Can a well be dug anywhere?
Are you tired of relying on a municipal provider for the water you need for your household or for irrigation purposes? If you are one of the people who want to be sure that their water is safe or thinks city water is too expensive, having a well on your own property may be recommended by acquaintances.
There are many benefits of having your own water source. But can everyone just dig anywhere on their property to get access to clean water? Or are there specific spots where one can drill into for a guaranteed success in finding a reliable ground water supply?
Water is essential for humanity’s survival
In the past, many civilizations have depended on wells for their survival. They use make-shift buckets and containers to scoop water from the man-made holes and use it for drinking, preparing food, and most especially, for watering crops.
Nowadays, many people are currently relying on their city’s provider for their water needs. Who has time to think about getting a well when all they have to do is turn their faucets to get water?
Unfortunately, by doing so, these people are, in a way, dependent on these water suppliers for their survival. As we all know, water is essential for humans, animals, and vegetation to survive. What if there are interruptions? What happens when the water is contaminated? After all, we do not know exactly how water companies test their supply.
Because of the reliance most of us have on these commercial water providers, we may have been looking for ways to have our own water source. This is the reason why many residential owners are gearing towards digging at least one well on their own property. Aside from having a reliable water supply, some states need wells as they may not have access to municipal water. If you are in this situation, digging a well in your property may not be something you can choose not to do.
Whether you need water just for your every day tasks like cooking or for something more large-scale such as farming, having a supply you and your family can rely on, especially during emergencies, is totally worth the effort and resources.
Can you dig your own well?
Interested in having your own water supply? Before you get your tools for digging, let us talk about aquifers. Every journey to a reliable water source starts with these layers of permeable rocks. But what are they and why are they necessary for wells?
Explaining the role of aquifers
Did you know that around 97% of the Earth’s fresh water gets stored in aquifers?
When we dig a well, we are tapping in layers of porous rocks that absorb water but stay solid in the process. We can say that aquifers are reservoirs that hold water until it runs towards other places or gets drilled into for the construction of a well. But where does water from aquifers come from? These layers of rocks get their liquids from various sources – it can be from rain, lakes, and springs nearby, which can be called as ground water. Ground water is a renewable resource and is our main supply for well water.
The more permeable the aquifer is, the more amount of water it can store. There are three types of aquifers. They can either be confined, unconfined, or perched. Of course, in many locations, aquifers can appear in different combinations of the three.
a) Confined Aquifers
For these types of aquifers, they are covered by layers of impermeable or semi-permeable rocks.
b) Unconfined Aquifers
For these types of aquifers, they are usually covered by various geologic formations that are permeable.
c) Perched Aquifers
For these types of aquifers, they are usually seen in areas below unsaturated rock formations.
When excavating a hole for a well, you should look for aquifers that will be able to supply you with the water you need. Because there is no definite way to know the presence of aquifers aside from digging or having information about the geological features in your area, you may have to keep digging a hole to have enough water.
This brings us back to the question of whether a well can be dug anywhere. Yes, you can dig anywhere, but there is no assurance that you will be able to tap into a sufficient layer of aquifers. Due to this, many owners may have to keep digging a hole until they find layers of aquifers or contact professional well drillers. Since they have information and first-hand experience for well drilling in the area, local drillers usually have the knowledge necessary to find aquifers that will give you the yield you need.
Before you dig anywhere, secure a permit first
Remember what we said earlier about being able to dig anywhere? That applies to the process of looking for an adequate aquifer supply. However, there are also a lot of things you need to consider, such as your state’s laws and local codes. Depending on where you live and the type of well you are planning to dig, you may be required to secure a permit before starting your project.
Why do you need to pay for permits? Are they just a way for the government to get your hard-earned money? Believe us when we say that permits are essential for your safety and the communities’. This is because if you just do the well yourself, you may not be aware that there is always a risk of contaminating not just your well but the entire area’s supply. By having a permit to dig, you can be sure that you are not getting your drinking water from areas that are contaminated by latrines and waste water.
The things you need to know before digging your well
Finding a sufficient aquifer supply can be done during the process of digging or by doing extensive research beforehand. Aside from securing a permit, what are the things you need to watch out for before digging a well?
1. It requires patience, knowledge, and skill
There are many safety hazards you may encounter during the digging of your well. As we may know, excavating can be very dangerous and fatal. For owners who are not particularly handy, think twice before making that hole on your property.
Digging a well can take days or weeks to complete. Since it is a job that cannot be hurried, fix your schedule and plan out your project. Secure the right tools and equipment and make sure that you know how to use and operate them.
2. You should know the potential contaminants in your area
Ground water comes from many sources. Because of this, we are unsure about whether your area’s aquifer supply gets its water from safe sources or not. Get the help of a local well driller or do your own extensive research before drilling a well on your property. As much as possible, ask your neighbors about their own supply.
Some of the potential contaminants come from areas near latrines, farms that use fertilizers and pesticides, and septic tanks.
