Pump stump: dealing with a sandy well

A well pump in cottage country. Photo by GSPhotography/Shutterstock

We replaced our well pump and now we have sand in our water. Does this mean we need a new well?—Drinking in Dirt

Since the sand only appeared after the new pump, “it seems to be more a pump issue than a well issue,” says Max Burns, the author of Country & Cottage Water Systems. It’s tough to know for sure but, assuming it’s a submersible pump (as Burns suspects), “the bottom of the well is probably being disturbed, either by an overly enthusiastic pump, or a pump that’s positioned too low.”

Sometimes, when a pump with a higher rating than the previous one is installed, “the larger pump can draw in water so fast that it actually pulls sand in through the well screen casing,” says Gerry Bulfin, a certified water specialist with Clean Water Systems & Stores in Santa Cruz, Calif.

It’s also possible that your well has always had sand trouble—maybe there were small amounts of the stuff in your water already but you didn’t notice—and the problem only became obvious with a different pump.

This doesn’t mean you need a new well (though it does mean you’ve been washing your hair with sand all this time). It could be a fixable glitch, such as a damaged well screen. The only way to get to the bottom of this is to have an expert assess the situation. First step? Contact the person who installed the new pump.

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