Cold weather is finally here, so it’s time to prepare for those frosty temperatures. One of the most important steps this time of year is to protect your plumbing and water system from the damages of freezing. A burst pipe or damaged pressure tank can cost thousands of dollars to repair, but some simple maintenance and prevention will save you from the headache and expenses caused by those types of problems. Good well maintenance is every well owner’s responsibility, so take some time this season to ensure that your well is in good shape.

Most water wells are located outside of the home, but inside of a small well house. These well houses are a good way to protect the well and its components from the elements and accidental damages. When air temperatures drop near or below freezing, smaller pipes like the pressure switch line will be the first to freeze, preventing the well pump from turning on and off. Any other water line that freezes will likely break, leading to flooding and water damage once the line thaws back out. Insulate all of your outdoor exposed water lines with foam-insulating sleeves or fiberglass insulation to protect your pipes during a freeze.

Another option for water lines is using heat tape (with a fuse to prevent electrical fires). It’s also important to insulate the well house, including the walls, door and ceiling. Don’t leave any openings for wind and cold air to enter the space around your well, and add a heat source such as a lamp, baseboard heater or space heater for those frigid days and nights. When using any heat source, be sure to take all necessary precautions to prevent overheating and fires.

These few steps will go a long way in protecting your well and outdoor plumbing from the cold. Keep in mind that if you’re not on a public water system, the inevitable power outage will leave you without water. It’s a good practice to keep your generator maintained and have a backup supply of fresh, potable water inside your home so you’re prepared for an extended outage.

Winter is also a good time to inspect your well for other issues that need to be repaired. Check the above-ground casing for any openings that can allow debris, animals or contaminants into the well. Also check where the well meets the concrete slab or well sleeve near the ground, because any opening at the land surface can allow direct contamination of the aquifer below.

Those cozy well houses that people build will also attract animals and insects as they seek to escape the cold, which makes it even more important to keep your well casing, plumbing and borehole sealed and protected. Well houses also make for convenient storage, but it’s not worth the risk of a potential leak or spill getting into your drinking water. Be sure to never store chemicals like pesticides, gasoline, diesel, oil or fertilizers inside of a well house or anywhere near a water well, just in case. Whatever you do store in the well house should be completely sealed, secure and should not attract vermin (feed is a common culprit).

Most winters also bring more rain and occasional snow or sleet, leading to increased runoff and erosion in vulnerable areas. Make sure that the land surface is sloped to direct water away from your well and does not allow any standing water near the well. Well owners are encouraged to test their water quality annually, but if you notice any change in your water’s taste, color or odor, that’s also an indicator to have it tested again. If you have any wells that are not in use, those wells should also stay capped, sealed and properly maintained, because every water well is a pathway for contamination into the aquifer.

If you have any questions about well care or need any assistance with well inspection or water testing, the friendly folks at the Panola County Groundwater Conservation District will be glad to help you out! Additionally, any licensed water well driller, pump installer and/or plumber can see to it that your well system is kept in the best condition year-round.

For more information on water wells and our local groundwater resources, visit the district’s website at www.pcgcd.org, contact the Panola County GCD at (903) 690-0143 or check out our Facebook page. We also welcome your visit at 419 W. Sabine St. in Carthage.

Jess Landreneau works for the Panola County Groundwater Conservation District.

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