Whether you rely on it for household use or if you use it for infrequent watering, a residential well is a great way to tap into a natural source of potable water. Wells come in both shallow and deep forms, with a variety of pump and plumbing configurations designed to optimize flow, tame a changing water table, or work against extreme outdoor conditions. A residential well is a great asset, but if you have one that's aging or if you've just purchased a home with an existing one, you should understand the mechanics of your valve system.
Your well works against the laws of physics to deliver water to your home. Chances are, your residential pump relies on the help of a mechanical pump and a pressurized tank to deliver water from either a shallow source (and one that can sometimes fluctuate) or a deep one, with depths that can reach into the hundreds of feet. Though you may be aware of the depth of your particular well, you may not be aware of the valve system that keeps water constantly supplied to your pump, for an efficiently-regulated upward flow.
Valves come in both standard "check" and "foot" forms, with check versions often visibly extending just beyond your pump's plumbing. Deep or shallow, your well should also include a foot valve, or one that regulates the flow from the primary source up through the invisible plumbing in the ground. Some well units also employ an additional check valve, which will ensure that water from the valve to the pump does not run back toward the foot valve or the source.
When Foot Valves Fail
If you use your well regularly, as in every or every other day, you may not notice faults in your valve system because water will be supplied to the lines regularly enough to not drop below the foot valve. But if you use your well infrequently or happen to notice you're priming the pump all of the time, you may want to consider checking out your valves.
Foot valves can become corroded by minerals, clogged by debris, or fail through age, and when they do, the water they would normally keep contained in the invisible pipes underground will start to leak back down to the source. Foot valves that are faulty can sometimes easily be extracted from your buried well casing, replaced, and returned into the ground. But in some cases, like when removal causes collapse of the drilled earth or when root penetration has compromised your system, you may have to look to re-drilling after you've replaced a faulty foot valve.
If you need your well inspected or re-drilled, contact well companies, like Ellsworth Well & Pump.