Transitioning From Well Water to Town Water: Fracking, Flushing and Digging

This month we decided to bring our home up to ancient Roman standards, and get water. In our house. From the government. Yes, it turns out that in this, the twenty-first century, you can finally get water to your house, from your town! I joke, but initially I was actually pretty torn about getting off of well water.

First of all, our house has been ‘off the grid,’ water-wise, for its entire almost-300 year lifespan. Second, I am cheap and doing this cost money. Third, I liked the idea of well water because in my head it was somehow more pure. HAHAHA!!! Oh, ignorant me.

Over the first six months after we moved in, we noticed something … strange, with our water. Which was that there was no water. If you took a shower, you couldn’t wash the dishes. If you ran a load of laundry, you’d better delay the kids’ bath time. We were constantly having to shut off our well’s pump so that we wouldn’t destroy it by having it pump nothing.

In short, the well was dry.

We called in the cavalry, and fracked the well. Fracking, for those who don’t know, isn’t just for destroying the formerly-pristine deserts and empty places of my beloved native Colorado to extract oil. It is for any time that you want to get something from stone – oil from a stone, water from a stone, blood (probably), whatever. For a well, fracking shakes out all the sediment, calcified buildup, etc., such that water can flow from cracks in the stone into your well.

Sadly, I have no photos of our well fracking (being fracked?). This is because both of the toddlers were home with me at the time and they lost their damn minds with joy over the workmen, the giant machine, and the huge, huge noises. No naps were had, no quarter was given.

Honestly, I couldn’t blame them. The whole process only took about four hours, but it was super cool to see the cover off our homely little well (there she is above), the entire 50 feet of pump pulled out and repaired on our driveway, and the giant machine just screaming against the rock of the well. It was not super cool to have to keep an eagle eye out so that said men and machinery didn’t destroy all my garden plants (RIP, rosebushes).

Then we lived through the windy, miserable, never-ending winter of 2017-2018. We had eight separate power outages, two of which were for two days, and one of which was for five days. One thing I didn’t think about before living in a well-water house is that you’re not actually off the grid water-wise at ALL. This is because your pump is powered by this new-fangled thing called electricity. So while all your on-the-water-grid neighbors can flush their toilets during a blackout, you cannot.

You can imagine what five days with two toddlers and no flushing toilets is like, but I recommend you try not to think about it. Let’s just say that dawn of day three found my husband retro-fitting a new generator onto the old generator hookup, a few hours later we had one working toilet, and much celebration.

Next, and honestly the least influential on the decision, was learning some history about the well.  Now, I am not a superstitious person. I find it hilarious how many otherwise normal-seeming people (and for whatever reason, especially big burly dudes who are moving in our washing machine single-handed and the like) immediately start talking about ghosts when they see our house.

“I could never live here!” says 6’5” tall buff guy carrying a 300 lb. sleeper sofa up our stairs.

“Why not?” I ask, and seeing that he has to duck to get through one of the upstairs Hobbit doorways, guess, “the low doors?”

“No,” he replies, “this place is old, so probably haunted, and I’m afraid of ghosts.”

“Oh yeah?” I say, and then super casually, completely unable to not screw with people by just telling them the truth, add “we’ve also got a graveyard in the back.”

About five minutes later he’s flooring it out the driveway. Who needs a security system when you’ve got ghosties on your side???

So yeah, ain’t afraid of no ghosts. That said, one dark and stormy night (for real) my husband was reading some historical stuff about the house out loud that the previous owners left for us. Pretty dry info, until he gets to the part about how the final owner of the house related to the family who built it DROWNED IN THE WELL.

Again, I’m not superstitious, I don’t believe in ghosts, but that is flat out sad, creepy and gross, even if it did happen in the 1930s.

Next, we realized we have a ridiculous amount of sediment that comes in from the well, and have to change our filter super frequently. Annoying. Not the pristine well water of my dreams, for sure.

Then, this summer, a year and a half after fracking, we noticed that pressure and amount of water had decreased since the fracking. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back, because fracking was not frakking cheap. Though the fact that I’ve written about fracking this much and only made one Battlestar Galactica ‘frak’ reference is priceless (yes, surprise, surprise, I’m a giant nerd).

So, we decided it was time to dedicate the well water to landscaping needs, and put the house on town water rather than frack again. To do this involved another project that drove the toddlers wild, digging a giant trench:

These guys did this so precisely and so quickly. I’ve had lots of issues with various folks who came to work on our place, but these guys? They came to WORK. They dug non-stop, except for a brief lunch break, where they brought packed sandwiches out from a cooler, like MEN on a JOB. None of those two hour lunch breaks at Dunkin’ Donuts or ten smoke breaks, like some OTHER people I’ve dealt with here.

Not only that, they’d pre-coordinated with our town, so the water department was out here at the crack of dawn verifying our hook-up, and giving me the run-down on the fees I needed to pay to tap in to the town line. Then, at the end of the two days it took these guys to dig the trench, lay down the pipe, and fill and grade the hole, the town was back out here putting in the meter.

Now, fingers crossed that there won’t be some screw-up that happened that we only discover down the line, but for right now, color me happy!

We also got extremely lucky that they didn’t hit any rock ledge. If they had, per the quote they gave us, they’d have to bring in rock-drilling equipment that would add $4,000 a DAY. That is … a lot. The biggest thing they came across was this large boulder, which (thank goodness) they were able to dig around:

The whole project ended up costing about the same as fracking, but will prevent us needing to re-frack the well in the future (we hope). Also, we can still use the well for our gardens. Our town (like most of Eastern Massachusetts) has heavily restricted water use rules due to our perpetual state of drought. This means you can’t use town water on your lawn or gardens. With well water, we can keep our gardens going. We don’t water the grass because (1) everyone’s grass is the same green-brown due to water restrictions anyway, (2) we have so much lawn it is ridiculous. If we were to water it, we’d need a whole new well, and of course (3) watering your lawn is a waste of water no matter what (in my opinion). Our obsession with green, pristine grass in this country is a collective delusion I’ll never understand.

So, here’s our house now, with the trench filled in. Yes, it looks like a dinosaur just took a stroll across our front yard, but we’re getting the grass re-seeded this week, and again in the Spring, so the dirt is only temporary.

Bring it on, power outages of 2019! We’ll be here, flushing our toilets like we’re frakking ROYALTY.