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Ohh, help! Ethical dilemma about our well.

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  • #21
    I grew up in a house that initially had a shared well. It was part of a "gentleman farmer's" dairy farm that had been subdivided in the 50s. 3 houses (the original farm manager's house, the origianl boarding house for the hired hands (our house) and a big dairy barn that had been converted into a house) shared the well.

    When we bought the house, the bank refused to grant a mortgage unless the house had its own well (this was after an extended drought, and many area wells were going dry). Since the contract had a contingency for getting a mortgage, the sellers had to put in a new well (though the house was, and still is, still connected to the original well if you just open one tap.)

    So, in addition to the county/state rules, and your own concerns, you need to think about what the banks will accept.

    chief feeder and mucker for Music, Spy, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now).


    • #22
      I doubt we would - ours also sits in the pasture and would hate to have it dug up and move horses around. I would also worry if it came back pos. for contamination, they would try and blame us since it is in the field. I would also worry in a drought about their usage or how they would handle the "high" usage by us for animals

      As one person pointed out, it normally cannot be unshared. It could drop your property value as there will be a sect that would be turned off to a shared agreement. Also, who knows how long they will stay and what new owners would be like to deal with. I don't know how an formal agreement as someone said they had would be transferred or enforced with new owners
      Epona Farm
      Irish Draughts and Irish Draught Sport horses

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      • #23
        It might also make it harder for you to sell the property in the future as potential buyers might not like the idea.
        "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."


        • #24
          I have a good well, one neighbor has a good well, that I witched for them.
          Both wells are connected, but each one is using our own well.

          Over the years, they have put in miles of sorry water lines, that leak and keep their well overworking and every so often failing.
          Then they use my well, on the same bad lines.

          I don't mind helping them out at all, but I am glad when they get their well fixed and mine cut off servicing their lines.

          You have to think that any one else's uses of your well may, for many reasons, not be quite what you consider good water management and if so, how can you "ungift" that use?
          Not so easy, especially with something as important as water.

          Definitively do run that idea thru a local attorney well versed in real estate law in your area.
          My guess is he will be at any such idea, but who knows.
          Give that a try so you have more to go by.


          • #25
            If you share a well with them will you owe them a legal "duty of care" to prevent it from becoming contaminated? What if the bacteria count gets high and the finger is pointed at your horses?

            It is tempting to be nice and helpful in this situation and it might all go well for years and years but it could also go very badly.


            • #26
              Sounds like a good example of 'no good deed goes unpunished' depending on the legal situation, future water flow, and the current or future owners and their attitudes. I can see how it would work, but I can also agree with others that it could go very badly for everyone involved. It's nice to be helpful, but I don't think this is your responsibility.
              You can't fix stupid-Ron White


              • #27
                NO! I would not share, your well is good now, what about if it becomes spotty? There are just SO many things that could go bad in a share situation like this.

                Don't do it. You may end up REALLY regretting it.

                The young couple should have looked into the water issue better before they purchased the property (heck, and they probably paid less for the property without water in place). That is their problem not yours.

                I am usually one for helping a neighbor. I live in a very small town, I get it. But I also come from the west - water is a BIG DEAL. I would not risk my water source for a neighbor.
                APPSOLUTE CHOCKLATE - Photo by Kathy Colman


                • #28
                  I second the cistern vote. I capture rainwater and get enough (4000 Imp gallons) to do both the house and barn for winter although I do make every drop count. For drinking? Yep, just boil it and it's fine. An added bonus to using rainwater - it makes wonderful coffee and tea. The only provisal is allow the rain to wash the roof before turning the downspouts to the cistern to prevent sludge from forming at the bottom.

                  Suggest they look into it. You can get cisterns in assorted sizes and if they wish, two, one for rainwater and a smaller one to haul drinking water to. Cistern will have to be below the frost line and will need a pressure system.
                  Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

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                  • #29
                    I wouldn't either. Having had an underground water line break on my property two summers ago and having it drain my well dry, I wouldn't feel comfortable having additional lines tagged into my well that may have the same type of failure. It doesn't necessarily have to be their usage that causes problems but sometimes, there is water loss in areas you can't see. It's your electricity that runs the pump too. Which means that their use may impact your other utility bills. Too risky for me.

                    IMHO, they had to know that they would have to drill a well when they bought the property and thought to build so it's clearly a risk they were willing to take. Now, this risk is not producing any results. That doesn't mean that they have the right to transfer this risk onto anyone else. Tough pill to swallow but that's life. They can either keep trying for water, find an alternative water supply method that doesn't involve you or cut their losses.


                    • #30
                      No way would I share a well! Even with our good well at our old farm we did have to be careful with water usage during one extended drought. My neighbor from across the road would occasionally come over and get jugs of drinking water from our well (his was sulfur water-Ick!) but that's quite different from regular usage.

                      As much as I loved the taste of our well water, I'm now a fan of county water. A couple of drought years and the ice storm (no power=no water if on a well) convinced me that paying for water is a good thing.


