How does an irrigation well work?

how does an irrigation well work

Having your very own water supply on your property can make everyday living so much more convenient. Especially if you need water for your agricultural crops, municipal water can be very expensive or unreliable. In this situation, irrigation wells have been helpful in keeping crops and plants hydrated and healthy in time for the harvest season.

Are you looking into installing a well on your property for irrigation purposes? Before you do, knowing more about what it is, how it works, and other important information about wells will surely make your journey an easier process.

What is an irrigation well?

By definition, a well is a type of hole that is dug or drilled into the ground to get access to aquifers – which are layers of porous rocks that bear water. By drilling into these layers of rocks, we can access water that supplies it to the well being constructed and into the residential or commercial property that it is installed in.

There are many purposes for wells. Usually, wells are essential in areas that do not have access to a municipal water supply, possibly due to their location. Many households rely on well water for their home usage, but some owners need wells for irrigation. Irrigation wells, also called agricultural wells, are the excavated holes that supply water to be used for watering yards, gardens, crops, livestock, and generally, for large-scale farming operations.

Whether it is for residential or commercial use, more and more people have been wanting to install a well in their properties nowadays. Arkansas and California are examples of the states that use wells mainly for irrigation purposes.

The two kinds of irrigation wells

An irrigation well can be of two kinds: the first is a shallow well and the second is a bedrock well.

1)    Shallow Irrigation Wells

Also known as dug or bored wells, these are the types of wells that are around 50 feet deep or less. In a situation where the contractor finds that your aquifer supply is already sufficient for your purpose, they will stop the drilling immediately. Shallow wells are common for residential irrigation purposes.

2)    Bedrock Irrigation Wells

Also known as artesian wells, these are the types of wells that are more than 50 feet deep. In the instance where your area may not have sufficient aquifer supply, the contractor will need to dig deeper until they are confident with the yield it will give. Bedrock wells may also be your option to avoid the contaminants in surface water.

How exactly does an irrigation well work?

Irrigation wells often supply non-potable water. Because of this, water from these types of wells does not always necessarily have to be safe for human consumption.

For it to be effective for irrigation purposes, a system such as a sprinkler or a faucet is fitted in to do whatever work the owner needs it to do. For example, if a parcel of land has to be evenly watered at the same time, setting up a drip irrigation system may work if there is enough water supply from the well.

Let's talk about aquifers


Do you want to understand the basics of how an irrigation well usually works? Before that, we need to talk more about aquifers.

As mentioned earlier, aquifers are essentially layers of rocks that allow water to flow and get absorbed in their pores. Since they are permeable, they are able to store water until it moves or is taken when it is tapped into for well purposes. Aquifers get water from many sources – it can be from rain, lakes, and other bodies of water near the area.

During the well construction, a contractor will use a method to make a hole on the ground until they find a suitable water supply. They may manually dig or use drill rigs for the process. Once they are able to see layers of aquifers that will be enough for the owner’s needs, they will then start the construction of the irrigation well.

The parts of a well and how they work

There are many parts of an irrigation well. After the aquifer has been identified in the drilling process, a well screen is necessary to keep most sediment and sand away from the supply. There is a well casing that serves to enclose the parts and keeps them safe and secure. In some cases, gravel packs are necessary when the area is sandy in order to prevent the existence of coarse sediments in the well water.

For bedrock irrigation wells, submersible pumps are essential to push the water from the underground upwards so that the owners can access it. On the other hand, using jet pumps is enough for shallow wells in order for them to transport the water in the irrigation system.

To keep the water clean and safe to use, a well cap or well head is essential to prevent debris from going into the hole. As much as possible, an owner should always check their well caps to make sure that contaminants will not be able to make their way into your water supply.

Once you have an irrigation well and it has already been tested for contaminants, you can now use it for your crops, lawn, or livestock. You can either get water manually or make use of other methods such as a sprinkler system. Doing so allows you to water efficiently without going back and forth the area. As a summary of the process, it goes like this:

aquifers –> well –> irrigation system –> vegetation or livestock

The success of a well when it is for irrigation mainly lies in how sufficient the aquifers in the area are. Because of this, it is recommended to have a professional install the well for the best results.

How much will it cost to install an irrigation well?

irrigation well

There are many factors that can affect how much one has to pay for irrigation well installation. Generally, many property owners were able to pay around 8,000 to 15,000 dollars for residential wells. Most professional contractors charge per square foot.

Surely, the cost of installing a well is not cheap. However, if we look at the ROI or return on investment, you will surely be able to get your money’s worth (and more).

Here are some of the factors that can affect the cost of the installation:

·      The depth and diameter of the well

One of the most important factors that influence the cost of installing an irrigation well on your property is how big and deep it is.