3. You should test your water
After the digging comes to the essential task of testing your water. Especially in situations where you will use your well water for home use, you should ensure its safety. You can test your well water by purchasing a DIY test kit or by sending a sample to a laboratory. In many cases, most owners prefer to call a professional well driller as they may also offer water testing services.
When it comes to the cleanliness of your water, you can never be too safe. Consuming contaminated water can easily cause illnesses and serious diseases.
4. You may need to do a water treatment
Once you receive the results of your water test, you will know whether you need to treat for total coliforms or fecal coliforms. Total coliforms refer to the bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are in your well water. On the other hand, fecal coliforms come from feces and germs in your water. Contact a professional to properly treat your well before using it.
Well Site Safety and Precaution Guide
Now that we know that there are a lot of things to know and consider before digging a well, we will focus on the well site. Every important aspect of the safety of your well water ultimately lies on the site. This is why site inspections are necessary.
If you are digging a well yourself, you should prepare to do an inspection before making a hole on your property. Of course, if you are hiring a contractor, they will do the inspection for you.
Well site inspections are necessary for you to:
1. Find out about potential pollutants and contaminants
Ground water comes from various sources. In the situation where your area is known to have a high level of certain substances or pollutants, you can prepare beforehand as to what to do to treat your well water.
Harmful contaminants you may find in your well water:
High amounts of arsenic increase the risk of health problems, especially in the nervous system.
High amounts of boron may be harmful for the male population and pregnant women. It is studied to cause birth defects.
Pesticides are not meant for human and animal consumption. This is why it is necessary to avoid digging a well near farms and areas that steadily use these chemicals. Proper use and disposal should always be done by a responsible owner to prevent contamination.
High amounts of iron may turn your water red and stain your pipes. It can increase the rust in your plumbing and will also give your water a metallic taste.
High amounts of fluoride may cause discoloration in human teeth and can even damage them.
High amounts of manganese may influence the behavior of infants and younger children.
2. Know more about your area and the risks of digging a well on it
As mentioned earlier, knowing about your area is crucial to determine how the state of your water will be. Depending on where you live, there may be restrictions in drilling a well near certain structures. As an example, here are some things you need to factor in:
- Minimum isolation distances
It is not recommended by professionals and state laws to drill a well near septic tanks and latrines. Since they can easily contaminate groundwater which makes its way on your supply, doing so is not safe and highly dangerous.
Latrines and public outhouses must at least have a minimum horizontal distance of 100 feet from your well.
Septic and holding tanks, petroleum storage tanks, and animal feedlots must be at least 50 feet away from the proposed location of your well.
- Volatile organic chemicals
Also known as VOCs, these are chemicals that come from gasoline, fuels, and certain products such as paints and solvents. Make sure to do your research in your area for you to be aware of the risks, especially if you live near an industrial building. Long-term exposure to these chemicals can result in serious illness and damage to organs.
3. Determine whether you can do the job yourself
There are many things to do to construct a well. If you are unsure of your ability, you should leave the job to the professionals. Of course, you will need to pay for their services, but you can ensure the safety of your water compared to doing the work on a trial-and-error basis.
Is well water safer than city water?
Well water is viewed to taste better than city water. But is it also safer than the latter? To answer this question, the cleanliness of the well water and how safe it can be to consume will depend on several factors, mainly on its construction.
If the well is properly constructed, the risk of contamination will be significantly lower. There is also a fewer chance of getting debris to mix in your supply. Aside from the construction, the maintenance of the well also ensures its safety.
Compared to city water, well owners know more about what their water contains. As long as they maintain their wells properly, it is without a doubt, safer than city water.
How can you be sure that your well water is safe?
You can be sure about your water’s cleanliness by doing the two things mentioned above: water testing and water treatment.
Contrary to what other people may believe, testing and treatment must be done regularly. For example, after a storm or flood, some debris or pollutants may make their way into your water supply. Most states suggest not to drink well water until it gets tested to be sure that it is not contaminated.
Can well water run out?
Yes, well water can run out. This happens when the groundwater level in your area drops below the depth of water intake. In this situation, this may be the case during a drought.
Aside from drought, normal instances can cause your well water to run out, such as reduced precipitation. Fortunately, the aquifers can recharge once there is a sufficient supply. If you use a lot of water from your well, just wait for a couple of hours for the aquifers to recharge.
When it comes to wells, it is better to be safe than sorry
We understand how many people prefer doing their projects on their own. After all, there are many resources that are accessible online that can be a guide in the process. However, if the one at stake is the water you use for your home and livelihood, you should always be sure that it is safe and clean. This is why you should never hesitate to contact experts to dig your well.
If you have the skills, knowledge, and equipment, you can certainly try to DIY. On the other hand, if you have some doubts, there is no shame in hiring a pro. We suggest looking for a local driller as they will know more about important details in your area such as aquifer supply and common contaminants.