• Shallow drilled well (25ft) at a 3-seasons cottage.
  • Has a single supply line to a jet pump
  • Water system turned off for winter, and reopening around this time
  • typically, when reopening, it barely needs any prime, and pulls water immediately and without issue
  • This year, there is either a problem with the well being dry/damaged, or the supply line.
  • I get a very limited amount of water out at first, then it loses prime. I can walk away, come back in a week, and same thing happens. Turn pump on, water immediately. Lasts for a bit (e.g. enough to fill a water heater, etc.), then basically loses prime again.

I've ruled out the pump. I can take it over to a neighbors well (similar depth, etc.) and it'll pull water.

I am well versed in everything from where the supply line connects to the jet pump, but have no idea how to troubleshoot the supply line or well itself. Everything I search for related to "troubleshooting a well", etc. leads to stuff related to "here's how to check your pump, etc.".

I am not sure what other detail is needed, so please bear with me and I will add any necessary info to the question as required.

  • So it craps out mid-pumping, or pumps, then fails to start again without being re-primed?
    – Ecnerwal
    Apr 20, 2023 at 0:52
  • when I go back each week on Fridays after work (after not being there all week), It'll pump fine (e.g. up to 50 psi) for say, 5-10 pump cycles. then, eventually it starts to only be able to build to 30psi, then 20, then nothing. I can try priming 100 times after that, and still same thing happens. When I refill the supply pipe to prime it, the pump very quiickl;y pumps that amopiunt I put in, then it loses it's prime again
    – GWR
    Apr 20, 2023 at 1:15
  • That sounds like a supply (need a well driller) problem. Good luck.
    – Ecnerwal
    Apr 20, 2023 at 1:19
  • Small odds, but if the vent in the well cap has been plugged, perhaps by mud dauber wasps, it could cause this sort of behavior in a manner you could hope to fix yourself.
    – Ecnerwal
    Apr 20, 2023 at 12:03
  • Thank you, I will be on-site on Friday, so will check that as well. Totally possible.
    – GWR
    Apr 20, 2023 at 13:42

2 Answers 2


The only intake to a jet pump system is at the bottom of the well (unless there is a leak)

So, if air is getting into the pump it is coming from the bottom of the well

Therefore your well is running dry.

  • That's my initial thinking. How does one rule out, say, a leak in the suction pipe, pitless adaptor, etc?
    – GWR
    Apr 19, 2023 at 23:21
  • if they were leaking I think starting would be hard and running would be easy because flow should overwhelm a small leak,
    – Jasen
    Apr 21, 2023 at 0:01

For checking it, if you disconnect the pump end of the pipe and pour water into the pipe, it should stay full once you fill it up and get any bubbles out. If it drains down, something is leaking, with the pitless O-ring and the foot valve as prime suspects, but some other hole in the pipe for some other reason is not impossible, just less likely, by far.

It might be a bad/leaky foot valve. At all of 25 feet, screw a pipe handle into the pitless adapter and yank the pipe, assuming your pitless has the typical pipe thread connection to put a handle on to yank it, as mine does. You can inspect the pipe to see where the water level is by where it's wet when you haul it up. You can inspect the foot valve for any issues and replace if needed. You can also inspect and/or replace the o-ring in the pitless adapter, as it's normally in the part you pull out, for hopefully obvious reasons. That seems less likely with the problem description in the comment above.

At 25 feet, you should also be able to shine a flashlight down the well and see the water level, and/or lower a weight on a rope to measure it. Do be careful about not dropping things into the well, and don't leave it open and unattended.

It's certainly possible that your static water level has dropped, or your recharge rate (how fast water comes in when you pump water out) has. One way to check on that would be to put a vacuum gauge in right before the pump, and see if the reading indicates more and more vacuum as the pump runs, which would be associated with lower water level as you pump the water out. Some increase is normal, but generally it will stabilize if the recharge rate is adequate. If it simply indicates more and more vacuum until the pump craps out you might be overdrawing the well.

An alternate possibility for some shallow wells is that the well has been infiltrated by sand, and the screen on the foot valve is loading up - but I'd expect you would have some evidence of sand making it into the pipe as well, if that's the case. You can make use of a weight on a rope to check both the water level and the present well depth (lower to where you see/hear it splash, and then lower until you feel the weight hit bottom.)

There are a few limited issues with the piping you might be able to solve yourself, but in most cases if it's a "the well itself" problem you'll need a well driller.

After opening the well, remember to sanitize it when done.

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