Monday, March 21, 2011


Getting wet is all in a day's work for the crew of All-Water Services

Simply Living
(First appeared in Orlando Sentinel March 20, 2011)

One of the things I cherish about living in the country is our pure, sweet well water.

The well we drink from is 80 feet deep. The well driller who installed it 20 years ago said he tapped into an underground river. In digging, he unearthed fossilized shells and shark teeth that I keep on a shelf in my office. Every time I look at them, I'm filled with awe for not only the remarkable history they contain but also the deep, reliable source of drinking water they represent.

We are dependent on our water, so I knew we were in trouble one recent night when I turned on the bathroom spigot while getting ready for bed to find a mere trickle of water.

"The pump's out," I called to Ralph, who had already gotten under the covers.

It was 11 p.m. and pouring outside, but he reluctantly got up. We rounded up the needed equipment — umbrella, flashlight and hammer — donned some warm clothes and headed up the hill to see if we could fix the problem.

Anyone who depends on a well for household water and irrigation learns to identify and (hopefully) fix some common well and pump problems.

A few taps with a hammer on the pressure switch will occasionally bring a stalled motor back to life. Ants that get into a pressure switch can short it out. Remove the ants and, if you're lucky, the problem goes away. Pressing the reset button on the control box will sometimes save an expensive visit by repairmen.

The other night we tried all the above, to no avail. The pump wouldn't start no matter what we did. The remaining option was to install a new control box, a fix that had helped in similar situations before. If that didn't work, we'd have to call in the well driller.

We went back to bed and slept restlessly, thinking of ways to avoid the expense of a new pump.

Early the next morning, we hit the Internet and phones. We located a control box and our helper, James, drove into town to get it, then came back to replace the old one with the new. When he was done, we had thrown $250 into a hole that still didn't pump water.

By then it was midmorning, and the inconvenience of living without running water was beginning to show. In the kitchen, dishes covered with the sticky remains of oatmeal and blueberry pie filled the sink. We were using buckets of lake water to flush toilets and brushing our teeth with the stale supply from our emergency stash — bottles we'd put aside months ago.

Ralph dialed well drillers to see who was available on short notice. Several calls later, he contacted the crew at All-Water Services Inc. in Groveland. Derrick Brigmond, the youngest member of the family-owned business, said he could come by in the afternoon.

Around 1 p.m., the workers arrived. By then my kitchen looked like a disaster area. With my youngest son home for spring break and my daughter and grandson expected for dinner, I could feel my mood sinking into a hole about as deep as the well that wouldn't work.

About two hours and $2,850 later, a new pump and motor were in place.

"The motor was fried," said Darren Brigmond, as he and his son packed their equipment. "It could have been hit by lightning or it could just have been age. It's hard to tell."

It is hard to tell when the problem you're dealing with is 80 feet underground in a secret river. Fortunately for us, that river is still flowing with enough pressure to supply us and our plants with the high-quality water we've come to treasure.

Good, clean water is one of life's most basic needs. It is so essential that we take it for granted until something happens and the water is gone. The next morning, when I turned on the tap to brush my teeth, I did so with renewed appreciation for one of life's most precious commodities.

An old adage says, "If you spend money like water, you'll always be broke." But as I recently learned, if your well is broken, spending money may be the only way to make sweet water flow.

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