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Digging Deep: The ABCs of Water Well Installation

Getting clean water isn’t easy everywhere, especially in areas without city water services. Setting up a water well is a good option, but there’s a lot to think about before you start drilling.

Water wells are holes drilled to reach underground water sources, which can then be used for things like drinking and watering plants. Having your own well means you control your water supply. There’s no more worrying about city water restrictions or unexpected bills. 

When installing a water well, you’ll need to plan things like where to drill it to avoid pollution. You must also consider what kind of well suits your needs, and how to keep it running smoothly. There are different types of wells—some are simple and shallow, while others are deep and more complex.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about water wells. Get ready to learn all about how to make your water supply more reliable and tailored to your needs.

What is a Water Well?

A water well is essentially a hole drilled into the ground to reach water located beneath the earth’s surface. This underground water, found in aquifers, can be brought up using a pump and used for various purposes like drinking, cooking, and irrigation. 

Wells vary in depth, depending on how far down the water is located. They are important for accessing clean, usable water, especially in areas without a centralized water system. They serve as a reliable source of water for homes, farms, and even whole communities.

Benefits of Water Well Installation

Installing a water well on your property offers several advantages, particularly in areas where access to a municipal water system is limited or unavailable. 

The following are some benefits of having your own water well:

Uninterrupted Water Supply

One of the biggest benefits of a water well is the consistent and reliable access to water it provides. Unlike municipal water sources that can face restrictions during droughts or maintenance issues, a well ensures a steady water supply at all times.

Cost Savings

Owning a well can significantly reduce your water bills over time. After the initial installation, the water you draw from your well is free. Although some costs are associated with electricity to run the pump, these expenses are often lower than paying a monthly water bill to a utility company.

Control Over Water Quality

When you manage your own water supply, you have more control over the quality of the water you use. Well water generally requires some treatment to ensure it is safe for drinking. However, you can tailor these treatments to address specific contaminants in your local water table. This personalized approach ensures that the water meets your safety and taste preferences.

Environmental Benefits

Using water from a well can be more environmentally friendly than using municipal water, which often requires extensive processing and transportation. Well water typically has lower chemical usage and less processing. This can reduce your environmental footprint.

Increased Property Value

Homes with private wells are often more appealing to buyers, especially in rural areas. A well-maintained water well can increase property value, making it a wise investment in the long term.


Finally, having your own water well increases your property’s self-sufficiency. In the event of a disaster or major disruption to public water supplies, well owners can remain relatively unaffected, with access to fresh water right on their property.

How to Plan Your Water Well Installation

Planning your water well installation is an important step that determines the efficiency and safety of your water supply. It involves several steps that ensure the well meets your needs and complies with all legal standards.

Assess Your Water Needs

Start by evaluating how much water you’ll need on a daily basis. This depends on the size of your household and water usage habits. It may also depend on any additional needs like gardening or livestock. Knowing your water demand helps determine the type and depth of the well you should install.

Understand Local Regulations

Before drilling begins, it’s important to familiarize yourself with local regulations. Most areas require a permit for well installation. There are also specific guidelines on where a well can be placed in relation to septic systems and property lines. Contacting your local water authority or a well installation professional can provide guidance and ensure you meet all legal requirements.

Choose a Qualified Contractor

Selecting a reputable contractor is key to a successful well installation. Look for a professional with experience in installing wells in your area. They will have a good understanding of the local geology and water table. This is important for determining the best drilling techniques and equipment to use.

Consider Long-Term Maintenance

Planning for the maintenance of your well should begin before installation. Consider setting up a schedule for regular checks and cleaning to maintain water quality. This will help extend the life of your well and ensure it continues to provide safe, clean water.

Finding the Best Spot for Your Well

Choosing the right location for your water well is important for accessing clean water and ensuring its longevity. 

Here’s how to determine the best spot for your well:

Consider the Distance from Contaminants

The first factor to consider is the proximity to potential sources of contamination. Your well should be placed far from septic tanks, chemical storage areas, livestock yards, and any waste disposal sites. Local regulations usually specify minimum distance requirements, but it’s wise to go beyond the minimum if possible to ensure safer water.

Analyze the Terrain and Soil Composition

The type of soil and terrain can significantly affect the ease of drilling and the water quality. Sandy or gravelly areas typically allow easier water flow and are better for well installation. On the other hand, areas with a lot of rock or clay can be challenging to drill and might affect the water flow into the well.

