‘Smart’ approach to private wells

Battle Ground man's high-tech system monitors, manages well-water volume

Published:

 

What it does: The company aims to improve well performance through a smart technology control system that monitors and manages well water volume.

Web: www.eppwellsolutions.com

What it does: The company aims to improve well performance through a smart technology control system that monitors and manages well water volume.

Web: www.eppwellsolutions.com

Kevin Epp’s search for a way to keep private wells from running dry started with his father-in-law’s struggles to water his garden, wash his car and simply have enough water in the summer when company shows up.

The landscaper’s Epp Well Solutions is a patent-pending smart control system that monitors how much water is in a well system at all times and delivers the exact amount of water needed. The goal is to pump and store water during off-peak times such as at night or when a homeowner is away, rather than overpumping during peak hours.

“During those off times when you’re at work or sleeping, it’s catching up,” he said.

Epp said storing water in tanks is not a new concept, but his smart technology takes it a step further.

“The new concept is the fact that our controller can intuitively know what’s going on and make changes to its program,” he said, adding the control box can tell you at any time how many gallons are in the well.

Epp hopes his system will appeal to the many small well owners in Clark County and beyond who want to even out their water supply. And while evening out the water flow makes sense at the level of the individual well owner, it’s possible that it could lead to a further draw on an already overburdened aquifer.

“With the expanded building, more driveways and other hard surfaces, as well as inadequate road management practices, water runs off faster and we are getting a reduction in recharge rates,” said Richard Dyrland, supervisory hydrologist for Friends of the East Fork Lewis River, in an email.

Working in landscaping for the past 20 years, Epp constantly saw issues, especially in north Clark County, where wells were inadequate for sprinklers. That experience, coupled with his father-in-law’s frustration with his wells, was enough to get the ideas rolling.

“I started looking at what could we do to meet those demands when a well couldn’t keep up with a sprinkler system,” said Epp, a Battle Ground resident who owns the landscaping firm Cutting Edge Services.

Dan Morse, Epp’s father-in-law, has a background in control systems and developed the initial concept of a control system that would automatically fill the tanks or well, anticipating peak demand.

Epp took it further, developing what he believes is a unique system that could help rejuvenate dry wells in Clark County and beyond. Not trained in the tech industry, he spent hours with Programmable Logic Controller technical support, learning the technology and perfecting the system over the past three years at Morse’s house in Woodland.

“All of a sudden we went from having very little water that we would have to be careful of to having an adequate supply of water,” Morse said, adding the system works well on its own and doesn’t require manual checking.

In addition to installing a system for his father-in-law, Epp is getting ready to install the system for his first client in Seattle and says he has some local interest as well. He is giving free consultations and estimates for his system.

Epp said the price of adding a controller to an existing system could be as little as $4,500. A complete system with controller, multiple tanks, booster pump, pressure equalizing system with wall mounted pressure tank could cost up to about $12,000.

“This is an investment in sustainability as it will make a poor well usable again, saving money from drilling a new well,” Epp said.

While the system is intended to create an addquate watter supply, there are limitations to the water table as Washington suffers an ongoing drought.

“You could drill a deep well and still have a minimal amount of water,” Morse said. “There’s no guarantee that drilling a new well will solve the problem.”

Growing need

With growth in the number of small wells in northern Clark County over the last 15 years, dryer weather and issues with groundwater recharges, the local need for more efficient wells could be growing, Dyrland said of the Friends of the East Fork Lewis River.

“In regard to the well optimization technology, it might help,” Dyrland said. “But regardless of how you optimize the water use, there is only so much water and if you increase the number of users and continue to reduce the rate of recharge, then Clark County is going to have increasing water problems or bigger challenges to deal with in the future.”

Epp, who says he has had interest from investors and partners but is staying self-financed and in control of his company, said he hopes to eventually expand nationally and even globally.

Right now he is manufacturing the control boxes out of his garage and has three ready to go. He said he can build two in a day.

“We’re the only high-tech option out there for this,” he said. “We’re ready to go now.”