three weeks ago, our well pump broke. it stopped working. and took it apart, diagnosed that the solar panels are fine, and the motor is fine. the problem is therefore the pump head. they called the people we bought it from, Affordable Solar. those yahoos had us put it all back together again, and then spent the next 48 hours deciding that we were right. then they didn’t do anythign. anything. at. all. we had to make them send it back to the manufacturer, Conergy, for a waranty replacement. Alan had to go down there in person late that week and open up a can of whoop-ass before they started paying any attention at all. as if this was simply a TV or microwave or some other dumb thing, something easy to live without for weeks on end, rather than OUR ONLY SOURCE OF WATER. water. from which all things proceed, without which there is no life. whose importance is secondary only to breath, and impossible to overstate.

Alan made them send the broken pump to Conergy, and he made them communicate with Conergy about the replacement. Sometime during all that, Affordable Solar began to realize that they had really, really fucked up. They did make the replacement happen, eventually, and even covered it under the warranty. Of course, it was shipped from Conergy to Affordable Solar, who then forgot to notify us that it had arrived on Friday afternoon, so that we had no pump through the weekend, as well. We forced the issue that Monday. and filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. These people appear to have a company policy against returning customer telephone calls, or providing any information or service at all to people who have just spent over two grand on their products. way to go, assholes. guess who just lost the contract for our community building solar array? mm hmm.

okay. so now we have a pump head identical to the broken one, and several possible theories about what broke the first one, with insufficient information to make a clear determination one way or another. it could be cavitation (the pump pulling or creating air in the line; a couple possibilities for exactly *how* that is happening, but 100% guarantee that it IS happening); could be sediment in the water. there is certainly sediment (colloidally suspended clay). the well’s recharge rate is not great. in fact, it appears to be rather less than the pump’s draw rate, which could be the cause of the cavitation. it is entirely possible that Affordable Solar, with all the facts ready to hand, neverthless spec’ed us entirely the wrong pump. this pump can’t handle even the faintest hint of sediment, for one thing. in consequence of which, combined with the unsolved large-looming cavitation problem, we’re mighty reluctant to plug it in and let it break itself again.

but the first thing we need to do to test the sediment theory and get some more facts, is hook up some kind of pump that will run without a hefty filtration system, so that we can test the gallons per minute rate, as well as the sedimentation. we need to get the well going, test the gpm, and catch the first 5 gallons or so of water in a clear bucket, to test the sediment concentration. then every half-hour thereafter for at least a full day, running the water the whole time. the fruit trees would love that, i’m sure. Leslie tells us that if her company was hired to solve our well problem, that’s the first thing they would do. it also clears the well, in the case of temporary or intermittent sedimentation. it allows you to determine whether the sedimentation is constant or intermittent, which tells you whether or not you need to have the well flushed. flushing consists of hiring a well company to come over and run highly pressurized water down the well for some time, blasting the area from which the well draws water clear of sediment.

we have a 54′ deep, 1 ¾” unregistered driven well, without a casing. in other words, this well was “built” by somebody driving a slender pipe into the ground with a big hammer, essentially. there is almost certainly no screen at the bottom, no sand-trap, just an open hole. which might or might not be full of sediment. and might or might not have taken 80 years to get that way. we could flush it and see if that fixes it. and if it doesn’t, then we’d pretty much be looking at drilling a new well. or it could fix it for the next 80 years and we’d be fine. or, we could go ahead and drill a new well. that looks to cost us about $3000—-that’d be the same $3000 i’m not spending on my car, please note. we could have a 3.5″ or 4″ well drilled, with a casing, with a screen on the bottom, 150-200 ft deep (which should permanently solve the sedimentation problem all by itself, firmly rooting the well in the deep water table), into which we could put a subersible, less-problem-prone pump. a solar one, no less, identical to the one that Ironwood Farms uses. we can’t use a submersible pump in the current well, as they are only made for 3″ and up diameter wells.

if we drill a new well now, we have some assurance of being able to get the permits and actually do this. if we don’t we have no guarantee that Bernalillo County will continue to approve new residential well permits. particularly as city water–reconditioned river water, full of all manner of contaminants & endocrine disruptors–is starting to come down to our part of town. we risk not being allowed to use well water if we don’t solve this problem for good, now, before the growing season starts.

it’s a quandry. we are bringing in an expert from Rodgers well company, up the street, to evaluate the situation. he is coming on Wednesday. we’re discussing our options with regard to getting an AC pump in there as a backup/ test-equipment kind of thing, to run the sediment test. we’re trying to figure out if we need a different, slower-flow-rate, higher-sediment rating pump, or a new well.

meanwhile, we’ve been living for three weeks on 15 gallons of water every two days, or less. i’m kind of proud of us for that. but it’s a good thing we don’t have goats yet. or a garden.