Municipal water ends about 15 feet below us. Can we pump?
October 27, 2016 5:58 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to pump municipal water uphill to a house site from the municipal water supply if the municipal water supply doesn't *quite* reach the house site?

We're thinking of buying a lot of land and building a house on it. We have found the perfect site for the house, right at the top of a hill. The problem is, although part of the lot does have access to a municipal water hookup, the municipal water doesn't reach all the way uphill to the site we want to build on - it ends down the hill, 10-20 feet down in elevation. The city has told us they will not be extending the municipal water supply, because there isn't enough pressure to make it up to the top of the hill.

The question:
Is there any "standard" non-DIY non-crazy way to pump water from the municipal water supply on the property uphill to the site we want to build on? Our alternative is to drill a well for somewhere around $3k, but it would be nice to not have to worry about our own well.

The answers I'm expecting to get are one of
1. No, this is not thing anyone does, so either DIY or forget about it
2. Yes, but it would be more complicated/unreliable/expensive than just drilling a well.
3. Yes, and here's a link to an example company that sells the equipment and does the installation!
4. Why are you even thinking about this wells are great

posted by Salvor Hardin to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Just chiming in on private wells here - I don't know about your area in particular, but aquifers are getting increasingly contaminated from historic industry so if you end up considering the well, please do a thorough search for potential historic industry or industrial activities in your vicinity. The last thing you want is to drill a well just to find out it isn't potable or will require expensive treatment. You
posted by DoubleLune at 6:38 AM on October 27, 2016

If you drill a well, you'll have to have a pump anyway. I think a booster pump in a well pit at the tap to the water main makes a lot of sense. The people I would talk to are the existing well service companies, because you're going to have all the infrastructure that goes with a well, minus the cost of drilling the well.
posted by Bruce H. at 6:41 AM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

If, as you say, there is a (presumably adequate) supply to some part of the property, you should be able to get a booster pump fitted.
posted by pipeski at 6:42 AM on October 27, 2016

I don't have any links, but yes, building a private system to pump the water up and store it a the top of the hill is a thing that's done. Probably contact local well drillers for bids. You'll want to know just how much that's going to cost.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:16 AM on October 27, 2016

Plenty of booster pumps exist, although they are mostly for improving poor water pressure already in the house (google "booster pump for municipal water"). I have to imagine that a plumber and/or a well company will get you a reasonable quote.

On the cost issue, as someone who lives in an area where many of my neighbors have wells and there have been issues, I am very, very glad to be on municipal water (sourced from a aquifer with nothing uphill from it except the Green Mountain National Forest). If I were in your situation, I would happily pay two or three times the $3000 well-drilling cost you've quoted to be on municipal water.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:30 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest listening to the city. They said they aren't going to extend the line. You can't put a personal booster on a municiple line. IMO you have two options, drill a well or talk to a local legislator and ask if they are willing to get involved (one call from a legislator can change everything).

Whether #4 is the answer for me would totally depend on how good your municiple water is vs. the aquifer you'd tap into for a well. Water quality being equal I'd happily pay 3x the cost for a well knowing there will be no monthly bill ever. Municiple water costs are going to skyrocket in much of the country as the groundwater supply dwindles- though how much this will happen varies dramatically depending on what part of the country you live in. Also you need to find out if your septic options are tied to how you get water. In my area, public septic isn't available/allowed unless you have a public water supply.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 10:50 AM on October 27, 2016

I think the city is saying they have no intention of extending the municiple system across the OP's private property. That's pretty standard.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:17 AM on October 27, 2016

Booster pumps are a totally normal thing to attach to a municipal supply. Practically every building you see higher than 3-6 stories (depending on local pressure) is running booster pumps. In my locale developers sometimes put them in to service a group of houses in just your predicament. Inspectapedia has a good overview.

Patapsco Mike: " Water quality being equal I'd happily pay 3x the cost for a well knowing there will be no monthly bill ever. "

Well water has constant bills though not nicely equalized monthly. You have to pay for the capital costs to drill/install the thing in the first place. Then budget for regular pump maintenance/replacement. You also have to pay the electrical cost of running the pump (say 10-20 cents per 1000 gallons, could be more as it varies on head and electrical costs). And you really should get your water tested regularly. Around here if you sell water it has to be tested monthly (~$50 each time) but annually would be a bare minimum IMO.

I've lived with both and vastly prefer the simplicity and reliability of municipal water systems (Flint, MI notwithstanding) even where water quality is similar. There is nothing like having your pump go out Xmas eve to completely ruin your New Years.

Salvor Hardin: " Our alternative is to drill a well for somewhere around $3k"

Is it clear that is all in? Or is that just for the cost of placing the casing? Additional costs over and above the actual drilling include buying a deep well pump; electrical service; possibly building a pump house; and trenching/piping from the well location to the house (wells are often quite a distance from the residence for myriad reasons).
posted by Mitheral at 6:53 PM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

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