No matter how prepared you are for a natural disaster, there’s always one crucial element that stands above everything else – fresh water. All the equipment and supplies in the world won’t make a difference if you have no fresh drinking water.
While you can stock up on gallons of water from groundwater runoff or surface water, a much better alternative is to utilize a natural spring on your property as a source of water. If you have one of these springs nearby, you can tap into it for a sustainable water supply.
So, let’s dive into how to find and uncover a spring on your property and how to take advantage of it.
How Do Springs Form?
According to the US Geological Survey, a spring forms when an aquifer (an underground pool of water) overflows and runs along the land surface. Usually, this happens after rainfall, but some aquifers may provide a continuous water supply. In those cases, the aquifer gets supplied from a secondary source, such as an underground river or stream.
The Four Types of Underground Springs You May Encounter On Your Property
Knowing the types of springs you have will enable you to tap into it more efficiently. Here’s a breakdown of the four options you might discover:
- Artesian Spring – This small spring is the simplest option, as water from an aquifer escapes from a fissure or crack in the ground.
- Gravity Spring – As the name suggests, this spring uses gravity to flow. You’ll usually find them on a hillside after a rainstorm. The rainwater collects underground until it reaches an impermeable layer. From there, it comes out and the spring flows downhill.
- Seepage Spring – It’s pretty hard to tap into a seepage spring because there is not one source. Instead, the ground is so saturated with water that it starts to seep out everywhere. These springs are often found at the base of hills or in ground depressions.
- Fissure Spring – Typically, a fissure spring is also known as a hot spring, thanks to heated water escaping through a fault line in the earth’s surface. If you discover a fissure spring, you may need to cool the water down before using it.
Things to Keep in Mind When Working With a Natural Spring On Your Property
Ideally, you can find a natural spring that will flow all the time and provide you with enough water to survive. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Here are some factors for homeowners to consider when locating and tapping a spring:
- Rate of Flow – How much groundwater flows out of the spring at once? Does the flow increase when it rains? Does the flow stop during the dry season? Knowing these answers can help you plan accordingly. For example, you can store extra water during the wet season so that you’re prepared when the spring runs dry.
- Aquifer Supply – Unless you’re a geologist, you might not be able to tell how your aquifer refills itself. However, if you get more water after it rains, pay attention to how quickly it takes for the flow rate to increase. If it happens immediately, the aquifer is pretty close to the surface. If it takes a few days, water likely has to seep through permeable soil or rock first.
- Potable Water or Not – Bacteria and micro-organisms are present everywhere, some of which can cause serious illnesses. The best way to tell if your spring water is clean is to take a sample to a lab. In most cases, you can boil water to clean it, but some springs may have toxic elements that can’t get boiled out. So, you need to be sure.
Tools Necessary to Develop Your Spring
Finding a spring is just the first step – next, you need to develop it to extract water reliably and sustainably. Here are the tools you need for digging out a natural spring.
- PVC Pipe – This pipe is affordable and resilient. But, you have to worry about tree roots and other elements breaking through the pipe.
- Shovel – To dig out your trench and to find the eye of the spring.
- Stones – Stones offer natural protection while allowing water to flow through.
- Gravel – Again, gravel will allow rainwater to flow into the spring while protecting it from other hazards (i.e., animals).
- Cement – You need an impermeable layer to ensure that your water flows in the correct direction.
- Plaster Sand – You need multiple filtration layers to prevent contamination. Plaster sand is the smallest layer.
- Waterproofing Material – Cement is not naturally impermeable, so you need to add a waterproof coating on top.
- Springbox – This piece allows you to collect spring water while protecting it from contamination and animals.
Step by Step Guide on How to Dig Your Spring
Step One: Find the Eye of the Spring
The first step is to isolate where the water is coming out of the ground. You’ll need to dig back a bit to find the “eye” of the spring. Doing this ensures that you can tap the water more efficiently.
Step Two: Dig a Diversion Ditch
Although rain can refill the aquifer, excess rainwater can also cause your spring to erode or get contaminated with mud and other runoff. So, you want a diversion ditch about a yard above the eye of the spring. The trench should slope away on either side of the eye. If you’re worried about the ditch eroding, you can line it with stones to keep it stable.
Step Three: Dig a Trench to Your Springbox
Realistically, your spring will be on a slope, so you need to be able to divert the water into a springbox. While you can build your own, it’s often better to buy a ready-made springbox. These boxes have two drainage outlets – one for overflow and another for outflow or feeding into your water tank. You need to make sure that no light can enter the box (or algae will grow) and that it’s covered so animals can’t drink from it.
The length of the trench doesn’t have to be extensive – just enough to feed into the springbox. Depending on the situation, you may have to dig a few feet or a few yards.
Step Four: Build a Retaining Wall
The retaining wall helps collect water so that it feeds into your pipe. You can build this wall out of cement or buy a plastic barrier with pipe outlets. If you use cement, be sure to leave a hole for your drainage pipe.
Step Five: Place a PVC Pipe In Your Trench
Run the pipe from the wall to your springbox. If necessary, you might have to use an elbow joint, depending on the angle of the slope.
Step Six: Install Your Springbox
Your springbox should sit in the ground a little bit so that it stays stable at all times. You can also reinforce it with stones so that it doesn’t come loose. Attach the PVC pipe so that the box will fill with water. If you make your own box, be sure to have an indentation at the bottom for sediment to collect.
There also needs to be an overflow pipe so that the water doesn’t back up too much. You’ll have to cover the outlet with mesh so that insects or vermin can’t climb back up inside.
Step Seven: Cover Your Trench
The goal is to allow water to flow so that your spring doesn’t dry up and go somewhere else. You can use a multi-layered approach and put plaster sand, gravel, and stones on top of your PVC. Alternatively, you can just put some plastic sheeting and dirt on top. You’ll also need to cover the water at the retaining wall so that animals don’t drink or defecate in it.
Bottom Line: Keep Fresh Water Handy With a Natural Spring
A natural spring can help you maintain a steady water supply after a disaster. Since water is such a necessity, having a natural spring on your property will be invaluable. Good luck!
FAQs About What to Do With a Natural Spring On Your Property
Are Natural Springs Valuable?
Yes, in situations where you might not have access to fresh, clean water otherwise.
How to Tell If You Have a Natural Spring On Your Property?
The best time to look for a spring is when it’s dry. This way, you can be sure that any water seeping out of the ground or collecting somewhere is coming from a spring, not rainfall. Once you find a wet spot, dig down a little bit. If the water keeps coming back, it’s a sign of a spring.