Feb. 2023 OPSRRA
Types of Wells:
There are basically three types of wells: deep, shallow whether dug or bored and
driven wells. Each has unique characteristics and needs to ensure drinking water
A deep well is typically drilled and only ten to twenty cm. ( four to eight inches)
wide and is more than eight meters ( twenty-five feet) deep, often much deeper.
It is lined with a steel tube called a casing which extends down through the layers
of rock and soil into bedrock and past any level where debris might fall off the
well walls into the water. The casing also extends a few feet above the surface
and has a cap on to keep the soil, debris and small animals out.
A shallow or dug well is exactly as it sounds: dug into the soil and not bedrock,
usually by a backhoe or excavator now, but traditionally shallow wells were dug
by hand and lined with rocks to stop debris from falling in. These wells are usually
60 to 90 cm. ( 24 to 26 inches) in diameter and less that 6 m. (twenty feet) in
depth. Now tubular concrete rings are stacked in shallow wells as liners to keep
out surface debris and soil. They have a cover of wood, metal or concrete.
A bored well is like a dug well but deeper and made by using an auger. The auger
is less disturbing to the surrounding ground than a back hoe or excavator and the
hole can be deeper than a dug well, and reach a depth of up to fifteen m. (fifty
feet). It is also lined with stacked concrete rings and has a cover of wood, metal or
concrete to keep the debris and animals out.
Driven wells are not as common and are made by threading a sharp screened
rigid attachment onto the end of a piece of rigid steel. It is called a sand point and
looks like a hollow spear with a screened hole near the tip. The pipe is driven into
the ground using a jack hammer or a sledge hammer. They are the cheapest and
simplest option for getting water but the soil must be sandy or gravelly and the
water must be close to the surface.
Stream water for potable water use: According to the government website below
people can tap into unrecorded surface water (it is not licensed to another user or
reserved for other purposes) without a license but may be required to provide
proof that the water is unrecorded and there is no security of access to the water.
Otherwise people need to obtain a license which does give a degree of security
under the “first in time, first in right system”.
Something different are step wells, which are thought to be as old as the 2 nd to
4 th C. and are found in India and the Pakistan in areas where form and function
both mattered so the wells that provided water for the towns were designed to
be architecturally as beautiful as Western Cathedrals or even more ornate. They
were essentially very large and very deep dug ponds with long corridors and many
levels of stairs all lined with fitted stones which were often ornately carved. They
provided water likely gathered during the monsoon season and stored in the
wells for use during the dry season and they also became social and religious
gathering places. When the Raj came to India, the wells were considered to be
the cause of any diseases and epidemics so were condemned or destroyed. With
the introduction of first pipes and pumps and later modern plumbing and water
treatment, the step wells fell out of use and were used as dumps, latrines, or the
rock quarried and removed. A few remained undamaged enough to be tourist
attractions and sites of historical significance. Only in the past few decades are
more step wells being restored as architecturally significant buildings and are
being cleaned up to store water again as people struggle with the droughts of
climate change. It is somewhat unlikely the Health people would approve of a
step well here. Our version of a natural and beautiful step well is the Sooke
There are three common types of pumps in use with wells: submersible,
jet and piston. We are not going to look at the old hand pumps as few remain
and are hard to find.
A submersible pump moves more water than the other types and does not need
priming as it is under the water in the well. It uses electricity to run so if there is a
power outage, there will be no water except what is in the lines and the pressure
tank unless there is an auxiliary source of electricity.
A jet pump is comparatively inexpensive and is popular because it can work with
both deep and shallow wells. It does need to be primed with water to work and if
there is any air in the lines the water won’t come through. They sit above ground
usually in a basement or pumphouse sheltered from the weather.
A piston pump makes a noise like a little locomotive and has rubber drive belts
which are connected to an electric motor and metal pulleys. It used to be very
popular and will move water in a horizontal line up to 91 m. ( 300 feet) but
vertically only 6 m. (20 feet) so can be good for shallow wells but not deep wells.
It also usually is kept in a pumphouse.
Pressure tank: The pressure tank in a private water system has three important
functions: it stores water and provides water under pressure when the pump is
not running. It builds up a reserve supply of water so the pump starts and stops
less often, prolonging the life of the pump. In addition, it provides a reserve
supply of water for use during times of high demand or when the power goes off
and the well pump is not working.
A pressure tank is based on some physical properties so it works properly. Water
cannot be compressed into a smaller area but air can. When water is pumped into
a tank which contains air, the air is compressed, which puts the water under
pressure. The more the air is compressed, the greater the water pressure. When
the water reaches a preset high end pressure in the tank, usually 40 to 60 pounds
per square inch (psi), the pump automatically shuts off. As water is used, the
pressure in the tank of both the air and water are lowered. When the water
reaches a preset low end pressure, typically 20 to 40 psi, the pump starts again.
The minimum tank pressure must be at least as high as the pressure needed by
any taps or appliances and often they require at least 10 psi to operate properly.
Some equipment such as water treatment units, washing machines and
dishwashers may require higher water pressure to operate properly, even as high
as 30 psi or more.
The first type of pressure tanks were galvanized steel tanks but they were not as
good as the newer types because the water and air were in direct contact. Water
could absorb air, so the air had to be replaced to prevent the tank from becoming
waterlogged. If the tank became waterlogged, there was not much air left to
compress so the pump went on almost every time water was used. Also too much
air in the tank, water logged or not caused a problem because it reduced the
space for water storage. Air had to be released or the tank will become air-bound.
