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Cold climate shallow wells

 
pollinator
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Location: Yukon Territory, Canada. Zone 1a
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I'm thinking of hand digging some sort of 'shallow' well for garden irrigation. I currently collect rain in 1000 litre cubes, but in my region we don't get rain until well after planting time (mid May).
I do have easy access to a creek, but the water level doesn't rise until mid June... so I really just need something that will get me through the dry months: Late May, June, early July.

Water for drinking and household use comes from a community well not too far down the road, I transport it with my pick-up truck and transfer it into a basement tank using an electric transfer pump (stay tuned for the cold storage I'm building around that giant thermal sink of a tank). This water is treated which I don't love, and I also hate driving the big truck more than I have to.

So, this doesn't need to be potable water, just useable.

The real issue is that our ground stays frozen until about june. I'm sure going below the frost layer (16') will hit water eventually... but how do I keep the darn thing from freezing up and bursting?
Anybody in cold country have a seasonal well and advice for me?

This youtube gentleman's soil and climate make me mad with envy!
 
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Can you drive a sand point well?  Is there likely to be water within 25 feet of the surface?

While there's frost in the ground, are you needing the water or does the frost go away about the same time you start to need water?

Is the frost depth really 16'?  Around here it's a paltry 4' but that's only where the snow is cleared.  In snow covered areas the ground barely freezes.  So while they might need to bury water mains 16', how deep is the frost where you well would go?
 
Chris Sturgeon
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Hi Mike, thanks for the reply.
Sand point will be difficult. We have about 4 inches of acidic forest duff, 2 inches of soil, 8 inches of volcanic ash and then a strange mix of silt, stone and sand. I'm thinking of using a 'trash pump' and a mobile settling pond made of lumber and plywood. That way I can recycle the water being pushed through a series of pvc pipes with a metal chipping head at the sharp end. I may have to heat the water if I hit a frost pocket.

The frost line is at least three feet plus. I know that because I couldn't dig fence posts holes until June two years ago.

What we have here is called discontinuous permafrost. It can persist for 8 months up to 20,000+ years. I'm really hoping my property is located over the 8 month flavour! It also varies in depth. The fact that I'm located near a large lake works in my favour. It's mid May and the lake is still frozen under 4 feet of ice, but under that is water that doesn't go below 0 celcius. That amount of thermal mass must have some effect on the land. Air temps have already been as high as 20c, but dipping near 0c at night.

Have you dug a well in Wisconsin? Tom Waits has a line about is being 'colder than a well digger's ass' there!

 
Mike Haasl
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Chris Sturgeon wrote:Have you dug a well in Wisconsin? Tom Waits has a line about is being 'colder than a well digger's ass' there!



I haven't.  I'm guessing their ass would be around 45 degrees F though...

I assume you're not near enough the lake to use lake water?  So it sounds like you'd be "washing" a well then?  So once you have it cleared out and below the frost line, you should be good to go (barring permafrost).
 
pollinator
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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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Every May/June you could just drill a well into the non-frozen dry creek bed.
Even with a low flow you can just use a direct solar pump to send the water to your garden.

Then there are all the cool tricks to make your water need "less" water.
 
Chris Sturgeon
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Mike:
Near enough to the lake (kinda: it back fills the creek -from which I pump- once the melt comes), but the melt doesn't come until June/July.
Thanks for your thoughts!

S Bengi:
The creek bed is not unfrozen, unfortunately. It's also the gloopiest soupiest silt you ever did see when it does melt. So unfortunatly no well digging there. It's great once the water rises, but pretty useless until then (other than for bird and beaver watching!).
Less water: I hear you. I've planted into cob walled raised beds (beds need to be raised so they thaw earlier and cob is great solar heat sink). The beds are dug down 2-3 feet and back filled with rotten wood, branches, fungus... basically bed/hugel hybrids with some thermal mass for extra measure. They preformed well last year and I'm hoping some shade cloth and Ruth Stout methods will help even more this year.
I'm only on a flat half acre so the creek and the roofs are the main water features. They do OK other than right at planting time when we haven't seen little rain for about 7 months. I really only need a few thousand liters for the first planting after the frost. Our entire growing season is less than 100 days... but we get 22 hours of sunlight!
Other oddities up here include: traditional mulching just insulates your soil, it never gets warm and nothing matures. Some people use black plastic but... no. There must be other solutions. Hugels can become yearlong ice cubes. I'm hoping the fairly dry wood I built my beds from will actually act more as insulation from the ground, rather than a sodden mass of (frozen) water.
 
Chris Sturgeon
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So, great news! We had a few rain squalls yesterday and I was able to retain about 2000 liters of water from the roofs... plus the rain did a great job starting to settle the dust that I call my garden beds.

This means I have enough water to start planting (potatoes and onion starts went in today) and the shallow well idea can be pushed back to the middle burner to simmer.

Thank you all for your input.

Does anybody have any experience or advice in maintaining a cold climate shallow well?
 
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