Well Development Basics

Posted: May 19, 2014
Category: Well Development

Whether you live in a remote area, question the quality of your tap water or prefer to lower your utility costs, having access to a personal well can seem like a fantastic solution to your conundrum. Many people think that only professionals with gigantic commercial drillers are capable of developing wells, but homeowners can create their own functioning water wells cheaply and easily with a little know-how and hard work. If you dream of owning a well, here are the well development basics to get you started.

Before You Begin

well-dev-post-1Choosing the location of your well is the most important step. You’ll want to avoid any area that has a risk of contamination, such as septic tanks, sewers, livestock barns or disposal areas, as well as natural deposits of minerals like lead or chromium. The easiest way to discover the latter info is to call your local health officer and request information about your area. Also, look up local rules for minimum safe distances from contamination sources—further is always better. Once you’ve located a spot on your property that works, try to eyeball the highest ground. This location ensures groundwater and contaminants flow away from the well.

The type of well described in this post, a borewell, works best for irrigation water, but if you plan to drink from the well, you must always check the potability of the water before doing so. Testing the water quality is a good idea regardless of the use.

Step 1: The Tools

There are several tools required for this project, though none are expensive. There are kits on well-dev-post-2the market you can buy for a “well point installation kit.” These work fine, but you can make your own using PVC pipe almost as easily. Ultimately it’s up to you. Here’s a quick breakdown of what each tool is to clarify:

  • Drill Pipe: It’s a piece of hollow PVC or metal pipe with teeth at the end to cut into the earth. Should have a larger diameter than the well screen, since the well screen will slide through it.
  • Well Screen: A piece of PVC or metal pipe with hundreds of small slits (smaller than a grain of sand) that allow water to flow through it. It’s usually 3-4 feet long, so you’ll need to add length to fit your borewell.
  • Drill Head: Attached to the top of the drill pipe, the drill head connects the pipe to the two hoses that pour water into the drill pipe, pushing the cuttings (the dirt and sand in the way of the drill pipe as you dig down) out of the hole.
  • Hose: Two typical garden hoses that are attached to a water source at one end and the drill head at the other.
  • Cement: Not to be confused with concrete, cement is mixed with water and poured into the hole to ensure no particulates or groundwater seep into the well.
  • Sand: You may or may not need sand, which goes in the well hole before the cement. Typically, the dirt around the well screen will collapse. If it does not, you’ll need to add sand to cover the well screen before adding cement.

Step 2: Digging

While not as difficult as digging an old-fashion water well with shovels, creating a borewell still requires a fair amount of work. Begin by placing the drill pipe into the ground and attaching the drill head. Turn on the water for both hoses and begin twisting the drill pipe back and forth, cutting into the ground and driving the pipe deeper. Go slowly. The water will help loosen the soil and bring the cuttings to the top, but if you move too quickly you can get stuck. You want to drill several feet below the water table (where the standing water is), which could be as much as 25 feet or more below ground.

Once you’ve completed the digging, you’ll place the well screen in, which should be the same length as the hole. Turn off the water and remove the drill head from the drill pipe. Slide the well screen into the drill pipe and down to the bottom. Now you can slide the drill pipe out, leaving the well screen behind.

Step 3: Sealing the Well

Congratulations! You now have a well. Finish the job by sealing it. Hopefully, the sand and dirt will collapse around the well screen. If they don’t, add sand into the hole around the well screen (not inside it!) until all the slots are covered. Next, seal it up with cement. Give the cement a couple days to cure and then add a pump to the top of your pipe. Be sure and get the water tested promptly, then feel free to use it however you wish.

To monitor your groundwater level, you’ll need a quality groundwater monitoring instrument. Contact Heron to find the best solution for your unique needs.

Completed Borehole photo credit to Coffee Management under cc 2.0
Borehole Drilling Rig photo credit to Richard Lane under cc 2.0
Groundwater Monitoring photo credit to SonoranDesertNPS under cc 2.0

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