Before You Rent or Buy
Most town and city dwellers rely on a public water system for their source of water. These water supplies are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Users need only pay the water bill to keep an adequate supply of safe water flowing. Publicly supplied water may be available to some acreage dwellers able to access municipal, community or rural water district systems, but most acreage dwellers rely on private wells as their source of water. Private water supplies are not regulated, and users must operate, maintain and ensure the safety of their water supply. Before renting or buying an acreage, be certain you will have a source of water that will provide the quantity and quality you need.
The average American uses from 60 to 100 gallons of water per day. Cleaning, fire protection, landscape irrigation, water for animals and other uses increase the total gallons needed per day. Water use does not occur evenly over the course of a day and the water system must often meet the needs of many uses during short periods of time. These times, called peak use periods, usually last from 30 minutes to two hours and usually occur near mealtimes, during laundry periods, and shortly before bedtime. A water system must be able to meet both total gallons per day and peak use demands. The water system flow rate is the quantity of water delivered in gallons per minute. The flow rate should at least equal the peak use rate (the greatest water demand likely to occur at one time), and should be capable of maintaining this rate continuously for one to two hours. For home use, a minimum flow rate of 10 gallons per minute is recommended, but a higher flow rate is desirable. If water needs exceed the maximum well yield, intermediate storage can be installed to help supply water.
A safe source of water for human consumption does not need to be pure water, but should meet EPA primary drinking water standards. All private wells should be tested by a certified, independent laboratory and results compared to EPA drinking water standards. Two contaminants of primary concern are coliform bacteria and nitrate. There should be no coliform bacteria in the water and the nitrate-nitrogen concentration should not exceed 10 milligrams per liter. Water also should be tested for any pesticide, petroleum, or volatile organic chemical known to have been stored, mixed or used near the well location; lead, if suspected in the water distribution system; and any other suspected contaminants. While not health risks, nuisance contaminants of iron, manganese, calcium and magnesium also can be tested.
Proper well construction, keeping contaminants away from the well, backflow prevention, and decommissioning illegal unused wells can help protect a water supply. Check the history of and existing condition of each well on the property.
The Water Well
While the water supplied by a private well is not regulated, the design, location and construction of the water well is regulated by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
A private water well must be located and constructed to protect it from surface waters and from seepage from sources of contamination. It should be located at least 50 feet from a septic tank or non-watertight sewer line; at least 100 feet from any seepage pit, cesspool, tile field, privy or other subsurface disposal system; and at least 100 feet from any feedlot, manure pit, manure or sewage lagoon or livestock lot.
It should be constructed of watertight casing, preferably heavy-gauge metal or National Sanitation Foundation approved plastic; have all joints in the well casing screwed, welded, or otherwise properly sealed; have a well casing that extends at least 12 inches above the grade of the land surface; have a sanitary well cap used on the casing; and have pitless installation, or, if a pit is used, have a pit at least 10 feet away from the well.
The space between the casing and the wall of the drill hole must be filled following specific guidelines.
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Source: Adapted for Lancaster County, Nebraska from A Place in the Country: The Acreage Owner's Guide (EC97-2506C).