An air-volume device attached to a steel pressure tank will control the volume of
air automatically. The newer steel galvanized tank with a wafer has a floating
wafer that separates the air from water.
Since 1970, most private water systems have used bladder-type pressure tanks.
The bladder is a bag usually made of rubber or polyvinyl chloride. The water is
contained in the bladder and does not come in contact with air in the tank. The
bladder holding the water expands into the pressurized air space in the tank as it
is filled. As water is used from the system, the bladder collapses until the water is
almost emptied before the minimum pressure is reached, activating the pump.
They are pressurized at the factory (typically around 20 psi) but the pressure can
be adjusted using an air valve located near the top of the tank. Because there is
almost no water left in the bladder at the preset pressure when the pump comes
on, these tanks may not work for slow pumps or low yield wells. Diaphragm
pressure tanks are also used. The diaphragm is a membrane that separates the
water and air in the tank.
One way to select the proper size for a pressure tank is to base it on the well
pump’s flow rate. A typical private water supply pump may supply water at a rate
of 5 to 10 gallons per minute (gpm). Multiply the flow rate by four to determine
the size of a diaphragm or bladder tank. For example, a 9-gpm pump would
require a 36-gallon storage tank.
(From the University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension Education.)
Well information: “The Water Sustainability Act (WSA) was brought into force on
February 29, 2016 to ensure a sustainable supply of fresh, clean water that meets
the needs of B.C. residents today and in the future.
The WSA is the principal law for managing the diversion and use of water
resources. The WSA provides important new tools and updates B.C.’s strategy for
protecting, managing and using water efficiently throughout the province.”
This quote is from the Government of B.C. webpage on the Water Sustainability
Act. What it means to people with home wells is that it covers requirements for
changing streams for the collection of water, whether for home potable water or
a business, or for creating power from streams. People who collect stream water
through a pipe system are now sometimes expected to pay a fee to the
government. It identifies the requirements for constructing a well. It identifies
what dams are regulated and the requirements which must be met. Established
Water District administration units were created for the purpose of licensing and
management. The new Act prescribes fines against identified violators and victim
To the dismay of some people, home based businesses like market garden farms
and bed and breakfasts are considered businesses so have to pay for water. It
can be difficult to determine how much is for personal domestic use and how
much is used for the business.
The quote below is from Water Protection West Coast Region Ministry of Forests,
Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development in early 2022:
“Finally, The Water Sustainability Act (WSA) is the primary legislation for
management of water use and impacts associated with water diversion. During
the review of a groundwater license application, groundwater availability and
potential impacts to nearby water users and environmental flow needs are
considered. Under the WSA, domestic wells and use of groundwater for single
residence and garden up to 1 hectare in size do not require a license. Non-
domestic groundwater users that were using water before February 29, 2016 are
required to apply for a groundwater license by March 1, 2022. Existing
groundwater users who have not applied by the deadline must stop using
groundwater and will lose recognition of their historical date of first use. That
historical date is important because during water shortages older licences get
priority access to water. If this deadline is missed, groundwater users will need to
apply for a new water licence to authorize their use. This could be costly as it may
require technical assessments to be completed by a qualified professional to
support the application and the granting of a licence is not guaranteed. For questions on non-domestic groundwater licenses, you can visit the link below:
In short, some people who use stream water and people who in some way make
their living by using well water have to be licensed and have to pay for their water
use but single homes on a well do not, although they can be registered.
Registering a well tells the government that a well is in a specific place. It does not
mean if someone else builds and your well goes dry, you are entitled to
compensation or damages. It does not mean “first in time, first in line” but it does
inform government which maybe planning for development in the area about an
accurate account of the number of wells drawing from a particular aquifer. There
is a growing body of knowledge in the government on aquifers, their productivity
and the depth and number of wells. The information is continually being updated
Follow the link below to look up your own well or anyone else’s, the aquifer that the well goes into and much more.
For instance, if you go to the page and put in your street address and click on “search” it will
bring up your well if it is registered or licensed. When you scroll down the page
you will see a grey box that has well tag number, well number, owner name,
street address and plan number. Click on well tag number and a page will open
that offers a lot of information, such as the gpm flow rate, the depth of the well
and any casings, when it was drilled and the driller, any alterations, lithography
( what was drilled through), how it was drilled, orientation ( vertical or angled)
etc. Note that the site is constantly being up dated but with the large number of
people registering and licensing wells, the updating is behind the incoming data
in areas. We were delighted to note that the aquifers in Jordan River were
supposed to be getting observation wells but when we spoke with the person
who is the in charge of monitoring all of the B.C. Observation Wells, we were told
that is no longer true as new aquifers with greater need have been found
Interestingly big industry does not have to adhere to the same rules as the rest of
B. C. does and there are several bubbles of discontent from various groups noting
this disparity. Gas plants, mining, smelters, pulp mills and fracking are only a few
of the industries who have different rules and regulations. Immense amounts of water are virtually free to dam, take, use, pollute or outright poison and dispose of.
The final point is we need to be aware that water, especially clean water, is not
limitless and we all need to conserve and care for the water we have in the area.