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What Is a Water Well Pump?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A water well pump is a device used to draw water up from a well for delivery to a home or other structure. Pumps are necessary in sunk wells because the water cannot rise to the surface on its own. There are a number of different designs available for various applications, including solar pumps and wind-driven pumps for water systems that are off the electrical grid. A well specialist can install, maintain, and repair water well pump systems.

Two common water well pump designs are the jet pump and submersible pump. Both involve extending a line into the well and using an electric motor to pull water to the surface when required. Some designs fill a reserve tank with water so there will always be some water available, while others deliver water on demand. As people in a structure use water at the taps and in other locations, they trigger the well pump to run, bringing up more water for their use.

There are some needs specific to water well pumps that must be considered in their design and installation. One is clogging. Wells can have detritus, especially in the dry season when the water nears the low point, and some are also very rich in minerals that can form deposits on pump components. This can clog the head of the pump, slowing the delivery of water and eventually stopping it altogether. The pumping mechanism may have a cage or screen to limit clogs.

Another issue is priming. The water well pump is designed to work with water in the line. When air pockets develop, as might occur if the power goes out and someone drains the line, the pump cannot suck up water. The operator needs to manually prime the line to fill it with water again so the pump can start to run. Some water well systems shut off automatically if the top of the pump rises above the water or the power goes out, to keep the line primed until the problem can be addressed.

The water well pump is typically small, and cannot exceed the output of the well, or it would quickly drain the well in daily operation. It may be housed in a pump house separate from the building. In extremely cold climates, the pump and pipes may need to be wrapped to prevent freezing in the winter. The pump may also directly supply a water tank for firefighting and emergency purposes.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By MissDaphne — On Oct 18, 2011

Another thing new well owners should know is what to do if their well freezes.

Obviously, you should take steps to prevent your well from freezing. For instance, if you live in the South and have one of those pumps that sticks up out of the ground with a fairly narrow, easily frozen pipe, you should make sure to insulate the pipe and might even want to consider installing a special heater for it.

And if a freeze warning if effect, leave a faucet dripping fast or running a little before you go to bed at night (a slow drip may not be enough).

If those efforts are not enough, and it freezes anyway, simply cut off the power to your well pump at your circuit breaker box. Otherwise, the pump will keep trying to fill the tank and will keep failing because the water is frozen! The result can be a burned-out pump engine, and next thing you know, you're looking for water well pump replacement parts.

By jennythelib — On Oct 17, 2011

People who are considering moving into a house that has a well should realize that when the electricity goes out, you will not have any water (besides what's in your tank) unless you have a generator.

So people who are on well in remote locations that sometimes lose power for extended periods do often choose to invest in a generator for that reason, among others. Even people who live in more suburban areas and rarely lose power for long should keep a stock of drinking water on hand for emergencies if they have a well.

(Come to think of it, city water systems can get contaminated during a disaster, so *everyone* should have a supply of drinking water on hand!)

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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