I have never really thought about where my water comes from or how I get it. Previously, I lived in cities with a central water system. I turn on a tap. Water appears. If for some reason there is no water, I can reasonably assume that a pipe has burst — this happened to us in Yakima. Actually, that was the opposite of no water. It was too much water. Too much water cascading down the stairs and flooding the basement. But if I had turned on the taps, instead of ruining every towel we owned, I would not have had water.
Out here, we know where water comes from. It comes from a well at the bottom of a hill, and is pumped up to us through an enormous amount of pipe that was laid who knows when. The well is pretty shallow and the pressure is good, but gravity is gravity, and we use well pumps to assist the act of making water flow uphill. And when power goes out, so do those pumps.
We woke up Sunday morning to a power outage. The reason, according to our local electric company, was “animal.” My guess is a squirrel crawled somewhere it shouldn’t have, and now we have some crispy critters somewhere.
So the pumps went off, and we lost our water pressure, but it was no big deal because we had other stuff to do anyway and who needs silly old water pressure. But having constant pressure in the lines matters. Otherwise, it starts flowing downhill. And we end up with air in the pipes. Which is exactly what we got when the power came on several hours later and we finally reconciled ourselves with the idea of doing dishes.
So I went out to our pump house, where our poor beleaguered pump was toiling away to no avail, desperately trying to pump air. And then I called Steve.
(Side note: if you ever decide to undertake something as weird as moving from the city and starting over from scratch in the country, I hope you have a Steve to mentor you. Or a Bryan. Or a Sheryl or a Lisa. Or even a Jim. These are all really good people to have in your corner.)
Well, it’s been a day and a half of bleeding the lines of air, but we are finally on track to getting water back at the Cabbage. That isn’t to say that we didn’t have it. We did, just not at a consistent pressure. (It’s set up to run at 40 psi or so — obviously you can run the taps at 10 psi, but it will take you awhile to finish what you’re doing.)
So what do we do in the event of future power outages? Well, really, nothing. We can install a choke valve to make sure water doesn’t flow backwards, which I think we’re going to do. We could put a hydraulic ram in down at the creek (“crick” in local vernacular), which sounds like a fun project. Or at some point, we can dig a well up here on the upper field. But that has its own host of problems, namely money and ownership issues. It can cost upwards of $30,000 to dig a well, and we don’t own the land anyway, so …
But it sure makes me think back to living in the city and never knowing or caring about where the water comes from or why, or the intricate infrastructure required to make sure all of this stuff works. I don’t take it for granted. You shouldn’t either.
One thought on “Power Outage Byproducts”
I guess the good news is that, most of the time, the water system really does operate on “autopilot.” That’s the remarkable thing to me: that water can be brought up from 120 feet below the surface of the earth and pumped through 1500+ feet of pipe and appear in someone’s kitchen! I have to say I’m pretty proud of you, Drew, for managing to finish the fix without help from Steve. You’re becoming a true country boy!