As mentioned earlier though, many contractors will not be able to tell you the exact measurements of the hole that needs to be dug. This is because it depends on other factors such as your location, aquifer supply, and how near you are to potential contaminants.

·      Labor costs for contractors

Depending on where you need to install an irrigation well, some contractors may charge more or less in each state. On average, the costs for drilling in Massachusetts are around $30 to $70 per foot while it is $25 to $60 in Arkansas.

Also, you need to remember that other factors may also influence their rates, especially when it comes to the ground conditions in the area. For example, digging or drilling into easy ground conditions is so much cheaper when we compare the labor costs for areas with denser rocks.

·      Permits

Before you can install an irrigation well on your property, you will generally need to secure a permit in your area to make sure that you can do so. However, in some certain cases, you may not need one. Check in with your state’s laws and codes to avoid paying hefty fines or wasting money on a well that will not pass an inspection.

On average, it may cost you around 300 to 700 dollars to secure a well permit.

·      Water testing

Depending on the purpose of your well, you may have to pay for water testing to check for contaminants and chemicals. In this case, if you are using the water mainly for irrigation, you should still check its pH and alkalinity levels.

For DIY kits, water testing costs around 20 to 150 dollars. Some contractors also offer packages that include water testing in the installation if they have access to a laboratory.

·      The irrigation system

For irrigation purposes, most farms and ranches in the United States rely on electric powered pumps. An irrigation well pump is fitted into the well system where it distributes water on a particular area or plot of land.

Depending on the size and type of pump you need and the system you will use, expect to pay extra money for specific add-ons.

The benefits of having an irrigation well

As you may know by now, installing an irrigation well requires commitment and resources. You may even be wondering if it is worth the hassle. To help you make your decision of whether you need one or not, here are some of the advantages of having your own irrigation well:

Its convenient and reliable

When it comes to watering lawns and farms, it can be a hassle to make time for the task every single day. Especially in situations where you need to water larger plots of land or do so multiple times a day, having an irrigation well system can certainly take a lot of labor off your hands.

It allows you to have a better harvest

Water from irrigation wells is known to be cleaner and free from chemicals and high amounts of chlorine. As long as the water well has been tested, many farmers claim that their crops are healthier from using well water instead of using the municipal supply. Also, not only are the harvest better in condition – but there may also be an increase in yield.

It helps you save money

One of the best outcomes in having your own well is your savings. For farmers or ranch keepers, it can be very expensive to use a lot of water for their everyday needs. On the other hand, by using well water, they are more confident that they are not spending as much money than getting their water from providers. As long as the installed irrigation well yields enough for the purpose, it is certainly a cost-effective option.

It does not ruin your yard’s aesthetics

Most irrigation wells are inconspicuous, which may be important for residential purposes. In many cases, an irrigation well would just look like an 18-inch pipe with a capped appearance. If the look of the regular residential well does not fit your preference, an irrigation well is more minimal to match your landscape.

It is better for the environment

Using groundwater for your water needs is not just a cheaper alternative but is also best for the environment. Since it is a renewable resource, in a way, you are also doing your part to make sure that new generations will still be able to enjoy fresh and clean water as time passes.

The difference compared to other types of wells

Aside from the difference between the purpose of using the well, there is also a considerable variance between a well that is dug for irrigation and for home use. Here are some of the things you need to know about irrigation wells:

1.    They may need to be dug or drilled at a narrower depth

When it comes to the wells that have to supply water for crops, farms, and ranches, owners must know that they can be dug deeper than what you might expect.

Granted, there are many factors that will affect the necessary depth of the hole. However, irrigation wells are dug deeper as they should be able to supply water in high amounts. If we compare it to potable wells, it is important to have water whenever necessary or this can result in the loss of many plants and affect the livelihood of the people. Because of this, during the drilling, it is crucial to make sure that you are tapping on aquifer layers that will be able to provide the amount of water you need.

2.    They may take a longer time to complete

The deeper the well is, the more time it will take to drill the hole. In many instances, well drilling can take days or even weeks to finish.

Also, it is important to remember that the process of drilling a well does not only depend on the depth. For example, in the event where it is found that your area does not have sufficient aquifer supply, your contractor will have to keep looking for enough aquifers before they can stop digging.

3.    They may require a professional installer

Many say that drilling a well can be a process that is a hit or miss, with luck as an important factor. However, although luck can be an influence, nothing beats years of experience. When it comes to having an irrigation well installed, knowledge of the drilling and the area itself are crucial for the success of your project.

Before drilling your own well, check on your local laws and codes. Chances are, it may even be illegal to dig a hole on your property without the help of a professional well installer.