When we first saw the property, it was late August and everything in eastern Washington was very dry, needless to say. Knowing this, we were trying to decide how we would have access to water. We considered a large tank and delivery. We asked our agent about a well and she said maybe a few hundred feet down we might find water.
I found water at about 1.5 feet.
The day we arrived, I explored every square inch of our newly acquired 3.7 acres and looked for likely spots for water. I had been online getting tips so I looked for green amongst the brown and signs of winter run off ditches. I found one spot on a hill on the property that actually had some green grass growing at that time of year. I decided to dig there.
I can’t remember how long it took; just a couple of hours I think, as there was solid rock right at the surface, but I chipped and dug away and to my disbelief, the soil turned damp and then…actual standing water.
I had found a spring.
It could have been runoff but all signs pointed to spring water as I continued to go a little deeper. It turned out that the whole hillside was either one massive spring with a multitude of outlets or tons of springs all over the hillside. Some sources were larger than others but you could almost dig anywhere up there and find water coming up out of clay tubes and cracks between rocks.
We decided to use it as a water supply and at one point, we trenched a tiny path down the hillside to a larger holding hole we had dug. We used our pump to put water directly into the trailer for washing and just got drinking water either from the city’s standpipe or bought jugs from the store.
All through the winter we got a pretty good flow and measured about 12 or more gallons per minute using the bucket method. Problem is, the flow almost dried up over summer. That’s why we didn’t try to tap it during the colder months. I ended up going down a little deeper during the summer months but we had water all year long!
Come fall, we called contractor after contractor to dig a shallow well to make things official but they were all booked months ahead. Faced with another winter with an amateur setup, we went and got a sediment filter to run the water through before going into the trailers. Our hoses froze last winter so we (as with everything we plan around here), have to think ahead for that. We had that flow all last winter so we’re thinking the only tricky time might be between when the freeze hits and before the water is flowing again. We’ll have to be careful to keep the hoses empty after each use. The water filter too.
Mind you, I know things are a bit dicy with water rights here in Stevens County so I’m still trying to figure out where we stand with all of this legally. We can have a shallow well dug no problem; that’s all we need anyway but I discovered something interesting while digging this summer.
Sure it was hot and there may have been surface runoff somehow making it’s way down well beneath the surface but I began to notice slightly hot spots in places at the bottom of the spring. It was coming up a rock face and was pretty consistent. I felt around day after day with my fingers trying to decide if this might be geothermal activity.
Just a month or two earlier, while looking at geological maps for prospecting purposes, we discovered that not only were we situated in the middle of a series of faults but that, by the look of things, we might be sitting right on top of one! That would explain the springs and, possibly, geothermal activity.
I called WSU’s (Washington State University) geology department and spoke with a geologist there. He seemed to think it might be runoff but trust me, I just have a hunch something else is going on down there. I called an attorney about buying the water rights but it sounds like a complicated process. We’ll see. We want someone to come out and drill to settle the matter of geothermal activity. Maybe next spring?
We’re also considering getting a micro water generator for electricity. More research is needed though.
All in all, we watered our garden all summer by siphoning through hundreds of feet of garden hose to the holding hole, then pumping it out to the sprinkler. Pretty nifty huh? When we dug the garden, we routed the water into the area and created a temporary mud pit to soften the clay rich soil to a point where it was a tad bit easier (bit still almost impossible to turn).
Our spring (or Stevens County’s spring), is the heart of our property. It represents life and hope for us and it’s the place I go when I need to think or just cry. It’s my place: and the yellow jacket’s. I had to share the space with them all summer long in that hole. We managed to get along, somehow, and everyone got their water.