How does groundwater level affect your development plans?

How Groundwater Levels Affect Land Development
If you plan to construct a well on your property, groundwater levels might determine the type of well you build
If you plan to construct a well on your property, groundwater levels might determine the type of well you build

As our society grows and evolves, shifts in population and changes in land use can deplete water supplies or result in flooding. The amount of precipitation we receive can also affect groundwater levels.

If you plan to construct a well on your development property, groundwater levels might determine the well you build. Wells pump water from an aquifer, an area that holds a lot of groundwater. If groundwater levels are low, you'll have the expense of digging a deeper well. More energy will be required to drive your well pump because the water must be lifted higher to reach the surface, which will also cost you more [source: U.S. Department of the Interior].

Deep wells may affect the quality of your water as well. The pumping can cause salt water that lies deep below the surface to be sucked inland and contaminate the groundwater. Land subsidence is another issue with low groundwater levels. With no support from water, the land caves in and sinkholes develop.

There are also problems with high groundwater levels. Water coming from a shallow well is more acidic than water from a deeper well, making it more corrosive to plumbing. It can dissolve your metal pipes and fittings, and cause leakage.

Although the June 1986 amendment to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act banned extensive use of lead in pipes, you'll still find it in limited amounts [source: Woodward]. Since exposure can severely affect your health, if you have a shallow well you should have water samples analyzed for lead content at a certified water-testing laboratory just to be sure.

The good news is that the alternative products that have replaced lead in piping are more resistant to the dissolving action of corrosive water. Plastic piping is also an option where building codes allow.

Proper drainage is a crucial consideration in land development. Groundwater can be blocked from its normal course of flow by new construction and accumulate in the ground. Water close to the underside of the basement floor can rise up through the slab and cause dampness. If groundwater levels are higher than the basement floor, water can leak in through the walls and floor and you'll have standing water. Ideally, a building should be constructed so that even during rainy seasons the groundwater level is at least 10 feet below the finished ground [source: Al's Home Improvement Center].

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