In Cherokee County (which is Murphy, Andrews, Marble, Brasstown, and more) North Carolina, there are several sources of water your home or property may have access to. The most popular are:
City water – you hook to the town water supply. This is not common for most of our homes.
- Private Well – you and only you own your own well and use it.
- Spring – a natural water source coming from out of the ground on its own. It is usually capture by a basin of some sort and either gravity fed or pumped to your house.
- Community or Shared Wells
Since this topic is on community or shared wells, I’ll focus on that. These sources are where multiple homes or structures use one (or in rare case, a series of) common water source. Wells are generally where our water comes from here, so most of the time you’ll it is a shared well.
In North Carolina, if you have a shared water system with more than 14 homes, it is considered a public water utility and it becomes governed by the state. Since this is a paperwork nightmare, you’ll generally find there are 14 homes or less on a system. My home, for example, has a well that is shared with 12 of my neighbors. It works great for us.
How are costs shared? There are many arrangements and are certainly no hard and fast rule how this works. The most common is each “member” pays $15-20 per month (or $180-240 per year) for the use of the water/basic maintenance. There’s no water meter, so that’s a flat rate. Those funds are to pay for power and maintenance, if any. The leftover funds are generally put in an account to pay for future maintenance. In the event a pump goes out or something more substantial that costs more than the fund has, everyone chips in equally to pay for the maintenance.
It’s a great system because many wells produce more water than one home can possibly use. When a well is shared, it lowers the cost of use dramatically for everyone involved. Not only that, it keeps the water “fresher” because you have a consistent draw on the well that keeps fresh water coming in and prevents the water from becoming stagnant.
So what’s the difference between a shared well and a community well? It totally depends on who you ask. The banks that provide financing on homes have a slightly different definition versus our real estate guidelines. However, a general idea is this:
- Share well – one party actually owns the well and “shares” it with others. If you’re not the person who owns the land the well is on, you don’t have an ownership interest in the well, only a right to use it. This can be in writing and even recorded at the Cherokee County Register of Deeds to make it official and legal. It commonly has 14 or less people on a single source.
- Community well – all the users share a source and there are commonly more than 14 people on a single source. Some are paid for through a fixed community fee while others are paid for by usage on a water meter, like Bear Paw..
With all that said, it’s a great way to have water in the mountains! Well water is my personal favorite because it comes right from the source! You could bottle my well water – it’s that good!