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What is Water Well Drilling?

Ron Marr
Ron Marr

It’s probably true that those who live in urban areas, or even small towns, rarely think about how the country folk get their water. For those not connected to some sort of municipal water system, whether in rural parts of Europe, America, or developing countries, the only option is to drill or dig a well. Water well drilling largely consists of boring a hole and pounding lengths of pipe into the ground until the water table is reached. There are many people around the world who still dig wells by way of hand and shovel, but for the most part, modern water well drilling techniques have simplified the job.

The first step in water well drilling is to pick a location. The well should be close to a house or barn, depending on the main purpose it will serve, but one doesn’t want to begin drilling atop a solid piece of granite. Potential drill sites are frequently determined via sonar readings, but just as often the rancher, farmer, or homeowner will hire a dowser. It’s a trusted, albeit mystical art, but those who find water based on the inexplicable bending of a forked stick are remarkably accurate.

A hand water pump uses the power of suction to deliver water from an underground well.
A hand water pump uses the power of suction to deliver water from an underground well.

Once a site is located, the drilling can begin. If a driller is exceptionally lucky, he will hit water at as little as 25 feet (7.62 meters) below ground. If fate isn’t smiling, a 1,000-foot (304.8 meters) hole may be required. In the latter case water well drilling can become expensive, as many drillers charge between $20 – $30 US Dollars (USD) per foot.

Water well drilling can be done in a variety of ways. The simplest method is the driven well, in which one pounds a length of pipe into the earth until water is reached. The pipe is threaded, with a cap put over the top end to protect the threads from the bashing of the sledgehammer. The bottom of the pipe is covered with a screen to prevent it from filling with dirt and debris. When a length of pipe is driven nearly into the ground, the cap is removed, another length of pipe screwed to the threads, and the cap moved to the top for another round of bashing and pounding.

Luckily, most water well drilling is now done from high-power drills mounted on a truck or towed to a worksite. Rotary drills feature large, auger-shaped ends made of materials that are stronger than the rocks through which they will bore. The most common drill bits are created from tungsten. A fluid, known as drilling mud, is shot through the drill pipe, forcing debris to the surface and allowing for a clean hole. When water is reached, the drill and drill pipes are removed, and a screened casing is inserted into the hole.

Water well drilling does not end when the water table is reached. If one wishes to get the water out, he must install a pump, powered by muscle, electricity, gas, or even solar energy. The pump will bring water out of the ground and allow it to flow, but pressure will generally be low. For this reason, most people install a pressurized holding tank, assuring that water shoots from a faucet, rather than simply drizzling out at a very slow rate.

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    • A hand water pump uses the power of suction to deliver water from an underground well.
      By: roblan
      A hand water pump uses the power of suction to deliver water from an underground well.