In his nearly 30 years in the local pump and well industry, Gary Mickelson (who serves on the Petaluma Valley GSA Advisory Committee) provides insight on concerns of well owners, including that customers seem to ask a lot of questions about water quality, and they want filters installed. Gary attributes this demand to the influence of the bottled water industry, and people wanting their ground water to taste the same way that bottled water tastes, so Jerry and Don’s Yager Pump and Well Service offer filters for iron and manganese, pH and other contaminants that might affect the taste of water.

Another thing that has changed over the years is the depth of wells. Gary explained that some areas of the county, including parts of Petaluma and West County, have lots of nitrates in the soil, due in large part to generations of chicken farming. To avoid nitrates in the groundwater, most wells in these zones are now drilled to a depth of 120 to 220 feet. That’s a shift from many years ago, when a residential well might have been much shallower at 30 to 50 feet in depth. Older wells may also have pumps that are above ground, while more modern systems have submersible pumps which are more efficient and economical. Once a pump is installed, it stays in place for many years so their service team can repair, rebuild, upgrade or replace the existing pump system for the property owner, Gary said.

Gary is managing partner at Jerry and Don’s Yager Pump and Well Service at 1290 Bodega Ave. in Petaluma, a company founded in the 1950s. Gary’s brother Jim bought the business in 1982, and later in the 1990s Gary joined the organization and is now co-owner. They have been working in the pump and well industry throughout Marin and Sonoma counties for decades and know the groundwater business inside and out.

In California, Sonoma and Fresno counties boast the highest number of wells, with more than 35,000 in Sonoma County alone. That translates to a lot of demand for well and pump services, including residential pumps, commercial pumps and community systems.

Gary is well versed in county and state groundwater regulations, and helps his customers with any questions about compliance with groundwater systems maintenance requirements. The company conducts groundwater monitoring for many state water systems in the region, checking for both groundwater quantity and quality. These state water systems are defined as pumps that serve 25 people or more or have 15 or more water connections to them and include things like schools, wineries, grocery stores and mobile home parks. When asked if new technologies were available to collect data remotely from these state wells, he said that while the technology exists, it is prohibitively expensive for owners of small water systems to install. So, his team visits the well locations periodically and takes the readings to report to the State.

With so much experience and knowledge of the groundwater industry, it’s no surprise that Gary has taken on many leadership roles over the years, including past president and current local chapter treasurer for the California Groundwater Association, and several years of service on the Petaluma Valley GSA Advisory Committee. Gary brings an important perspective to these organizations, not only from his knowledge of the industry, but also the understanding he has gained through his interactions with his customers. He knows his customers are often unaware of changes that happen at the state level regarding groundwater, even though some of the changes have a direct impact on their own property, their well and their source of water. He knows that by having good relationships with his customers he’s able to help keep them informed and keep their systems in good working order.