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A private well and public water system have different concerns, so if you are going to buy a home on a private well, you will want to know what the issues are and what kind of due diligence you should do to protect yourself. Here are some guidelines that will help you.
I’ve written many articles on the subject of handling the issues for a private well. You can always do a search of this real estate blog with almost 2,000 articles of any phrase to pull up all the relevant articles, but here are the links to some private well articles for your convenience.
Is a Private Well Safe? My clients often ask this question, and it’s a good question, especially if you’ve never had a private well before and you’ve always been on a public water supply. Read more at the link.
What is a well cistern? What is a well cistern? This is a question asked by buyers when they move to Sequim, Washington. A well cistern is a large storage tank for a private well, usually 1,000 gallons. Read more at the link.
Well Logs. If you buy a Sequim home or a Port Angeles home with a private well, you’ll want to do your due diligence and review the well log originally filed with the county. There are two important numbers–the flow rate (gallons per minute) and the well depth (and the depth of the water within the well). I’ll give you the link to all well logs in the State of Washington, which are online with free access. Read more at the link.
Private Wells are common outside the city limits, and in Clallam County around Sequim and Port Angeles there are thousands of private wells. Perhaps one in 1,000 private wellswill pump less than 5 gpm (gallons per minute). That’s not a major problem if the well pumps at least the state and county minimum of 1/2 gpm. At 1/2 gpm a well will produce about 800 gallons of water per day. That’s far more than any family will use. Read more at the link.
A private well today is not like the well in the photo above. But there is a lot to know and to understand when you buy a property with a private well.
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What is a well cistern? This is a question asked by buyers when they move to Sequim, Washington. A well cistern is a large storage tank for a private well, usually 1,000 gallons. Of course, if the home you are buying is on a public water system or a community well system, you will not have a well cistern. But if you have a private well serving your home in a rural area like Sequim or Port Angeles, you may need a well cistern. A well cistern is simply a water storage tank, and many are concrete.
Why would you need a well cistern? You need a way to store water if your private well does not produce enough water flow. A well that produces 8 or 12 gallons per minute produces more than a family of 5 will use, and some wells in the Sequim area produce 18 to 30 gallons per minute. But if your well only produces 1 to 3 gallons per minute, you will probably need a well cistern. With a 1,000 gallon water tank you will have plenty of water for a family, because before you could use the full 1,000 gallons, it will be filling up while you use it. The pump in your well will pump water into the cistern while you use the water from the cistern.
I would guess that less than 2% of all private wells in the Sequim area have a well cistern, so they are not common, but if you find the ideal home in a great location, it is possible that the well does not produce enough water, and the home will require a well cistern. How do people who have well cisterns feel about them? They seem to have no serious issues with them. But some buyers have said they prefer a well that produces more water than they need without a well cistern. The Sequim water tables are not dropping, and have not for decades, but it is possible that a low producing well could produce less in the future. It hasn’t happened, and it hasn’t been a concern. But now you can answer the question, “What is a well cistern?
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The Sequim Water Rule is technically the Dungeness Water Management Rule. For simplicity, I’ll call it the Sequim Water Rule. After many hearings and much ado, the State of Washington has passed the Sequim Water Rule, and this is a major concern for anyone using private wells or expecting to irrigate outside their homes. The rule restricts water usage for homeowners under an extremely complex set of rules that no one can fully explain. There are two primary concerns citizens have about the Sequim Water Rule.
First, anyone who buys a lot to build a home within the effected area may have to purchase water rights from senior water rights holders. This is to mitigate the new water use. Second, anyone who already has their own well will have to purchase water rights from senior rights holders for new water uses. New water uses are interpreted to be outdoor or irrigation uses that exceed permitted volumes, but this does not include indoor drinking water. Watering your grass or plants or flowers or trees or your vegetable garden can be defined as new uses. But the rules are quite convoluted, and they raise many unanswered questions. The new terminology and the application of these new concepts makes this Sequim Water Rule a labyrinthian trap for unwary property owners. For example, to master the new rule, you’ll have to master the intended meanings of words and phrases such as “determination of non-significance,” “instream flow,” “watershed,” “permitted uses,” “maximum depletion,” “maximum allocation amounts,” “subbasins,” “environmental enhancement,” and so on. And no matter how many articles you read on the Internet about the Sequim Water Rule, you still won’t be certain you really understand it or how it will effect your water use.
To see the full detailed map of the effected area for the Sequim Water Rule, click on the image above. Here are two resources for more information on the Sequim Water Rule. First, one of the best local resources was put together by Marguerite Glover, who has done a tremendous job helping to educate the public, but that site is under construction right now. The other site is State Dungeness Water Management.
