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Our Well Ran Dry & There’s a Seven Year Drought Coming | How to Pump Water from a Lake

Our well ran dry.  This has happened before but this times it’s apparently worse.  (P.S. if you like the photo below, it’s now available for download!)

A Little Background

A few years ago we had very little snow and really cold winter temperatures, and we think that without the insulation the snow provides, a cold snap froze our source of water.  We went without water for a bit, then had water delivered and things seemed okay.  It happened in March, so it was the tail end of winter – we were lucky!  But then this past winter we had another water shortage – which again we blamed on snow and ice, but then earlier this fall we had another shortage.  Our well tests were also coming back as unsafe to drink, due to high levels of E coli and Coliforms (which is bad – it indicates feces).  I actually got pretty sick from it before we realized there was a problem.  We changed the UV light in our water filtration system, shocked the well, cleaned out more parts of our water system.  For months we tried to fix everything we could think of but nothing worked.  The tests either came back as too overgrown to test or unsafe to drink.  We thought maybe our septic system was leaking (ewww) but then we heard from neighbours who had the same results as us so we postponed poking around in the septic system until next year, when we really need to have it pumped out anyway.  (So much ick).

We finally called in a well specialist who delivered some bad news.  He told us water moves in cycles and we’re coming off a seven year period of high water tables but now we’re going to enter a seven year period of chronically low water.  He said he wouldn’t be surprised to learn that our well was dry ten years ago.  And he said he wouldn’t be surprised if we struggle for water for the next decade.  I forgot to ask if the locusts were coming next.

The Solutions He Proposed Are Not Fun:

  • Pay $25,000-30,000 for a drilled well, with no guarantee that we’ll have water (they drill/charge per foot with no guarantee of even reaching water plus we might have the kind of water that discolors white laundry)
  • Pump water up from the lake (which is less expensive, but still costs a good chunk of money to install properly – there’s divers involved! – plus the system can jam up and freeze in the winter)
  • Excavate and install an underground cistern (again: money, but we could hold water whenever we get some in our well, whereas now it comes and goes)
  • Build some sort of cheaper indoor cistern/water storage in the basement and literally haul our own water from town every few days

Since we’ve been spending our money on exterior renos (new roof/windows/siding/shore erosion) we definitely don’t have $30,000 kicking around and even if we did, we’re on the fence about what to do because none of the options guarantee us water.

We decided to weigh our options over the winter and we’ve asked around to see what other neighbors do for water.  We saw one household pumping water from the lake last winter, so we know we’re not alone in this water shortage.  We also heard that two or three other dug wells ran dry, so I’m worried that if everyone starts drilling wells then we might all end up with empty, expensive drilled wells.  Some neighbors have successfully pumped water from the lake all year and have invited us around to see their systems.

Pumping Water from the Well in Warmer Months

When the ground isn’t frozen, the solution is easy.  For now, we bought a Champion 2-Inch Gas-Powered Water Transfer Pump, plus a 100 feet of hose, which I dragged down to the lake and I wish I’d taken video because as it unfurled I caught air going with it.  Hubby rigged up a little float for the end of the pump line with a little boat fender to keep it above the silt and keep the water as clean as possible to prevent the lines from getting clogged.  Our training as volunteer firefighters is coming in handy because that’s where we learned this trick!

We pumped the water up our yard to the well, dumping it onto the ground (not directly into the well) so the ground could soak up and pre-filter the water before it ended up in the house.  This step – as opposed to pouring right into our well – ensured cleaner water and was less taxing to our water filtration system, which might have filled up with silt and muck otherwise.

We were impressed with how well the pump worked!  And so thrilled that we didn’t flood the basement, haha.  We pumped about 100 gallons a minute, which added up to be almost 9,000 in an hour and a half or so.  I wish we lived somewhere warm enough to do this all of the time because we could manage this!  We had lots of rainfall this fall and we already have a blanket of snow, so maybe the water table rose and maybe the snow will insulate what little we have so it doesn’t freeze?

This well information probably doesn’t help a lot of readers, but it is a lovely, real look at lake life – there’s a cost to that beautiful sunset!  We often only see the glossy side of people’s lives on social media, so I like to share the gritty bits every now and then.  And IF anyone else anyone else is having well problems, I’ll keep you posted on the progress and the system we settle on – for sure you’ll get to see me bundled up in my parka trying to run hose from my truck to the basement with sixteen pairs of mittens on.  That’s a glamorous Insta-story right there.

UPDATE 2023:

Well, lucky for us the predictions were wrong!  Following the years since our well ran dry, we never had another issue (knock on wood) but we did discover a neighbor with a much deeper drilled well DID have issues with their well running dry.  I’m grateful we never coughed up the money to have a well drilled, because it may not have helped us anyway.  Let’s hope our luck holds for the next five years and beyond!  They are currently predicting low water levels for the area though, as we had a pretty dry summer and fall.  It’s never a dull moment when it comes to rural lake life…

In terms of potability, we had a different well specialist come out and we upgraded our filtration system and now our water is drinkable again!  They recommended paying for a detailed water analysis, as opposed to the free one we were doing twice a year, because it could pinpoint exactly what our issues were and target a system filtration for our specific problems.



  1. Julie
    November 13, 2018 / 1:28 pm

    I lived all of my life in the country, where water was from the well but we assumed it was guaranteed. About a decade ago I know all my neighbors started drying up and we were quite worried. It never reached any dire issue with us but I honestly had no idea what our options were. We had an old cistern we figured we may need to connect to but thankfully rain came and ended our worries. It’s always something though, I just wish that it was usually something cheaper.

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      November 13, 2018 / 4:55 pm

      I read your comment on the edge of my seat, hoping you didn’t end up with a dry well too, and I’m so happy to hear your well was okay! These things always seem to cost a fortune, I definitely went into the wrong line of work lol. Never thought I’d wake up each day and HOPE for rain 🙂

  2. skaetzer
    November 13, 2018 / 3:02 pm

    Wow. Thanks for the dose of reality. Guess it’s not all rainbows, pyrex and green camaros! We’ll keep an eye on things at our lake house in Northern Wisconsin, where we’ve had historically high water the last few years, But yes, it goes in cycles and lows are a-coming.

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      November 13, 2018 / 4:51 pm

      Haha, definitely not! There are a lot of hidden costs to our lake life over here. We also had historically high water on Superior, which wreaked havoc on shores so we were really blindsided by this sudden drop. Hopefully you don’t have these troubles at your place! Fingers crossed 🙂

  3. Amy Austin
    November 13, 2018 / 4:35 pm

    Tanya, I feel for you guys and wow—I think it’s helpful info and it is refreshing to hear people share the reality aka not so great parts of life….we can all relate to things that are tough……it is real life!
    Thanks for sharing this!

    • Tanya from Dans le Lakehouse
      November 13, 2018 / 4:53 pm

      Thanks Amy! I’m happy to hear you like seeing this peek into real life. I’ve been trying to share more facets of our lives here on the lake. Hopefully our solution will help someone out there – or someone will give us the perfect answer, haha. That works too 🙂

      • Amy Austin
        November 14, 2018 / 10:01 am

        Honest perspective and insight is great and yes, it will probably help someone else=great feeling!!

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