Over the winter, we woke one morning to find that our faucets would produce only the tiniest trickle of water. My wife and I began rushing around in a panic, yelling across the house at each other as we turned on each one, hoping for more than a dribble. No luck. Our town listserv had been busy with stories of frozen pipes for days, and we finally stopped and looked at each other in resignation.
We called some plumbers, who said what we were dealing with didn't sound like frozen pipes. Great! we thought. Frozen pipes had been our biggest concern - in fact, we'd been leaving the faucets slightly dripping on the coldest nights just to be sure. So what else could it be, we wondered. And that's when we heard the truly terrifying words.
Shut off your valves. It might be that your well's run dry.
I was afraid to ask what we would do if that turned out to be the case.
We'd either dig down deeper or dig you another well.
I sat at the dining room table, foot tapping, fingers jumping on my keys, pretending to work while the man from the well company knelt outside in the snow to test the level of the well. I hopped up and walked to the front door when I heard him step onto the porch. I looked at him, eyebrows raised in a question.
Well, you've got water.
I let out my breath and then asked what happened. Why did we lose water if our pipes hadn't frozen and our well hadn't run dry?
He explained that wells can run temporarily dry. Basically, the use of the water outpaces the flow of groundwater into the well. It can happen in really dry seasons or really cold ones when the frost reaches deep into the ground. Or it can happen when there's a leak, even a tiny one. He checked our faucets and our toilets and tightened some things up. Those little drips could add up to a lot of water over time, he said.
* * *
Today my well is dry. Perhaps it's temporary, and I just need to find the leak. Shut off the valve, tighten a few things, and wait for the inspiration to fill me back up.
Or maybe it's truly spent. Empty. No more. And then what?
Dig down deeper.
Or dig another well.
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