Local well drilling companies are seeing a surge in requests for new wells as an unseasonably dry climate is sapping more Lehigh Acres residents of their water supply.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's website, Florida is joining much of the southeast in below average precipitation for the months of February and March.
Last month, Lee County urged the public to conserve water where it can and to limit lawn irrigation in accordance with the year-round water conservation ordinance. The ordinance must be followed, regardless of a home or business' water source.
County officials reported that conserving now, during the dry season, will help to protect the declining groundwater levels throughout Lee County.
Indy Pimentel, of the Lehigh-based well drilling company Irrigation Plus, has noticed an increase in the number of customers reporting dried out wells.
"We are getting 10 to 15 calls a day about people needing new wells," she said. "Normally, we would get about three a week - no more than five."
Pimentel said she believes the increase is largely due to the area's unseasonably dry weather.
When most wells are built, they require a process called casing. The natural walls of the well are not strong enough to keep them from caving in on themselves. In order to strengthen the walls, tubing is run down the freshly dug wells and concrete is poured between the tubing and the walls. The process reinforces the walls and allows the well to draw water without collapsing in on itself.
Pimentel explained that the majority of wells that the company is replacing are 15 to 20 years old and were dug when much narrower casing was the standard. She believes the narrower casing is one of the key factors of wells drying out and damaging pumps.
"It's not enough," she said. "They are collapsing because they don't have enough water to soak up. The pump fuses inside the well, and we have to replace it."
Pimentel also said while customers often call to request that the company drill their existing well deeper when it has gone dry, generally a new well is required.
According to Pimentel, any well that has the older narrower casing will eventually encounter a problem during the dry seasons. She suggested that people replace those wells to avoid an interruption in water service.
When asked how to prevent issues with well service, Pimentel said maintenance is critical.
She recommended having a well, plumbing or water treatment company inspect the well every three to six months. Pimentel said for wells with the proper casing, most issues are pump related and switching out or fixing the pump can often allow the well to function for decades.
Lee County reported that groundwater conditions should improve with the onset of the wet season, which normally commences in June. However, the increase in water usage brought about by the drier conditions and the increased seasonal population makes spring a critical time to cut back any unnecessary use.
Officials urged all residents to abide by local ordinances that restrict lawn irrigation, which can account for 50 percent of household use.
The county ordinance applies to those in unincorporated Lee. People who irrigate outside the permissible days and hours can receive a warning on a first offense and fines following a warning.
For more information, visit online at: www.sfwmd.gov/mywateringdays.
To contact Irrigation Plus, call 239-567-0007.