small house. One inch of rain on that 1000 square foot roof is roughly 623 gallons if you were to capture it all. So nothing to sneeze at. And if you were getting two or three inches of rain a month, which is pretty typical in, in some places, during some times of the year and that could add up to a, a decent amount of water.

And you would of course, have to have a huge amount of storage for collecting that water so that you can especially collect it during times when you’re getting more rain to get you through times when it’s drier and less rain. Because like in our neck of the woods, we have a period of about three months or so where we get very little rain on, on most years, almost nothing and it’s hot and everything.

So it would be difficult. It would help us out in the early part of that, but you’d have to have a ton of storage to help you out in the later end of the summer for us. And I, I just have to remind you, please don’t go down the path of using rainwater as your primary water source, only use it as a supplement. And once again, I’ve got a one word answer for why.

And that word is droughts. What do you do about droughts? Because anywhere can experience a drought. I remember one time many years ago when I visited Bermuda and some friends hosted us and they were showing us around and lots and lots of people there have rainwater systems and they have massive underground cisterns underneath their house. And there’s just not a lot of water available otherwise there. And so they, they kind of have to do that.

And I remember asking, well, what do you do during droughts? Do you ever have droughts? And they said, you know, they, they get fairly consistent rain but they have had some droughts. And I said, well, what did you do? I said, well, we had to hire somebody to haul water in and fill our cistern up. And so that’s why I say, please don’t go down that path of making it your primary water source.

But it is a great supplement if you’d like another way is to collect your gray water and use that for irrigation.

What do you mean by gray water? So gray water would be the water that doesn’t come from your toilet. So like your kitchen sink or your bathroom sink or the shower bathtub. So you just want to make sure though that you’re using, soaps or detergents and things that, would not contain harsh chemicals, biodegradable. Yeah. You would want something that was biodegrade, biodegradable. in your gray water, if you’re going to do that and use it for irrigation.

Yeah, that’s a good idea. And you’d be surprised how much water goes out, the gray water that’s being wasted. Basically.  Especially if you have two kids.

So, in reality, the reality of the matter is that none of what we’ve discussed is ideal. But if you’re already at a home with a poor water system, you’re already in this situation and we’re just trying to make the best of it. And if, what we described, if you try that and it’s still not workable, then maybe you do need to drill a well. And if you already have a well, and you’re in this situation, you might be thinking, well, what good is it gonna do to drill another?

Well, maybe it’s not gonna do any good, but in a future podcast, we are gonna discuss with you, the topic of finding water before you drill. And no, I’m not talking about witching or dousing or any of that. There actually are scientific methods for finding water under the ground before you drill so that you can know what to expect. But that’s another topic for another day.

But, if you’re, if you are looking, you know, if you have not already bought a place if you’re in the process of looking and that sort of thing. And you, I strongly suggest that you want to first determine what is your minimum amount of water that you need in order to live comfortably. And we’ll get into that in another episode. But you need to figure out what is your minimum. And then you can use that for, determining what you need to have when you’re looking at a piece of land or a home

and then you can make it a hard stop. You got to have water and you got to have enough water and you could say, you know, this place just doesn’t have enough water, it doesn’t meet my needs. And so I’m going to move on. But for the present two takeaways, what are the two takeaways here?

So if you’re dealing with a low producing water source, it’s not ideal and it can dramatically impact what you’re able to do on your homestead. So think long and hard before settling on a place with questionable water, use this as a warning. Take it seriously. Water is one of the basic necessities of life and you cannot live without it. So make sure that you have a good source of water before you purchase your property.

And then number two, take away from this podcast would be that if you are in the unfortunate situation of being strapped for water, just know that there are a lot of options to help you improve your position. And I hope that this episode has helped you with a bunch of ideas of how to thrive in spite of your predicament. We’d love to hear from you if you have any questions regarding this topic, if, if your situation, you’ve got some different parameters or different

situations that you’re dealing with and you got questions about it, send it in to questions at the Ready Life dot com. And we would love to take a look at those if we’re able.

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  1. Randy

    Excellent episode. ground water usually has high mineral content that can be hard on plumbing and fixtures. Do you think a cistern supply method can by used for filtration and softening methods that pressure tanks normally can support?

    • The Ready Life

      Hi Randy, Typically filtration or softeners are installed at the point where the pipeline enters the home or shortly thereafter. And it’s usually an inline water filtration system. So yes, you could definitely install a filter or softener on a water system like this, as it would be installed at the same point. The only difference would be that the input for the house is coming from a cistern rather than straight from the well. If you are asking about building a filter or softener into the cistern itself, I haven’t seen that done, but I suppose anything is possible. Thanks for your comment!

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