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Ohh, help! Ethical dilemma about our well.

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  • Ohh, help! Ethical dilemma about our well.

    Here's the scenario--would appreciate any and all thoughts:

    We live on a 12 acre mini-farm in an area that is known to be "spotty" in terms of well water. Not horrible, but many owners near us have had to dig multiple times to hit a well and the depth is variable. Quality is generally very good, it's a matter of finding it!

    We got lucky--the well guy struck a "gusher" in one try on our place and we've had ZERO problems in almost 7 years since we moved here with flow, quality, or otherwise.

    Our nearest neighbors are between 500 and 1000 feet away and they have "OK" wells. Some with more limited flow than we have.

    Now we have potential new neighbors--a young family that bought a small parcel of land between us and the neighbors--a split from our original property that was split once before. They've been clearing and prepping to build.

    They have had THREE attempts at finding a well on their relatively smaller (6 acres) property, some of which is a sand dune (we are 3 miles from Lake Michigan) and most of which is wooded. No luck. It is expensive to dig and I feel badly for them.

    Tonight they asked if we could "talk" and I have a sinking feeling they're going to ask us to share our well. The well head is about 300 feet from their homesite and is smack in the middle of my big pasture.

    I'm sick because my husband is DEAD SET against even contemplating this, citing risks that our well will go dry, that it is a huge hassle, and why should we? I can see his side, completely. But I don't know what to tell these nice people if they ask! I don't want to be a hard-hearted neighbor.

    Ugh. Any advice? Things to ponder? Important considerations? TIA.
    Click here before you buy.

  • #2
    I would not share.


    • #3
      That's a rough situation to be in. I would also not share, but would meet with the neighbors and explain why.
      Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
      White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)

      Mystical Moment, 1977-2010.


      • #4
        Too risky and complicated. I wouldn't share.


        • #5
          I would not share...or even ask if I were the new neighbor. What if their water "habits" drain YOUR well and leave you without water?? The sale of your property - if it was ever necessary - would be seriously affected by a shared well. You wouldn't share your septic tank if their land didn't perk. Sorry for the neighbors, but you can't make it your problem.
          Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma


          • Original Poster

            Thank you all--your comments help me with clarity and particulars. Much obliged--happy to hear any more advice or wisdom!
            Click here before you buy.


            • #7
              I would not share! Tell them that you have concerns about the supply you are getting now. I would also look into laws-what if the well needed repair, who pays? Ecoli issues-who gets sued if someone gets sick? If this one well went dry then two homes would be in big trouble so it is a bad idea all around. Digging three times is not really that many times to be honest. I have heard stories from my neighbors having to dig 5-8 times. AND sometimes only getting a few years of water out of the 8th try.


              • #8
                You are essentially subsidizing their home ownership, and compensating them for what appears to be a bad purchasing decision.

                The question in my mind is - do you want to subsidize their ownership?

                What if they build a home and use so much water your usage is affected? What if they sell and the next owner is even worse? Who is responsible for maintenance, and if you share costs and they do not pay - what then?

                You would be paying for them to use a well you paid to have drilled, and water you need for your family and livestock. Chances are your peak usage occurs at about the same time - which means the well may draw down too quickly and not recharge fast enough - causing problems for both homes.

                I'm sure they are nice people; and perhaps you would never have a moment's trouble.

                The problem is, you have no way of knowing if you're inviting trouble or not. And once it's done - it's done. You're stuck.
                Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                -Rudyard Kipling


                • #9
                  We had the exact same problem, however, we are the folks that dug two dry holes. We were willing to have water delivered as many others in the neighborhood do. When we bought the property that was allowed but the county changed the regulations before we built and we ended up with our dream parcel that could not be built upon.

                  We did approach the neighbors and they drew up a shared well agreement whereby we purchase our water from them for the rates that the nearest public water company in an adjacent town charges. With the cost of the water, we will not be watering acres of land for sure. We will use it for modest household use and to water our horses.

                  We had to do a 24 hour continuous pump on their well for the county and the number of gallons that were pumped down the road in one 24 hour period would provide water for our needs for months, so it's doubtful our use will cause it to dry up.

                  We are very grateful the neighbors worked with us. When we bought the land we knew it was in a bad well area and planned on buying delivered water if we were unable to find water after a few test holes. We did not expect the county to change the law.

                  If your well is a "gusher" I doubt that sharing it with the neighbors would cause it to go dry as long as they do not have unlimited use (ie watering 3 acres to grow hay, etc.).

                  They had their lawyer draw up the paperwork and we split the costs of maintenance (ie if the well pump goes out, we'd split it). We also pay any and all costs that are attributable to us, ie hooking into their well. We do not pump direct from the well for usage and each property has their own holding tank.


