water line protetion

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I live in the mountians (3200Ft)outside Oroville Washington.The well was just drilled, My problem is the frost line is 4 1/2 feet and were the water lines at some places are less than 2 feet because of solid rock. From the well to the house is 200 feet and most of that cant be hilled up so my plan so far is to use Schedule 40 PVC wraped in foam insulation tubes and sleeved in 4 inch sewer pipe to create a dead air space and if I can find 200 feet of heat tape I will use that as well. Any input would be greatly appreciated

-- Darren (ravensky@nvinet.com), September 17, 2001


Darren, I don't think you could use enough water to keep the heat level up in the sewer pipe arrangement without the heat tape. You must either get the heat tape on or else bury it deeper somehow. Can you not bury it because of physical reasons, or is it because of the looks of it? I hesitate to mention blasting to deepen the trench, but this is something you could do if push came to shove. Personally, I'd be hesitant to rely on a heat tape on long term basis, although people do.

-- Jennifer L. (Northern NYS) (jlance@nospammail.com), September 17, 2001.

It's not pretty to look at, but, bales of hay/straw stacked up tightly over the area where the water line is should do it. That's what I do to keep the water line from freezing up that is too shallow where it comes into the barn.

-- Annie Miller in SE OH (annie@1st.net), September 17, 2001.

Hi Darren.

Here's a very short story from central Minnesota: in 1996 we had a terrible cold, snowy winter. We had to clear 'tunnels' to the chicken coop to bring the birds fresh, warm water every morning and evening. (Side note: at least the 5 gallon buckets cannot spill - we pull them on a sled and the 'tunnel' walls are higher than the tops of the buckets!) Anyway, I went to get them a bale of straw for bedding and found that one had fallen off the stack (we keep it outside, under a tarp). I picked it up and - lo and behold! - the ground underneath was soft, unfrozen AND mushrooms were growing! the temperature had been twenty degrees below zero continuously for over a week! And this was just one single bale - not a stack. I was amazed!

I've seen that phenomenon repeated since then, and am sold on the insulating quality of straw bales.

So why am I bothering you with my bale tale? Because you have water lines shallow enough to freeze without insulation. A bale of straw over the shallow area will keep the ground insulated so you can have free-flowing water all winter. It is cheap, simple, low-tech insurance. Also position the bale so the stalks in it are horizontal the the ground for maximum insulation. The strings WILL rot in this position, but not before next spring.

Good luck! Sandy

-- Sandy in MN (onestonefarm@hotmail.com), September 17, 2001.


When I lived on a farm in North Dakota back in the '70s, our 6' deep water line from the cistern to the house froze (frost line in ND can go down to 8' at times). The landlord went through all sorts of trouble and expense to unfreeze it. Then the sewer line froze. When it was all said and done. An oldtimer told the landlord that it all could have been avoided if he had stacked straw bales on the ground over the lines. Every year after that, we used straw bales and never had a problem.

-- Steve in So. WI (Alpine1@prodigy.net), September 17, 2001.

During the very coldest days of winter, if you're unsure about whether the lines will freeze, let a tap drip. The steady flow of water helps keep the lines open. If you're worried about wasting the water, let the dripping tap be the bathtub tap, or set up a tank in the basement or wherever to collect the dripping water. It will amount to a few gallons, you'd be amazed how much water will come through.

-- Chelsea (rmbehr@istar.ca), September 17, 2001.

I'd also think about additional water storage in your house in case the lines do freeze even with whatever protection you devise. A well- plumbing expert recommended to me the use of a large plastic cistern as a holding tank in my basement that then feeds into the house supply. Regular household use keeps the water circulating out of the cistern to prevent it getting stale. With careful management, it at least gives you a few days of water an emergency like freezing (my pipes freeze in the basement - it's a very old house!)

-- DavidL from Mass. (owlhouse2@cs.com), September 18, 2001.

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