Using a Spring for Water – Winter Issues

When you rely on a spring for water, you need a tank. This is our 1500 gallon water collection tank.
When you rely on a spring for water, you need a tank. This is our 1500 gallon water collection tank.

Using a spring for water requires more effort than relying on tap water. Sometimes, just because you turn on the faucet, that doesn’t mean the water will come out like it’s supposed to.

Yesterday, while Rob worked on changing the O2 sensors on his truck, I burned some calories. It was only twenty degree as I hiked up the mountain behind our house to check on our water tank.

Having a spring for water is nice, but it works best when that spring is a good distance higher in elevation than the house.

The Problem

We’ve had some well-below freezing days and have been keeping the water running pretty much around the clock. The flow became low in a couple of faucets in the house.

When using a spring for water, ideally the plumbing *should* all work the same as it does in a city. It’s just the maintenance of the system that is different.

At first I thought perhaps the tank was getting low on water. But that didn’t explain why some faucets had good pressure and flow and some didn’t.

Then I thought maybe the lines under the house were beginning to freeze in those faucets that were off.

Puzzles

But that didn’t explain why, after running hot water through them, it didn’t help. Or why the sprayer at the kitchen sink worked fine but the faucet didn’t.

Just in case the water was low, I hiked up the mountain. I’m not sure, but I think the spring is a good three hundred feet in elevation above the house. I don’t know how many walking feet it is, because the angle to get there obviously isn’t straight up. But it’s not gentle.

I wish I would hike up there every day, but it seems I’m only motivated when the likelihood of running out of water prompts me to start climbing.

Great Exercise

It’s exceptionally good exercise for my knee – if I don’t misstep. Since tearing the ACL and meniscus a year and a half ago, I’ve been using my natural terrain to help rehab and that has worked great. No surgery.

There’s an old logging road that runs up there, but flooding over the years have washed it out and made hip-deep trenches in some places, and narrow footpath trails alongside those trenches are all that’s left.

Oh, and loose rocks and shale clay, and acorns galore. It all makes for an adventurous hike.

This time, the tom cat came with me. I didn’t get a picture of him because I didn’t bring my camera. I knew I’d have enough to do with just breathing and staying on my feet. Mr. Kitty thinks it’s cool to stop right in front of me while I’m walking, and he did this on the way up there, too.

Motivating the Cat

I stepped on him a couple of times and booted him to get moving and he started behaving better after that. He made the entire trip up there and back down again. I think this cat thinks he’s a dog because he sure acts like one sometimes.

It didn’t take as long as I thought it would to get up there, and I wasn’t as winded as I thought I’d be, either. Must be that ginseng jelly I’ve been eating every morning on my toast!

The view from above the house on the bench where the spring tank sits.
The view from above the house on the bench where the spring tank sits.

The tank was full to overflowing, so the level of water definitely wasn’t the source of our problem. Having a spring for water offers multiple opportunities for figuring out the sources of problems, ha.

So I looked a little harder. The overflow line was plugged. I could tell that because some critter had made holes in it and the water was spraying from the holes but not making it to the other end where it should exit.

Stuck Lid

So I decided to take off the cap and have a look. Well, the cap was stuck. It felt frozen stuck. It’s over my head to reach up and turn the thing, and I couldn’t get good leverage to make it move.

Rocks are particularly handy and I’m glad we live somewhere there are lots of them lying around. I tried the rock. It didn’t work. Then I noticed a shovel leaning against the other side of the tank. That worked after a few times hitting the cap ridge in the direction I wanted it to turn.

What’s Inside the Tank?

From tiptoes I could look inside. There was a layer about an inch thick of ice on the top of the water. If you look at the photo at the top, you’ll see the little “neck” to the tank. The water was only about an inch below the lid. The overflow line is the one at the top leading out.

So I thought maybe a sort of vacuum had formed, causing the pressure to be lower at the house than normal. But again, that didn’t explain why some faucets worked right and some didn’t.

Anyway, I broke up the ice and tried to open up the overflow but couldn’t get that to work. It just kept clogging back up with ice. At least I knew without a doubt that we had plenty enough water to continue running the water as the temperatures drop to near zero in the next few days.