                  • #10
                    Are you serious? In this litigious society? And with as little respect as many courts have for property rights?
                    The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
                    Winston Churchill


                    • #11
                      Check your local water rights laws. In most states, domestic wells can be shared, but there can be restrictions, especially in water short places. But if there is any such limitation in your particular area, that might save you from having to deal with the question.

                      Personally, I wouldn't do it. Unless it was family, and even then I'd have to think about it!


                      • #12
                        If you share, is there any chance that after a certain period of time they will legally co-own your well? Like Squater's Rights? We have laws like that here that apply to fences and driveways.


                        • #13
                          I wouldn't do it, either. Lots of liability issues, as mentioned before. Something else to consider- in our area, once a well is shared, it cannot be unshared, so if anything were to go wrong with it, you couldn't unhook it from the neighbours to save your supply, so you'd both be in trouble, water-wise.
                          Suggest to your neighbours they look into or invest in a rain-water catchment system. It could often cost much less than drilling a dry or poor well, and they'd have water for all their requirements. Tell them to research ARCSA for registered practitioners in your area. Good Luck!


                          • #14
                            I would share.


                            • #15
                              I certainly would consider it. ESP since quantity doesn't seem to be the problem. 300 ft is a decently deep well! If you haven't already, I would get to know a lot more about your water source at 300 ft, how stable is it etc.. And, if I did it, I would sell them the water, like the other poster said, and have your attorney draw up the agreement. People in my part of the country are pretty willing to help each other out. IMHO, the risk is on their side, they would have to spend money to get the access, and you (or a future owner of your property) would reserve the right to cut them off at some point in the future.


                              • #16
                                No. Absolutely not. I would never share my well as a primary provider for another landowner. There is no guarantee these "nice people" won't turn out to be the neighbors from h+ll, or they'll flip the property and sell to someone you can't stand. Then you'll be stuck. Reread JSwan's comments. She's dead on correct.

                                Suggest to your neighbors they install a cistern which can be filled with potable water from a reputable seller. One of our friends has a water delivery service and they regularily serve many cistern customers in poor (read as 'little to zero') groundwater areas. Your neighbors should be able to institute rainwater capture methods for their outside needs (I do myself with over 2,000 gal captured and stored), and with low-flow toilets and shower heads, etc, their overall cost for water usage in the long run may even out to what it would cost for a well pump.

                                You can always lend help in an emergency, but should never lock yourself in as the primary provider. I agree with your husband. He's right.
                                Last edited by 5chestnuts; Apr. 2, 2013, 06:00 AM.


                                • #17
                                  I would not share a well. When my daughter was in grad school, we bought a house for her that had a shared well at one time. When we sold the house, we had to prove that the neighbors were no longer sharing the well. The bank that was providing financing did not like the idea of a shared well. A shared well could have caused a problem with the sale.


                                  • #18
                                    Do not share. My family lives in an area where deep wells are easy to drill and maintain. However, occasionally a pump will go out, and we've shared with neighbors on either side of us. Including once when we needed to use a hose line for 4 or 5 days until our well got a new motor.

                                    However, one neighbor used our well for over a year. And they have money. Well most of it is spent on alcohol, so i guess they didn't use too much of our water. But over a year of use of our well for 4 people over there was excessive.

                                    Once you let the neighbors use your well for a long time, they will not drill a well themselves. And when they sell their place, you might be stuck with the next owner, and the next owner.

                                    You just have to sometimes say "no." People should pay experts to check out the land, and water, and everything else before they buy land. So the error that the buyers made is their own to bear, not yours. Suppose they put in a nice lawn and want to water it through the drought. Every day?


                                    • #19
                                      I think sharing is a great thing. But their comes a time when you have to draw a line on what you will share.

                                      Do you really want to be a utility provider for people you do not know? What will you do if they do not pay their water bill to you? What will you do if they insist your well made them sick? What will you do if they want to fill their pool and drain your well and you do not have water for your horses?

                                      I think AKB brings up a good point. Contact your mortgage holder and see if shared wells are an issue.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        A few points of clarification. Shared well agreements are OK around here--our former house actually had a well that was shared with two other properties, and that agreement was "built in" to the deed of the house, filed with the county, etc. When we had to have some work done there was some legal dust-up or other. (the builder used to own the house, etc. etc. and it was messy but got done)

                                        BUT the former house's system was built that way, it was not an add-on after the fact. So a big difference there in terms of how the thing was set up. Retrofitting with trenching, etc. is going to be THOUSANDS of dollars. Not a few thousands, but many. Not our cost, obviously, either way, but the retrofitting, pump meters, etc. all mean stuff done to and in our house.

                                        And a building permit will NOT be given in this county unless there is a well or city water. I don't believe that cisterns are acceptable.
                                        Click here before you buy.