I'm trying to find some best practices for constructing housing for my natural spring-fed well. This water supply feeds our house and currently just has some metal mesh, a wood box, and some plastic trash bags covering it.
Any suggestions for a good starting place. I would love to build something permanent to keep the spring clean for years to come!
This is a good topic to discuss. It is certainly possible to get contamination in a well or spring, so protecting it is a great idea.
The issues are that it's a perpetually wet environment, so mold and rot will need to be planned for.
1. Concrete blocks or poured concrete won't rot, but has high embodied energy. The quantity of concrete can be reduced by using it to infill around large rocks with a slip-form, but that's a lot of work. It would be a great beginner project for those skills, as it doesn't need to be too large.
2. There are some types of wood that are highly resistant to water damage, but "highly" doesn't mean "forever". Pressure treated wood is NASTY to the environment, particularly where it's produced, so *please* don't consider it an option. There are ways to treat wood naturally to help preserve it longer, but you need to choose a way that will not put the well at risk, and I'm not experienced enough to suggest any for this application. Things with boiled linseed oil in them are good for some purposes, so that's where I'd start my research.
3. Years ago when I was less experienced with permaculture, I made a PVC pipe frame for over our back well-shed. We get cool wet weather for months of the year, and the shed the former owners had built turned into a vermiculture. Because our well has a pump 200 ft down, this design was a bonus as when the pump died, we simply popped on a set of wheels and wheeled my shed off from over the well head. I was able to add a little insulation to keep things from freezing for the times we get freezing weather. Yes - PVC is nasty during the production process, but the frame has lasted over 10 years and I expect it will last at least another 20. Similarly, we clad it with thin plywood, which I understand now may have some pretty toxic glue's in it, but we got a marine grade ply and used linseed-based farm paint on it, so at least it will last a long time. I would definitely look for other approaches now, as I'm more aware of "cradle to grave" issues, but we also have to start from where we are, and I was clearly too trusting in "modern materials"!
4. Whatever you build, it needs to be easy to protect from small critters which will want to make it a safe winter home. It's something we're constantly watching for, despite making a deal with the local owls to act as pest control agents for us.
Pictures and sizes are always a help here. If you're need info about how to post pictures, follow the link in my "signature" at the bottom of this post.
I should have been a bit more specific in my first post (I'm learning). Please see below for photos showing the well in its current form.
The previous owner already poured a concrete form around the spring itself as shown.
I think my question is - what should be done to cover and protect the wellhead from critters and other water overflows. As you can see - we have a little friend sunning himself at the moment. In its current form, the head of the well is covered with just some mesh, a plywood box, and some black plastic.
I'm very new to having a wellhead (especially with water so close to the surface) and am not sure what best practices are for keeping it clean, tidy, and drinkable.
OK, let's back up a little:
1. Problem: It appears from your picture that you are pumping water from this hole without accessing it? So the cover you're looking for is to keep critters/bugs out?
Solutions - make a screen with no-see-um netting covered with 1/8 inch hardware cloth covered with 1/4 inch hardware cloth that fits over the pipe shown in the picture. There are ways to install threaded rod into concrete, and I would make a frame for the screen that fits down to the concrete and bolts down in at least 3 places around it, ideally use some old inner-tube rubber as a gasket, and I would also advise you use stainless rod, washers and bolts. No matter what sort of building or cover beyond this solution, bugs, mice, slugs, snakes can get through just about anything if they think there's something they want
2. Problem: Keeping rain and surface water out of the spring.
Solutions - First look as surface water. We've had heavier and more erratic rain in *many* locations, so if you've got the option to do it right, consider the worst possible flood possibilities and consider how you can slow down, divert, and absorb surface water far enough from your spring that the water will be filtered and decontaminated of the worst stuff before it gets to your spring. Animal poop can make you sick, microbes think animal poop is yummy, so lots of different plants to encourage lots of helpful microbes in your soil, would be my approach, along with managing the slope of the land away from the spring.
Second, your spring needs a "rain-hat". Plastic bags turn to plastic dust with UV, so, I'm sure you can choose a better option. However, you're going to potentially have to work on this spring at some point, so I would want a hat that's either big enough to work under or is easy to remove. The former owners of our farm built a 4 ft cube with a flat roof which could not survive our wet winters and the whole thing rotted, so I suggest you do better than that, also. You could think along the lines of a small portable chicken coop that one or two people could lift off - that sounds a lot like what Anne Miller has suggested. I will *strongly* support a sloped/peaked roof, but I've been burned too many times by flat roofs to ever want to go there again (in other words, totally biased against flat in most climates). Similarly, I'd plan for decent overhangs to protect from driving rain, unless you're concerned about really high, gusty winds that tend to rip roofs off if they can.
Third, you haven't mentioned temperature. Are you prepared to build small, let the structure get covered by snow in the winter, and you're sure nothing important will freeze and break at an inopportune time?
Thanks so much for posting the pictures, but of course, you've now given us more questions to ask!
Like what's the dimension of the wooden box in the picture. From the snake, I'd guess 2 ft square?
And what's your budget?
And how motivated are your to approach the issue from an upcycling/scrounging direction?
Or how much do you want this to be *really* inconspicuous in your environment? (Build small and plant stuff!)
If you want more ideas than you know what to do with, you've come to the right spot!