Homestead Handbook: Collecting Fresh Spring Water

If your land has a source of fresh spring water, here's how to capture and route it for home use.

| May/June 1985

  • fresh spring water - Jim Searcy
    At age 78, jack-of-all-trades Jim Searcy has a lifetime of experience with capping fresh spring water and is still going strong.
    PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • fresh spring water - mechanical trencher
    A mechanical trencher will be a great help when you're burying pipes.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • fresh spring water - porus wall spring box
    A porus-wall spring box.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • fresh spring water - well tile spring box
    A well-tile spring box.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • fresh spring water - concrete tile reservoir
    Rick Compton's concrete tile reservoir.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • fresh spring water - increasing spring flow
    Increasing and protecting spring flow.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • fresh spring water - walling a spring
    Walling in a spring.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • fresh spring water - horseshoe spring
    Rick Compton's "horseshoe" spring wall (before covering with plastic an earth).
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • fresh spring water - testing the flow
    Testing the volume of water flow.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • fresh spring water - an undeveloped spring
    An undeveloped spring potentially suitable for capping.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • fresh spring water - Jim Searcy
  • fresh spring water - mechanical trencher
  • fresh spring water - porus wall spring box
  • fresh spring water - well tile spring box
  • fresh spring water - concrete tile reservoir
  • fresh spring water - increasing spring flow
  • fresh spring water - walling a spring
  • fresh spring water - horseshoe spring
  • fresh spring water - testing the flow
  • fresh spring water - an undeveloped spring

Cold, fresh spring water bubbling up out of the ground — for drinking, watering the garden, bathing, or supplying to livestock — this has to be one of the most romantic, beautiful, and archetypal images of rural life. Lucky is the country dweller who finds a vein of this "homesteader's gold" on the property! And especially fortunate is the man or woman whose new found spring lies well above the house. Once capped and piped, that water will freely deliver itself to all the spigots in the home!

If you are fortunate enough to have a usable spring on your property, you'll want to thank your Creator for your blessings and smile broadly at your prospects. Don't be surprised, though, if your sense of appreciation (or smugness) begins to diminish when, eventually, you get round to thinking about just how to develop that spring. How, for instance, can you encase it to protect it from contaminants, yet not simultaneously lose it by obstructing its flow? Is it high enough above your house so you won't need a pump, strong enough so you won't need a reservoir? Will it dry up in the summer — or freeze up in the winter?

Capping a spring — the phrase sounds so simple, so easy. And most times, the task itself doesn't have to be too complicated if you know what you're doing. That's where we at MOTHER EARTH NEWS come in. We've developed a few springs ourselves, talked to experienced local old- and new-timers, and digested everything we could read on the topic.

We'll share it all with you here. By the end of this article, you'll know as much about capping a spring as we do. Enough to do the job correctly the first time.



[EDITOR'S NOTE: This article assumes the health department in your area allows using springs for drinking water. Check your local regulations before setting to work.]

How Good Is It?

If you've got a tiny rivulet running across your land, you've no doubt already traced it back to the spot you want — the point where the trickle first emerges from the ground. You may have a less obvious spring, though. Search your property. Is there an area where water-loving plants — ferns, reeds, or jewelweeds — grow particularly lushly? Is there a "sobby spot" on your property — one of those boot-sucking mudholes you normally try to avoid? Places like these may contain usable springs. There's only one way to tell: Start digging. Most times, you should be able to pull rocks and move dirt until you can discover a flowing source for that wetness (at other times, you'll likely be forced to give up in frustration). If the land's mushy, you might want to dig a ditch running out of that soft spot to drain the area — before you start searching.

jonny123
2/7/2018 7:16:25 PM

I realize I'm a little late to the party for Sally's question, but for future readers with similar issues, it is generally best to contact either a licensed well driller, a representative from your county health department (water division), or someone from your state DNR agency to address issues of seep springs. Pouring cement down a spring hole is not likely to resolve the issue and could affect (or infect) your well supply. The best course of action is generally designing an effective drainage system to manage the outflow. A well contractor (especially one in close proximity to you) should be able to manage the spring water effectively. Also, these guys are a good source of information: http://www.rainbrothers.com . They deal with a lot of these types of systems and may be able to help.


jonny123
2/7/2018 7:16:22 PM

I realize this response to Sally is a little late, but for future readers, it is generally best to contact a well driller or your county health department (or state DNR) to try to deal with a ground spring issue. They generally can't just be capped by a bag of cement, and trying to get rid of it can certainly affect (or infect) your well supply. The best approach, generally, is to manage its flow through an efficient drainage system, but a well contractor will usually be able to generate an effective plan of action. Also, these guys are a good resource: http://www.rainbrothers.com . They deal a lot with these types of systems and may have some good solutions. Hope this helps!


Sally Smith
3/17/2012 4:51:17 PM

How can I cap a spring that I don't want. It mucks up my yard and I have a perfectly good well. It drains to our city storm drain but the water gets green slime on the way to the drain. Can I just pour a bag of cement into it...it makes a boiling look on top of the puddle about 6 inches wide. I can see the hole the water comes up from, it's about one square inch wide. I don't want to contaminate it incase it is connected in some way to our well source. Thanks, Sally







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