                      • Original Poster

                        Thank you all so much for your helpful and thoughtful answers! I still don't know if this is why they want to "have a talk" with us. But we bought our property with no well and I know that is a risk we took--a "test well" costs almost as much as digging one for real, and, well, we gambled just like these folks are gambling. We got lucky! Our water is excellent and is even naturally slightly fluoridated!

                        There is a large parcel of land--almost 50 acres--that is in back of theirs. Maybe I'll suggest they talk to THAT landowner (who only hunts and does crops on his piece) about sinking a well.
                        Click here before you buy.


                        • #32
                          Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                          Thank you all so much for your helpful and thoughtful answers! I still don't know if this is why they want to "have a talk" with us. But we bought our property with no well and I know that is a risk we took--a "test well" costs almost as much as digging one for real, and, well, we gambled just like these folks are gambling. We got lucky! Our water is excellent and is even naturally slightly fluoridated!

                          There is a large parcel of land--almost 50 acres--that is in back of theirs. Maybe I'll suggest they talk to THAT landowner (who only hunts and does crops on his piece) about sinking a well.
                          Now, if it does come to be that they want to talk about using your well, your idea of reflecting them to the other neighbor is thinking out of the box and a good way to say not really, try where that may make more sense, as in the situation you describe with that other neighbor and his use of that land.

                          As for cisterns and such, well, only works if and when it rains.
                          That would not work here at all.
                          Some years we have been getting 3 1/2" of rain IN ONE YEAR.
                          Won't fill much from that.


                          • Original Poster

                            Does snowfall count for filling cisterns? If so, we're covered in spades, at 50-80 inches per year.

                            As I said, I don't THINK cisterns are acceptable as a primary water source. Without a well or city water, no building permit.
                            Click here before you buy.


                            • #34
                              Are they not hitting water at all or just not enough water when they drill? Because if it is not enough they can combine the two thoughts. Pump water slowly (at a rate that the well can accommodate) into a holding tank of some sort and that will store water to be used at a higher rate.


                              • #35
                                I doubt cisterns will be legal either, at least for human consumption.
                                You can't fix stupid-Ron White


                                • #36
                                  why don't you just give them your house while you are at it to save them some expense? just kidding. don't share.


                                  • #37
                                    Another possible issue to keep in mind is that well pumps can and do go out...and replacing pump motors and labor can be very pricey. Sure, you could have dual repair responsibilities written into a contract, but if the time should come for repair/replacement, would this young family be in the position to fork over their share?

                                    This sort of thing happened to us, way back when we lived in Iowa, with eight properties on a community well. The pump went out and had to be replaced. Unfortunately, a couple owners couldn't cough up the cash, and the rest of us were saddled with their share. It didn't make for warm fuzzies in the neighborhood.
                                    Is it me or do 99.9% of cowboys just look better with their hats on?


                                    • #38
                                      Originally posted by FreshAir View Post
                                      why don't you just give them your house while you are at it to save them some expense? just kidding. don't share.
                                      Many years ago Progressive Farmer had a story of a piece of land being auctioned on the sheriff's steps.
                                      That land was landlocked without ingress/outgress and some of it was on a low spot that held water, so it's use would have been minimal for anyone not other than the neighbors.
                                      Those neighbors were bidding on that land and some stranger decided if they wanted it, it was worth more and got it bought, expecting someone would give him an easement.

                                      Well, that didn't happen and finally that land again was sold as a sheriff's sale and bought by a neighbor.

                                      Sounds like these people either thought it was very cheap, not realizing land generally has a price for a reason and lack of a good existing well was one there, or were completely clueless land buyers.

                                      Whatever reason, I don't think it may be sensible to want to bail them out with something as critical as the use of a well for someone you don't know or may sell once it has water and no telling what the next neighbor may consider prudent water use.
                                      They sure won't be tied in by any this neighbor told you or acts like.

                                      I would think that this situation is one of those where people have to learn by experiences, some times bad ones.

                                      If your neighbor's house burns down, you help without being asked.
                                      We have plenty of those with our prairie fires.

                                      If someone makes questionable decisions like they did buying that land on a gamble and ask for help that demands so much of you, the right and accommodation to use your well, then you may consider if you are not really helping, but enabling and will they keep making questionable decisions?


                                      • #39
                                        Maybe they want to meet to offer you an opportunity to expand to an 18 acre mini farm.....

                                        Until I read your post about you buying not knowing whether or not you'd have water I was going to say I am surprised they can't get out of the purchase somehow. But I guess that's a risk you take. A piece of property near me has the world's prettiest driveway. And it ends in a giant piece of ledge. They were not able to build where they wanted and 10 years later it is still unbuilt.

                                        I would share ONLY if you had an ironclad contract about usage/fees etc and somehow was profitable for you.


                                        • #40
                                          Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                                          I don't want to be a hard-hearted neighbor.
                                          Better to seem hard-hearted on one occasion than to be cast forever as the villainous neighbor if a shared well became a source of neighborly acrimony!
                                          Evolutionary science by day; keeping a certain red mare from winning a Darwin award the rest of the time!