Once the well was in we had to decide what type of pump to install and where we would buy it. I had done a bit of research on well pumps and found that solar pumps running on DC current were the way to go, especially since we planned to have a fairly large holding tank. One of the advantages of a solar pump over the usual 110 or 220 electric pumps is obvious – once the solar panel was installed there would be no further cost to pump water. Another advantage often not thought of is simply the fact that a solar DC pump will pump the water much slower than either a 110 or 220 pump, therefore the turbulence of the water within the water table is much less, providing cleaner water. Furthermore, with the slow yet steady pumping, the recovery rate of the well becomes a non-issue. This information was welcome relief for us, knowing that we could continue on with our quest for a sustainable and eco-friendly homestead. From that point of my investigation, I turned it all over to Ray, who actually knew more about pumps and wells than I did.
During his research Ray considered several pump types and manufacturers. It didn’t take a lot of time when he found just the one we needed from a family run company called Robison Solar Pumps. The pump Ray chose had a brushless, direct current motor with variable voltage from 10-40 volts and three ways to pump water:
1. Direct from the solar panel at 37 volts.
2. With two batteries in a series to produce 24 volts.
3. Generator with a 24 volt inverter.
This motor can also run dry and won’t burn up in the unlikely but possible event that the well runs dry. Comparing prices and their great customer service sealed the deal. The folks at Robison pumps were very informative and were happy to answer any questions we had over the phone.
After the pump was purchased and arrived in the mail, it was time to put the whole thing together, so that we finally had a source of water on our property. Ray knew just what to do, thanks in part to previous experience with wells and also to the kind folks at Robinson pumps, and within an hour or so we were pumping water! Hooray! Since the well was out in the middle of a forest and we didn’t yet know all our neighbors, we decided to be safe and not sorry and covered the well with a metal bucket that was locked on, just to keep the honest criminals out. We had heard of meth cookers fouling up wells by pouring the extras from their operations down untended wells, and we certainly didn’t want this to happen to us. Unfortunately our county has a website that anyone can access to find out who pulled what permit, when, how much they paid, who is doing the work, etc.. Seems like an invasion of privacy to me, but it is what it is.
The next time we traveled up to the property we took along some test bottles given to us by our county’s health department to test for coliform bacteria (just to be safe), and also bottles with chemical reagents in them to test for other things like heavy metals, pesticides, etc., from a company in Chico, California called FGL Environmental Analytical Chemists. The first test at the health department passed with flying colors – No coliform detected, which is what we expected. However, the test results from FGL were quite unnerving. Everything checked out quite well except the zinc, which was 25,800 ug/L. Oh no, we thought! Did someone already get to our well before we could lock it up! Holy cow. But on further investigation into where all that zinc came from, and a short conversation with one of the lab techs at FGL, it was brought up that possibly we had actually contaminated the sample ourselves! It was the faucet! This type of faucet was galvanized with zinc and since the test required that we not run the water but instead take the first sample of stagnant water out of the faucet, the water had been sitting in contact with the newly installed zinc galvanized faucet for over a week! FGL was gracious enough to run another test for us just on the zinc, and sure enough, when we ran the water for a few minutes and actually got the water from the well, it came back almost clear of zinc! This was a valuable lesson learned.
We were so happy to finally have water on site to flush our toilet and take showers with, instead of having to haul it from home. However, we decided to stick with bottled drinking water for a while, just to give the galvanized zinc finish on the faucet time to mellow out a bit.