Boreholes and well-points

Water saving: What are well-points? What are the costs to install? What are the costs of running them? What are the regulations? Must I have a sign?

A well point is a pipe with a filtered end installed into a porous soil structure. The water is distributed by means of a surface mounted pump. Well point water is best used in gardens and toilets; it should be checked for e coli and acidity at least every two years. Get the water checked before you consider using it in your pool. Generally the sandier, flatter and low lying areas of the Cape are where well points can be installed.

We will focus on well points in this post; boreholes were covered in a post last week

Costs: A well point with 1 to 2 wells, a pump, non-return valve, cabling and connector should cost From R 5 000 upwards. If you require storage tanks to increase the pressure for irrigation systems these can be had from about R1 500 for 750litres up to R 11 000 for a 10 000litre tank. An energy efficient pump will cost around R1 per hour to run, these installations are perfect for solar panels or wind turbines.

We will consider a typical middle class family of 4, Dad, Mom and 2 kids in a 3 bedroom house on a 600m2 stand; we will ignore the pool. This family will conservatively use 200litres per day each or 800l per day = 24 000l (24KL) per month, excluding the garden. Research indicates that 54% of the water usage would be in the house and 46% in the garden; thus they would use about 21 kilolitres a month in the garden, water is billed per kilolitre – the 4th digit on most meters.

If we presume that the well point water is only used in the garden, use this model family and ignore any other water saving measures noted in our previous posts then we can work on the following: The additional water and sewerage charge will cost this family R1 653 per month for about 6 months of every year; if the well point cost is say R10 000, this well point will take 1 year to payoff. Well points have no theoretical lifespan; with very little maintenance, pumps and casings will need replacing from time to time. What you can’t factor in is the cost of losing your garden every 7 or so years when drought hits and the feel good factor of being semi-independent of outside sources. By using an energy efficient pump the electrical running costs will be about 70c per hour; these installations are perfect for solar panels or wind turbines.

Some points to consider: The majority of areas in the Cape have relatively good underground water; consequently it is relatively easy to locate a well point that will provide sufficient water. Should there not be sufficient pressure for an irrigation system it may be necessary to sink a second well point or install a tank to get the required pressure. Well points can be located almost anywhere in the garden, with minor restrictions. Keep in mind that you will need power for the pump and a connection to the tank and or irrigation system. Well points draw water from high up in the water table which means that you don't need to divine for a particularly strong source as one would with a borehole.

Most well points can be installed within 4 hours, a little longer if you add in storage tanks.

Make sure that you keep a record of the installation of the well, it’s exact location, the materials used, maintenance done and copies of water quality reports. These documents are an advantage when the time comes to sell the property.

Be aware that some well points contain tannins, which can stain walls so if you use an irrigation system ensure that the sprays don’t hit the walls; this is a waste of water anyway.

You must display a sign outside your property indicating that you are using well point water; a good idea to stop the local busy bodies reporting you to the municipality for water abuse. You don’t require authorisation yet, but, this will come in time when the municipalities start losing revenue - so get in early.

Local regulations vary, some include that you may not use well point water within 24 hours of rainfall, only use after 4pm and before 10am; check with the authorities before you install the well point, don’t rely on the internet, this info could be outdated. City of Cape Town requires that all boreholes be registered 14 days before installation. You can send an email to borehole.water@capetown.gov.za to register your well point or for information relating to the city’s regulations.

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