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I've been chasing this problem for a few months now. My well pump loses prime and throws air into the lines if I run the system hard - that means doing a large load of laundry, dishes, flushing toilets etc all on a busy morning. The largest culprit of this is a toilet that likes to seal improperly and run. If I miss that and don't wiggle the handle, I lose water.

The system holds pressure overnight - there are no leaks in the system.

Waiting a bit, re-priming the pump and then running it again gives me back (airy for a while) water. This seems to point to the well running dry. What confuses me is that this happens regardless of the water table level. I live on a sand peninsula with serious flooding issues - while the water table was well into most people's basements, I was still losing water quite often.

The previous owners of the house seem to have done some sort of calcium treatment to the well (I found an old bottle of calcium treatment tablets in the garage), but I'm not sure a) how to use them and b) how that would prevent the situation I'm having now (my water does not seem overly hard).

What are the next steps I can take to diagnose this problem?

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  • Does your pump have one pipe to the well, (implying a shallow-well pump) or two (implying a deep-well-jet pump?)
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 12:22
  • It is a two pipe deep-well pump Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 17:54

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This would appear to be a normal case of overdrawing the well - the system holds and does not leak, so the air is coming in when the water level in the well is pulled down below the pump intake.

You either limit the water use to what's available, or you spend a typically rather large sum on having a well driller deepen and/or hydrofracture the well, or drill a new well. If it's purely the drawdown rate that's an issue, having a slow pump filling a large cistern/reservoir/tank from which your house pump draws water at whatever rate you require (buffered by 1000-25,000 gallons of storage) is another solution.

It's possible (but not overly likely) that you might have more well than your pump setting, and the intake could be lowered, but usually there isn't a lot of extra hole below the pump intake. Though I did once live in a house where the pump was a shallow-well pump (so intake 25-27 feet down the hole, since that's as far as that pump type can suck) but the actual hole was 78 feet - however, while I lived there, anyway, the top 25 feet of the well was adequate for our water needs.

The water flow rate into your well can be limited by the hydrogeology around your well such that you can overdraw it even if the water table is high. Depending on the details of your well (unknown to us, and perhaps to you) it may not be drawing directly from surface water anyway (typically considered a good thing as it reduces the odds of contamination from the surface.)

At this point in my life, a troublesome toilet that resists repair gets replaced by a modern water-saving toilet (unlike the old ones, the new ones actually have hydraulic engineering so they actually flush on 5 or 6 liters or less.) Especially if that's going to save me an expensive well driller visit.

If you are on a well and have not had your water tested, you probably should do that (then you'll know how hard it is or isn't, and as many other things as you pay for - though basic hardness testing you can often get for free) but that's not going to have any direct impact on your well sucking air.

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  • All good points - my largest concern is that this is relatively new (4-5 months) in a house I've lived in for 3 years. Can water tables change that quickly? Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 17:55
  • @BrydonGibson You're confusing water table with the well's water level. They are not the same. See Ecnerwal's paragraph 4.
    – MTA
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 17:58
  • Right, still getting the hang of the lingo. Would this point to an "issue" with my well, though? Should I be concerned that the refill rate is (potentially, maybe my water usage habits are different) changing? Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 18:00

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