If you are planning to buy a lot in the effected area to build your retirement home, you will want to be sure you address your water use concerns in your due diligence before you close on your lot. This means using the right addendums to your purchase and sale agreement, and using the right language and timelines. You don’t have to worry about not having drinking water, but you do need to pay attention to your planned water uses which may be adversely effected by the Sequim Water Rule.
Read our latest article on the Sequim Water Management Rule.
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Are private wells safe? My clients often ask this question, and it’s a good question, especially if you’ve never had a private well before and you’ve always been on a public water supply. Private wells are safer than public water systems in some ways and not as safe in other ways. I’ll explain what I mean.
We are very fortunate that Sequim private wells generally have very good water, clean and pure. Wells are typically 50 to 80 feet deep with water at 30 or 40 feet, and water flows of 8 to 20 gallons per minute produce more water than a family can use. There are a few wells in the valley on the side of a mountain where water was not reached or where there is a lot of iron in the water (in the Blyn area). Otherwise, private wells produce plenty of pure drinking water.
One of the drawbacks to using a public water system is that it is subject to pollution. That is rare, but it has happened. The more likely health hazard using public drinking water is the high levels of Chlorine they use. I once heard the statement, “You don’t want to drink public water without Chlorine to kill contaminants, but you certainly don’t want to put all that Chlorine into your body.” If you have a private well, you can keep your well pure without these concerns.
Well experts will tell you that a well head is sealed, and there is virtually no way for a private water system to get contaminated from the well itself. It is a “closed system” as they say. As long as the aquifer deep below the surface is not polluted from a nearby source of industrial contamination, which we don’t have in the Sequim valley anywhere that I can recall, there is no possibility of contamination. This is good news, unless you own a well that was installed prior to 1985. Prior to 1985, believe it or not, well heads were not sealed. In the photo above you can see an example of a well that is pre-1985, and the well cap did not have a rubber seal of any kind. While the cap was bolted securely on the well head, it still was not perfectly sealed, and tiny ants got in this well. This was so rare, even the well drilling company had never heard of this happening. It was not a major issue, because the owner simply ran the hose and the faucets in the house, and the ants got washed out of the system. A water sample was taken and no nitrates or bacteria were found, but to be safe the well was “shocked,” meaning that Chlorine crystals were dropped in the well. Of course, a rubber seal was installed, and the well cap put back in place.
I’ve written two other articles on private wells for your edification, including Sequim Private Wells and Well Logs and Sequim Well Inspections. If you’re buying a lot or a home with a private well, understanding the issues of private wells is an important part of your due diligence.
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If you buy a Sequim home or a Port Angeles home with a private well, you’ll want to do your due diligence and review the well log originally filed with the county. There are two important numbers–the flow rate (gallons per minute) and the well depth (and the depth of the water within the well). I’ll give you the link to all well logs in the State of Washington, which are online with free access. Here is how I briefly interpreted one well log for a client:
You’ll notice a couple of key numbers on the report. The depth of 110 feet, and 35 gallons per minute! Most wells around here are 8 to 12 gallons per minute, some are 15 or even 17 (I’ve seen many in the 20s), but you only need two or three gallons (I’ve also heard 4 or 5 gallons) per minute to have plenty of water for household use. 35 gallons per minute is very rare and enough for a community well for a dozen houses. So, congratulations! It appears you have one of the highest flowing wells in the entire county.
You can see view wells logs in the area and around Sequim by going to a well log map search at:
I always thought it was strange that on well logs, which are completed by the well driller, they rarely include a street address. The true identification of the well is by a tag number on the well itself, which is also written in the upper right corner of the well log. As a practical matter, most wells are drilled before a house is built and so there is no official street address. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out which well log is your well log when searching on the above link. Search by street address, and if that doesn’t work, search by well owner, and if you don’t know the original well owner’s name or no results appear, you might have to try the tax ID number, which you can get from another county website at Clallam County Tax ID Numbers. If you still can’t fine it, do what I do. I just pull up the map and zoom in on the area and then I click on the wells that seem closest to the property. Usually when you click on one of these well locations, many well logs pop up, and then you can browse through these to find yours.
This is a great tool on the Internet, and like everyone else, I love the fact that access is free.
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How in the world do you get the well logs for the general area that you are interested in? Good news! There is a beautiful website with just that information maintained by the Washington Department of Ecology, and it has Sequim Well Logs and Port Angeles Well Logs. You can use an online map to identify where you want to look, and you can zoom in on your specific area. All the wells that have been drilled will show up on the map, and you simply click on the red dot representing a well, and the entire well log is instantly available.
Of course you can also call local well drillers, who typically will know the troublesome areas and can advise you appropriately. Due diligence is always good. Working with professionals who can help you avoid Traps for the Unwary is always good. Saving money and stress are definitely good.
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