The Solution

Once back at the house it occurred to me that only two faucets had issues. The others all seemed fine. Then I thought about taking the aerator screen off of the kitchen sink faucet to check that.

Sure enough, the problem the whole time was right there at the end of the faucet and not anywhere else along the lines.

Algae is always present in the water and it usually doesn’t cause any problems. I think the green algae actually helps to keep the water cleaner than without, but I haven’t found any evidence to support this thought. I know the red/brown and some blue-green algaes do indicate poor water quality, though. At least two varieties of blue-green algae is edible and nutritious.

However, Rob likes to keep the water algae free as possible, so he shocked the tank last week. Algae had clogged the aerator screens on those two faucets. We’ll have to take them off of the faucets the next time we’re flushing the lines after shocking. Or better yet, just get rid of the fine screen in the aerator altogether.

Using a Spring for Water

So that’s the saga of what it’s like living on a spring for water so far this winter. Ordinarily there are far more incidents to write about but I’m thankful it took this long to encounter one and hopeful there won’t be another!


First Hunt by Ima ErthwitchPredator and Prey, or the hunter and the hunted is a common theme throughout my fiction writing. No Qualms, one of my short stories (free at most retailers) is about about a predator/prey relationship. Symbiosis, my first finished novel, not published yet, deals with predator/prey relationships and the balance of energy among life on earth, sometimes symbolic and often outright. Many of my flash fiction stories (I have twitterfiction and 100-word flash stories) are also dealing with this same dynamic. This is a strong theme that runs through most of my fiction and is strongly influenced by life in the wild Ozarks where we live. My first published novel, First Hunt, also has a predator and prey theme to it. I guess it's just part of my nature.

Nature Farming


Wild Ozark is 160 acres of beautiful wild Ozark mountains. I call what I do "nature farming" because the land produces, all by itself, the shagbark hickory trees, ferns, moss, ground-fall botanicals, and the perfect habitats for growing and stewarding American ginseng. I'm co-creating with Nature - all of the things I use to make the Fairy Gardens and Forest Folk, the bark we harvest for Burnt Kettle's shagbark hickory syrup, are produced by nature without my input. This land is my muse for inspiration when it comes to my writing, drawing, and photography. It's truly a Nature Farm.

About the voice behind this blog, Madison Woods

I'm a creative old soul living way off the beaten path with my husband in the wild Ozark Mountains. Besides homesteading, growing plants & making crafty things and newsletters, I write books and stories. My rural fantasy fiction, written under the pen name, Ima Erthwitch, usually takes place in a much altered Ozarks.


2 thoughts on “Using a Spring for Water – Winter Issues

  1. I’m not readying blogs right now as I continue my break, but I wanted to read this one. Glad the problem wasn’t anything worse and at least you got both physical and mental exercise while figuring this one out. 🙂 It’s been frigid here, so we’ve been keeping the cabinet doors open both under the kitchen sink and the downstairs bathroom, as they’re both against outdoor walls. I turn the heat down to 55 at night and we don’t want to chance frozen pipes. Today it was actually above zero and felt like above zero (lack of wind chill.) The bad news is that our older daughter’s Saturday morning flight was cancelled, as were most flights for tomorrow. Not sure if it’s too cold to de-ice, planes not coming in from other places, a combination, or something else. So we get another day of her and her boyfriend doesn’t. 🙂 Our younger daughter made it back to Philly, though.

    Happy New Year, Madison!

    janet

    1. You’ve got the frigid blast we’re expecting to arrive any day now. I guess winter is here now! We do that too with our sink cabinet doors when it goes below oh, about 20. Ours is also on an outside wall 🙂 I didn’t know about doing that until Rob moved here and it really helps! LOL, went 10 years and never figured it out on my own. We don’t have central heat/air, so we start a good fire before going to bed and if one of us wakes up in the middle of the night (and wants to go downstairs to do it) we’ll put another log on. Hopefully there’s coals at least in the morning so a new fire can get kindled quickly. But I like sleeping in a cold, dark room, so we keep the door closed to our room at night but the rest of the house stays well above freezing, at least.

      Enjoy your blogging break! I have newsletters and the rest of a novel to write, and they’re way overdue. I need to make a break from several things I think. Safe travels for your daughter and Happy New Year!

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