Hacking around a well water system to avoid running dry!

I’ve been using Rachio with a good bit of success for a while now, but last year moved out to the south side of Denver and am on a well. I’ve got a pretty complex system with a 600 gallon storage tank with its own pump that can push 22GPM, but a well that averages about 6GPM. Needless to say, this can become an ugly situation if left unchecked. Despite best efforts to spread watering out, use the well delay feature to let it recover, etc, there were regular occurrences where the tank ran dry and the pump started making really fun noises at 4AM, waking my wife and I up! On top of that, since the well delay feature replaces cycle and soak, deeper watering wasn’t really possible.

So, we started thinking about a solution. Having spoken a bit with Lo over at Rachio Support and given some feedback on features that’d be nice, I stumbled upon another post indicating someone had rigged up their own well to the rain skip sensor on their controllers, so I figured I’d give this a try. It’s not quite perfect, but as I run a full flex daily schedule, it does the job nicely! If water runs out, Rachio will just stop watering until water’s back then resume the schedule wherever it would have been at. The zones that miss some water will just kick back in later whenever flex determines they need it. The funniest thing is that this has worked so well at staggering the various zones just by virtue of interrupting them that it hasn’t actually kicked in and stopped a water run for over 10 days due to shorter runs becoming the norm!

I have 18 zones, 9 on each controller, so I started with two simple float switches that are closed when facing up, and interrupt the circuit when facing down. They’re hung inside the storage tank fairly close to the bottom, hanging off of a sinker. They’re simply wired up through a conduit to the sensor terminals and configured as a rain sensor. Here’s the inside of the tank after install, but before I moved them lower - wanted to start high and slowly lower them to find the sweet spot.

Here’s what happens when those floaters get too close to the bottom:

Another great side effect here is that if we’re watering the lawn and something else in the house needs a lot of water, the lawn will kick itself off to avoid a dry pump situation, which overall works pretty well as not much in the house uses more than the well can produce.

I’d love to see a well duty cycle feature in the future that works with smart cycle and lets us pick an on/off cycle for running water, e.g. “water 20 minutes, wait 30 minutes”, but that’s not a thing yet and well users aren’t really the majority here. Maybe we can get some traction for a feature like that in the future. I’ve already tried to bribe some of Rachio’s engineers with donuts and coffee, since I’m local. :wink:

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:raised_hands::raised_hands::raised_hands: WOOHOO!! I’ve been so excited to read this @Thalagyrt! I think @franz and @metalaureate would be interested in reading this.

:cheers: Lo

I’d definitely be happy to talk more about it + what issues I’ve faced on well water if folks have questions! The way the zones have all staggered is a really nice side effect. I’ve been able to stop using alternating even/odd days between the two controllers, as well! I’m not sure if you have the ability to look at my controllers or not, but the next run dates are pretty well and truly distributed over the next 5 days for all the zones, where previously they’d very often stay in perfect lock with each other due to similar characteristics which caused some really long runs. Now it seems the norm has become much shorter daily runs of 1-2 zones instead of very long runs of 10+ zones every 5 days or so, which is awesome.

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@Thalagyrt We’ve been following your well-water issues and are so glad and impressed that you figured out a solution and shared it here. Thank you. We’ll point other community members with similar issues to this post until we build a well duty cycle feature into the app. I can’t promise when that will be, but very much appreciate all the hard work you’ve put into thinking and experimenting.

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@metalaureate Cheers! My well system is pretty complex, and as such what I’ve done here may not work for everyone. Another thing I’ve thought of as a possible hardware hack for folks with wells that don’t have an intermediate storage tank would be some kind of pressure tank based interrupter - e.g. pressure tank drops below 15psi, stop watering for 30 minutes. That would have a similar effect when water starts running out and allow the well some time to recover. It’d require a bit of circuitry work to make happen in the current state of Rachio, though.

I’ve been thinking maybe a sensor mode for “well sensor” instead of “rain sensor” would perhaps be an easy way to help enable more people to start implementing this stuff - it could work the same way but with a minimum pause time (maybe default 30 mins?) when the circuit opens, where even if it closes, the pause lasts for a bit. With something like that the pressure tank’s sensors could easily be tied in without needing a timer circuit.

I’m a well user also and the only reason I haven’t had problems is that my intermediate tank is 3000 gallons. I’ll follow this thread to get ideas on integrating water loss/pressure issues into my system. When the well has a problem and my tank gets low, irrigation becomes a liability. And we are part timers at this location and cannot always quickly react.

Is your well super deep or something? Our well just has a pump and a pressure tank and can run 24/7 without issue or loss in pressure. Were only 60 feet deep tho. Just curious.

I mentioned that in the original post - “I’ve got a pretty complex system with a 600 gallon storage tank with its own pump that can push 22GPM, but a well that averages about 6GPM.”. My sprinkler zones are all around 12-15GPM, so eventually that storage tank will run itself empty and the pump gets very unhappy. That is, our well, while about 600’ deep, can run 24/7, but it can’t keep up with the final pump.

Ours is 850’ deep.