Posts Tagged ‘hard and soft water’

If I Could Live During the Pleistocene Part 14: Digging Wells

July 4, 2017

I write an irregular series on my blog imagining what my life would be like, if I traveled back in time to live in an homestead I established at a location in Georgia 36,000 years ago. (See: ) I don’t like roughing it, so I brought  many modern conveniences with me in my time machine including a professional well-digging rig.  My Pleistocene homestead in located 1 mile north of the Broad River and 2 miles west of the Savannah, but boring a well would be much easier than building a pipeline from the nearest creek or river.  My drinking water well was dug well away from my poultry yards and cow pasture, thus avoiding microbial contamination.  I also dug another well to irrigate my crop fields during droughts.

The water table was lower during the Ice Age, but I chose to live during a relatively warm climate phase within the Ice Age known as an interstadial, and the water table isn’t as low as it was and will be during stadials when glacial advances lock up so much atmospheric moisture. Nevertheless, I still had to drill deeper to reach water than if I was digging a well during modern times.

There is more water underneath the earth’s surface than in all the world’s freshwater lakes and rivers combined.  Subterranean water, or ground water, is what I tapped when I dug my wells.  Ground water exists in aquifers.  There are 2 types of aquifers.  Water trapped between rocks under pressure is known as an artesian aquifer.  A well tapping into an artesian aquifer doesn’t need a pump because the natural pressure forces the water to the surface through the well.  Unfortunately, the aquifer I tapped into is the other kind (an unconfined aquifer), and it requires a pump to bring the water to the surface.  I installed an electric pump and have a manual hand pump in case it breaks down.

Diagram of the water table.

Well Drilling Rig Water Well Drilling Equipment Drill Machine DIY Driller Tool

I would bring professional well digging equipment back in time with me, so I could have a convenient supply of water.

Animals live in aquifers.  Biologists use the term, stygofauna, to refer to this underground aquatic life.  Worldwide, there are 170 species of cave fish, and they live alongside salamanders, crayfish, tubellarians, isopods, amphipods, and decapods.  Species considered stygofauna share many traits that make them well adapted to live in these dark sterile environments.  They are blind and have slow metabolisms, so they don’t require much food.  Some are long lived–1 species of crayfish lives an estimated 100 years.  Several species of cave fish live in Georgia’s aquifers, and there are probably undiscovered species hidden deep underground.

Alabama cave fish.  A poorly known ecosystem exists in groundwater.

Well water tastes good and is nutritious because it contains dissolved minerals such as magnesium and calcium.  But this “hard” water doesn’t suit all of my needs.  It leaves stains in the bath tub, a filmy residue on dishes, and it makes my hair feel stiff.  For bathing and washing clothes, I collect rainwater in an underground cistern located next to my house.  Rain water is considered “soft” because it doesn’t have dissolved minerals in it–just sodium ions.  Numerous gutters lead to the opening of the cistern to help keep the cistern full, and I add chlorine to this water to keep it sanitary.  A screen keeps detritus from entering the cistern.  Keeping the screen clean is a frequent chore.  An electric pump draws the water into a solar-powered water heater, and I enjoy hot showers.

Image result for cistern

Diagram of a rainwater cistern.  I would use this water for the washing machine and showers because hard water is bad for clothes and washing hair.