Troubleshooting common water system problems

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NEW ORLEANS — Finding and fixing problems with water well systems is like detective work — sometimes the clues are obvious and sometimes not, but knowing what to look for is key, said troubleshooting expert Mark Campbell today at the NGWA 2009 Ground Water Expo and Annual Meeting.

In a workshop entitled, “Troubleshooting Common Water System Problems,” Campbell, of ITT/Goulds Pumps, said experience has taught him the most common water system problems and why they occur, so that he can zero in on effective solutions.

He divides most water system problems into two broad categories: electrical or mechanical.

“Based on my experience, if I had to choose which category of problems are most common, I’d say about 70 percent are electrical involving the motor, wires, or control systems,” Campbell said. While electrical problems are often pretty straightforward to diagnose and fix, that is not always the case such as with a submersible pump cable that has an open splice.

“On the mechanical side, problems can be as simple as a waterlogged pressure tank or as difficult as water hammer,” he said.

Interestingly, the most misdiagnosed water well system problems in his view have nothing to do with a defective or broken well component. Rather, it’s incorrect product selection.

“For instance, if the wrong size pump is used, the symptom is not enough water to keep up with demand. However, there’s nothing wrong with anything except an incorrect pump selection to start with,” Campbell said.

“Another example would be a well owner who complains that the pump runs all the time when the problem is that the contractor has undersized the pressure tank. The only real cure is a properly sized tank,” he said.

Too often incorrect product selection results from contractors trying to keep costs down.

“We continually struggle with contractors over the price sensitivity issue,” he said. “We have contractors who do things the way their daddy did. What I try to accomplish in factory school is to get contractors to consider new methods of getting the job done instead of automatically relying on their traditional approaches.”

The common problems most often correctly diagnosed are malfunctioning control boxes or pressure switches. Because so many problems revolve around the well’s electrical components, Campbell has a ready answer when asked his primary troubleshooting tip to water well system contractors.

“That’s an easy answer: Learn about electricity, get a good meter, and learn how to use it,” he said.

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