After years of trying to maintain the neighborhood well system, residents of the Holly Ridge subdivision in Candler, North Carolina, acknowledged that the system had fallen into severe disrepair, leaving 24 households with poor water quality or no water at all.
In January 2018, Carol Gibson, head of the Holly Ridge Homeowners Association (HOA), reached out to the Water Well Trust (WWT) for help.
"We can't use the water to drink or cook. I don't even like to bathe in it. It smells, and it's dirty,” Gibson told the WWT, a nonprofit arm of the Water Systems Council (WSC) established to provide wells for low-income Americans who do not have a safe drinking water supply.
The subdivision’s original well system was installed in 1990. Over time, however, limited funds and knowledge thwarted proper upkeep. The well houses and well equipment began to fail, resulting in inadequate pressure and discolored, odorous water. An inspection revealed the wells did not have a filtering system, and pipes were not properly insulated to prevent freezing during the winter. The practice of pouring bleach down the pipes to disinfect the systems further harmed well components, and sediment build-up contributed to poor water quality.
“The homeowners attempted Band-Aid solutions over the last few years,” said Susan O’Grady, Xylem Director of Marketing, Residential and Agriculture, and an active member of the WSC. “Purchasing pumps and tanks from retail stores quickly failed because they weren’t meant to support that many houses, and the setup wasn’t done properly.”
In response to the rural community’s water crisis, WWT joined forces with Xylem Inc. to develop an effective and lasting solution for the Holly Ridge subdivision, with WWT Executive Director Margaret Martens and Xylem’s O’Grady taking the lead. WWT and Xylem’s combined industry experience and united cause resulted in a plan that harnessed each organization’s resources, as well as local help from Merrill Drilling & Water Resources in Penrose and Hughes Supply in Statesville.
Rugged terrain poses water pressure issues
Because the Holly Ridge neighborhood is located in a remote, hilly area, hooking into the municipal water supply would have been difficult and cost-prohibitive for homeowners. Cost savings to homeowners in rural areas who drill a new well versus hooking up to a municipal water supply is estimated to be as much as 85 percent, Martens said.
Along with Xylem, Dustin Merrill, owner of Merrill Drilling & Water Resources, helped design and build the new water well systems. When water pressure issues proved complicated, Merrill and Chris Preston, Residential Water Product Manager, Xylem AWS, collaborated to troubleshoot system issues.
“Multiple trips were made to the job site to uncover issues and determine the best path forward,” said O’Grady.
Chief among those issues was the neighborhood’s rugged terrain, Preston explained.
“There were some rather large elevation changes, and given the fact that the wells were already drilled, we needed to select pumps and equipment that could overcome the head and friction loss,” he said.
Optimizing well yield with VFDs
In June, Merrill Drilling removed the existing water well systems, demolished the well houses and installed the new systems. Xylem’s Goulds Water Technology brand provided all of the materials for the project and supported the WWT with a $1,000 grant through Xylem Watermark, Xylem’s corporate citizenship program. Watermark is dedicated to providing and protecting safe water resources for communities in need and educating people about water issues.
Two wells were outfitted with 18GP2020 ProPak pumps and Aquavar Solo2 VFD controllers and V350 holding tanks. A 7GP2020 ProPak pump and VFD controller were installed on a third well, along with a 1,000-gallon buried potable water storage cistern. Crews also laid down more than 1,000 feet of new piping and 2,000 feet of new electrical wiring. Hughes Supply, a local Goulds Water Technology distributor in Statesville, coordinated the transport of the donated pumps and controls to the job site.
“Because higher pressure was required to adequately serve the houses at the higher elevation, we needed to design a system that incorporated higher pressure-rated components, including the transducer and holding tanks,” Preston explained.
The third well required a 1,000-gallon buried potable water storage cistern because the existing well did not have the capacity or recovery to maintain the proper supply during peak usage. Preston explained that the storage tank acts as a buffer so that the well can be pumped at a slower and more continual flow rate.
Low well yield, which is typical of the Appalachian region, also prompted the decision to install variable frequency drives (VFDs) and large holding tanks. Before the system was replaced, one of the neighborhood’s wells had been drilled nearly 600 feet deep, but it only produced 2 gallons of water per minute.
According to Preston, Holly Ridge’s previous fixed-speed water well system had a 20 psi pressure drop between the pump cut-in and cut-out pressure. Combined with undersized pumps, very low water pressure resulted in all 24 residences.
“In the new system, pumps and motors are able to speed up and slow down as needed to maintain a 5 psi pressure differential, resulting in higher and more constant pressure for homeowners even as demand fluctuates,” Preston said.
With the variable speed drives in place, Merrill explained that it is now much easier for the water well system to keep up with household water pressure demands.
Dry well detection prevents damage
In addition to consistent water pressure, the Aquavar Solo2 VFD controllers feature a dry well sensitivity setting, which detects dry well conditions and shuts down the system to prevent damage to the motor and pump.
“The dry well sensitivity setting controls the power level at which the Solo2 detects a dry well fault. More importantly, the dry well feature shuts the pump and motor down when it detects air being pumped versus water,” said Preston. “The feature automatically restarts the Solo2 and monitors if the well has recovered, preventing overheating and wear on the pump and motor.”
A united effort
After the new well systems were installed, a group of Watermark volunteers from the Xylem office in Charlotte, North Carolina, partnered with Hughes Supply and Merrill Drilling in early July to build three new well houses.
“The collective commitment and energy throughout the entire Holly Ridge subdivision project truly embodies the Xylem Watermark mission,” said O’Grady.
As a result, safe, clean drinking water is restored to the Holly Ridge neighborhood.
Photo Credit: Craig Bakstad