Wells Don’t Have a Water Bill…
In South Placer, wells are the water supply to the residence found in rural and off-grid properties. Newer subdivisions in South Placer rural areas more often than not will have a public or private water agency provide treated water for the homes. In Loomis for example, Cambridge Estates, Sierra De Montserrat, MOnte Claire, etc the Placer County Water Agency (PCWA) provided service so the new homes built could connect to the local public water system. Let’s help you get the information you need when evaluating a Loomis or South Placer rural property with a well.
If you’re looking to buy or found a rural and or new home off-grid or in an area that isn’t served by the public water system, you’ll need to know a bit about wells. Although this subject can seem intimidating for those who are unfamiliar with well-water systems, there are only a few points you need to keep in mind to ensure you’re making a well-informed (agent humor) purchase. I also recommend working with an experienced real estate agent who buys rural or off-grid properties to help you decide if a home with a well is not an issue.
Water Wells Need to be Tested
Well Water Needs to Be Tested for Drinkability
The most pressing issue a buyer needs to investigate is the safety and purity of their future home’s water. Since the same water source (aquifer) could be accessed by many homes spanning a wide distance, what affects a nearby home may affect your home as well. Its important to note the animals, farming, and commercial business near your property with a well.
However the real validation of your well is a production and potability test of the well on the property your considering to purchase. If you are luck the Seller will have done a pre sale well test for you to look for. Again you shouldn’t rely on any tests older than 30 days or you see a holding water tank on the property (water tanks are usually an indicator of a well that cannot produce over 1200 gallons in a 4 hour period. In Placer County, the water is tested for potability (bacteria). Wells can also be tested for PH, hardness, turbidity, minerals, metals, radon, and volatile organic compounds but it is usually optional. Again your agent should be able to help you device which tests you need.
Test the Output and Production of the Well
Even if the well water itself is deemed safe for drinking, there can be issues that will affect its usability in your new home: namely low storage capacity and low flow rate.
Luckily, testing for these is simple. In general, wells store about 1.5 gallons of water per foot, so if you find out the well depth, pump depth, and water level, you’ll be able to figure out what the capacity of your well is.
Flow rate, the measure of how much water per minute is being pumped from the well, can be calculated based on the number of gallons the pressure tank stores before the pump starts and how long it takes the pump to turn on and off. Regulations require homes to have a flow rate of between 3 to 5 gallons per minute, but it’s best to find a home with 6 to 12 gallons per minute.
Verify Your Well is a Safe Distance from Septic Tank and Leachfield
Homes that require or use a well for water for the property usually will also make use of a septic tank for waste storage and disposal. Placer County requires a minimum distance of 100 feet distance all wells need to be in relation to any septic system. This prevents septic water effluent or a septic system failure from reaching the well and contaminating the water supply with harmful materials. The Placer County Building Department or the Seller should be able to identify both where the well and any septic system is located. Checking the original well permit for the properly is another key piece of information since there is a well drillers report and a potability (drinkability) test done after the well was drilled and capped.
Avoid Hand Dug or Shallow Wells
The two major types of wells are drilled and bored wells. Most shallow and hand dug wells don’t penetrate bedrock or granite and are more susceptible to groundwater and soil contamination As a buyer you may have to manage and maintain the potability of the water. Also the production of the well may be inadequate in the future and you might be facing the expense of putting in a new well for your water supply.
There is More Than Just the Well to Look At When Buying a Home
The average well will last for about 30 to 50 years, but if the well is producing water satisfactorily you can proceed with the purchase. From my experince wells may start experiencing issues anytime, most likely the pieces and parts of the system that gets the water into your house. Be aware of the age of the well pump, the motor relay, pressure switch, and pressurized water tank. Check out the condition of the water lines to the house from the well, as well as the electrical power from the house to the well. When the test is being done for the well test and potability, have the well testing company inspect the rest of the system and give you a bid to replace it. I’ve lived in Loomis for 17 years on a well and I’ve replaced the entire system that supplies the water to the house. The only thing I haven’t replaced is the well itself.
Quick tip: Another consideration with rural property is irrigating the property. Is your well for the water to the house also used to irrigate the property? Used to supply water to livestock or animals? Most wells aren’t going to have the size and capacity to pump the water you need to supply water to a 1+ acre property. They may however have the production or output but you might need the well tester to test the production with his pump rather than the well pump.
Final Thoughts on Buying a Home with a Well
Wells on rural properties are a proven way for getting potable drinking water to the house. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker if you take your time and get the time to understand how water is supplied to the property and the home(s). Its critical to also inquire about how the property is irrigated since in South Placer and Placer County we have irrigation water available from the Placer County Water Agency and Nevada Irrigation District which may be already at the property or there is availability of irrigation water being brought to the property (this isn’t simple and might be expensive, but in general it’s a good thing if irrigation water is available).
Water is one of the biggest issues t understand when buying rural property in South Placer. I recommend you make sure to get all the information you need about how water is deliver to the property, how much, and if to you house is it safe to drink. Again I can’t recommend this enough, about working with an experienced real estate agent who buys rural or off-grid properties to help you decide if a home with a well is not an issue for purchase.