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I came to my old house after a week out, and found two strange things:

  1. An electrical bill for $160 (normally $20 in the summer).
  2. No water in the house.

The house has a well with pump. After turning off the pump for a day, when I turn it back on, I get about 40psi for about 3 minutes, then it drops to no water again.

The pressure switch is working, and I'm getting power at the pump.

Is this a sign that the well is dry?

I'm thinking that the high electrical bill was from the pump running continuously with the pressure switch calling for water for a week.

More information: This is a deep well. I don't have any information about how deep, and the previous owners are deceased. Neighbors report their wells are 350+. I also have a shallow traditional well, 25' deep, with water level always at 10', so 15' of water. Which is why I'm confused about the deep well possibly being dry. I can always use the shallow well to supply the house temporarily.

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    Get a pressure switch with low-pressure cutout. Last I shopped, they didn't even cost more. That shuts the pump off if pressure drops below 20 PSI so it doesn't run up a huge bill and destroy the pump.
    – Ecnerwal
    Sep 15, 2023 at 0:01

1 Answer 1

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Dry well, (or at least "low-water, slow recharge") and (now) dead pump; or, just possibly, a leak in the pipe coming up the well causing pumping in circles, but that's not consistent with "40 PSI for 3 minutes dropping to no water."

So, it's probably well-service time. Hang on to your wallet.

If you're unreasonably lucky, there's more well below the pump inlet and you can set your new or rebuilt pump intake lower to access water.* If not you need the well drilled deeper, or fractured, or you need a whole new well.

In some cases you might be able to put a slow pump on the well and pump to a surface holding tank which has a different pump to pressurize water from the holding tank for your use at more reasonable rates. That works if there's water, but the rate it (now) comes in at is too slow to keep up with using lots of water at once.

If you have a deep-well jet pump now, consider a submersible pump in the well for a replacement - they are more efficient and don't require priming. If you have a shallow-well pump but you have more well below the intake setting, also consider a submersible pump.

* Anecdotally, I did once live in a house with a shallow-well pump (one pipe surface pump) sucking from 25 feet down a well with the water level about 8 feet down. That particular well was drilled out to 76 or 78 feet, but during the time I lived there the water level remained close enough to the surface to just keep using the shallow-well pump (but it did wear out and need a rebuild kit at least once.)

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  • Thank you. This is a deep well. I don't have any information about how deep, and the previous owners are deceased. Neighbors report their wells are 350+. I also have a shallow traditional well, always full of water at 10'. Which is why I'm confused about the deep well possibly being dry. Thanks again, the answer is very helpful.
    – Cheery
    Sep 15, 2023 at 11:10
  • Test the water in the shallow surface well. If it passes (contamination potential being the main reason "the authorities prefer" deep wells,) go to with that.
    – Ecnerwal
    Sep 15, 2023 at 12:49

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