Avoid Low-Lying Areas

It’s best to avoid installing your well in a low-lying area where surface water might collect. These areas are more prone to flooding, which can contaminate the well water during heavy rains or snow melts. Instead, choose a higher elevation that allows any potential contaminants to flow away from the well.

Check for Accessibility

Ensure that the chosen site is easily accessible for both the drilling equipment during the installation and for any future maintenance or repair works. Having good access can reduce the cost of installation and maintenance over time.

Consult with Professionals

Finally, it’s a good idea to consult with a hydrologist or a well-drilling contractor who can help assess the local water table, underground rock formations, and other environmental factors. They can use their expertise to recommend the optimal location for your well based on scientific data and experience.

Different Types of Water Wells

Water wells come in various forms, each suitable for different situations based on depth, water yield, and potential risk of contamination. 

Below are the three common types of water wells:

Dug/Bored Wells

Dug or bored wells are traditional types of wells that are manually excavated with tools like shovels or mechanically with a backhoe. They typically have a wide diameter to allow for manual digging and are lined with materials such as bricks, tiles, or stones to prevent the walls from collapsing. 

These wells are generally shallow and are often no more than 30 feet deep. This makes them easier to dig but more susceptible to surface contamination.

Driven Wells

Driven wells are created by driving a long pipe deep into the ground. They are continuously cased with a pipe, which helps protect the well from surface contaminants. Typically, these wells reach depths of about 30 to 50 feet and are relatively straightforward and less expensive to install compared to other types. 

However, because they also tap into shallower water sources, they can still be vulnerable to contamination. This is particularly if the casing is damaged or if the surface water is contaminated.

Drilled Wells

Drilled wells are made using advanced drilling rigs that can drill very deep into the earth, reaching depths of several hundred to even thousands of feet. This type of well is often cascaded continuously to prevent any collapse of the borehole walls. Due to their depth and the protective casing used, drilled wells are less likely to be contaminated compared to dug and driven wells. This makes them a preferred choice for reaching deep aquifers with cleaner water sources.

Typical Problems with Water Well Installation

Installing a water well can sometimes cause various challenges affecting your water supply. Being aware of these common problems can help you prepare and address them effectively. 

Here are some typical issues that might arise during water well installation:

Hitting Inaccessible Water Tables

Sometimes, the water table may be deeper than anticipated. This makes it difficult to access with standard well equipment. This can increase the complexity and cost of the installation as deeper drilling is required.

Encountering Contaminants

During drilling, there’s a risk of tapping into water sources contaminated by natural minerals or human activities. For instance, certain areas might have high levels of arsenic or lead naturally present in the groundwater. Identifying these issues early through proper testing is crucial to ensuring the water’s safety.

Dealing with Difficult Terrain

Rocky or unstable soil conditions can pose significant challenges to drilling. Rocks can wear down or break the drilling equipment, while unstable soil might collapse the well. Choosing the right drilling techniques and equipment for the specific geological conditions is essential.

Water Yield Issues

Some wells may not produce the expected amount of water after installation. This can be due to factors like incorrect well placement or poor aquifer performance. Before finalizing the well location, it’s important to assess the aquifer’s yield through a test pumping session.

Regulatory Hurdles

Numerous legal and environmental regulations can govern well installation, which vary widely by region. These might include permits, water rights, and environmental impact assessments. Misunderstanding or overlooking these regulations can lead to legal issues and delays.

Improper Well Construction

Improper installation techniques can lead to problems, such as inadequate sealing and casing. Ensuring the well is constructed according to industry standards and local regulations is necessary for long-term operation and safety.

Knowing When to Hire a Well Installation Pro

Installing a water well is a complex task that often requires professional expertise. Here are key signs indicating it’s time to call in a pro:

  • Starting a New Well Installation: Experienced professionals should handle the initial drilling and construction of a water well.
  • Significant Changes in Water Quality or Quantity: Sudden changes in water taste, color, or odor, or a decrease in water flow, may indicate underlying issues that require professional assessment.
  • Well Deepening or Re-drilling: If your well needs to be deepened or re-drilled to access a new water source, professional skills, and equipment are necessary.
  • Regulatory Compliance and Permits: Professionals can navigate the legal requirements of well installation and ensure compliance with regulations.
  • System Upgrades: Upgrading your well system with new equipment or technology is best done by professionals to ensure proper installation.
  • Routine Maintenance Checks: Periodic checks by professionals can ensure the well’s longevity and prevent major repairs.

Overall, by entrusting your water well installation to qualified professionals, you ensure a reliable, efficient, and regulation-compliant water supply for years.


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