Is 3 Gallons Per Minute Enough Water to Live On?

Chart of well test results for Prince Edward County shows that the most common result between 2000 and 2018 was between 3 and gallons per minute (GPM), but is that enough water to live on?

To sever a new lot, the municipality requires a well with a minimum flow of 3 gallons per minute – but is 3 gallons per minute enough water to live on?

Almost all rural properties depend on wells for drinking water, and you’ll frequently see flow rates quote on real estate listings for rural homes and vacant land. The rural homes that don’t depend on wells rely on water delivery.)

In Ontario, wells can only be drilled by licensed drillers who have to file a report with the province for each well they have drilled. In an earlier video I explained how you can find this information using the province’s interactive online well records map.

Flow Rates in Prince Edward County

Using the information form the province’s site, the chart (above) hows the flow rates stack up for all new drinking water wells in the County from 2000 through 2018.

Of particular interest, the chart shows that the most common flow rate for domestic wells in the County was in the range 3 to 6 gallons per minute. In other words, many wells are just over the 3 GPM minimum flow rate which the County requires to sever a building lot.

Is 3 Gallons per Minute Enough?

But is 3 gallons per minute enough water to live on? What does it mean in practical terms.

First, to get some context, we need to understand how much water Ontario homes actually consume.

Statistics Canada reports that as of 2017, residential water consumption in Ontario averaged 184 liters per person per day (equal to 40 imperial gallons per person per day). In other words, the average 2-person household would need a combined total of 80 gallons per day.

A well delivering 3 gallons per minute would have to run for 27 minutes each day to deliver the 80 gallons required for the average 2-person household. In order to supply such a household, the pump would have to run 2% of the time, well within the safe operating range of domestic water pumps.

This is an over-simplification which does not account for peak demands, but it demonstrates that a well that reliably produces 3 GPM is adequate to meet the daily needs of an average 2-person household. On top of that, households that practice water conservation and consume less water than the average can get by with even less in practice.

Things To Be Aware Of

Some wells produce less water during the hot, dry summer months. This is especially true of shallow wells like dug or blasted wells which depend on surface water. Deeper drilled wells can also be affected but to a lesser degree.

If there is a well flow test available, look at the time of year when the test was done: tests during the dry summer months will be more reliable than tests conducted during the spring at peak water runoff.

Drinking water is scarce is the County so even with a good well, it would be wise to avoid heavy uses like watering the lawn or filling a swimming pool.

Finally, if you are buying a rural home and you are concerned that the well may have run dry in the past, a clause can be included in your offer where the sellers warrant that the well has never run dry during the time they have owned the house.


Many homes in the County have wells which produce just over 3 gallons per minute. It may not seem like a lot, but it’s enough water to live on.


  1. Im looking at a property with a drilled well at 178 feet. done in 1986 with a 3HR 40 Min flow test by installers at 3GPM. Question is is the flow rate set by size of pump and could i simply get more with a larger hp pump? Or should I be concerned with the diameter of the steel pipe used back then to drill?

    • With a drilled well at 178 feet it sounds like you’re outside Prince Edward County. Wells that deep here are likely to have salt or sulfur in the water. With the qualifier that I am not an expert in well drilling: If the installers rated it as 3 GPM on a flow test, then that is what the well is actually capable of producing – a stronger pump or larger pipe won’t fix that. Likewise, the diameter of the well casing won’t have any impact. Hydraulic fracturing may increase flow by opening up cracks in the rock, best to check with a local expert who does fracking.

    • If the well was flow tested at 3 GPM, then that’s the maximum it can put out and a more powerful pump or larger pipe will have no impact. At least hereabouts, hydraulic fracturing has been used to open up cracks in the rock and increase flow. Best check with a fracking expert in your area.

  2. I live in a mobile home community and only have 1.76 Gal/Min water supply. There is apparently a corroded valve governed by the owner of the park. What is my landlord obligated to supply?

    • Mobile home parks are covered under a special section within the Residential Tenancies Act in Ontario (formerly the Landlord and Tenant Act). “Water. 31. (1) A supply of potable water and water pressure that are sufficient for normal household use shall be available for each rental unit in a mobile home park or land lease community. O. Reg. 517/06, s. 31 (1). The section of the Act dealing with maintenance standards contains a section specific to water in mobile home parks which says: “Water supply 31. (1) A supply of potable water and water pressure that are sufficient for normal household use shall be available for each rental unit in a mobile home park or land lease community. O. Reg. 517/06, s. 31 (1).” Not very specific.

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