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How to Drill a Well

Your well went dry or your new property never had one.

Let's start fresh with the empty land. Your first call is to a well witcher. Actually, three of them. I like Navahos as my first choice, then local guys with good references.
After each witcher finds his best spot, hide all the stakes and bring in the next one. If all three stake the same spot unaware of the last fellows report, good deal. If not, get three more witchers and begin again. You're going to pay the same for a dry shaft that you will for one with water. They even have satellite bounce down deals if you're into high tech. Real expensive, and no more reliable then a guy on the ground with a forked stick.

Once your site is established, let's get to drilling. If it were only that easy. To drill you need a drilling rig on site. If your land isn't flat, time for Mr. Bulldozer to come in and cut a path then a level pad for the drilling rig to set up. Since you just layed out two grand for the witchers, there's no going back now.

Plus, no water, no home loan if city water is unavailable. Also, most communities have gallon per minute standards. Three gallons a minute constant for 24 hours isn't unusual. Even after the road and pad are ready for your drilling rig, keep the dozer on site until the rig is leveled and ready to drill.

That dozer just cost you five grand or more. If he loads up and drives his truck and trailer away, you'll have to pay all over again for travel and set up if you need him to pull the rig out of a dip or help it get up a hill. Now, you're not going to have just one rig on said site. Just like an air craft carrier, a rig has a bunch of support vehicles to keep things running smoothly.
Water trucks, tool trucks, big trailers to haul pipe and casing, workers vehicles. A site can get crowded fast. Never park your own truck anywhere near the site if possible. Everything on drilling rigs are heavy and dangerous. Especially the operators. If you have all of your fingers, you're not considered a good driller. Tenders, oilers, muck out men and on down the line usually aren't former brain surgeons. These guys can also kill you.

Come by for coffee in the morning for a status, then haul ass. I've seen numerous deaths and hundreds of injuries working for various drillers over the years. With heavy equipment, when something goes, it usually goes in a big way. Welds give, cables snap, and tools fail.

On one job, the land owner parked his brand new dually F-350 Ford pickup, right next to the on site waterer. One of the muckers was using an eight foot long steel bar to free up a jammed casing sleeve. The rig bucked, the bar was snatched right out of the workers hands then flung like a seventy pound toothpick right up into the sky. Everyone dove for cover. What goes up, usually comes down. The bar came down just to the left of the drivers seat, right through the cab of the new truck.

If a cable snaps? Oh man, it can be ugly. They can cut you right in half in the blink of an eye. Just keep the checks coming and stay away is your best bet. Besides, once that rig in in gear, your going to need all the overtime you can get to pay for it.

Now-a-days it's twenty five dollars a foot. Water in the shaft or not. You see, you're not just drilling an eight inch or ten inch hole. You also have to case said hole to hold the walls back from collapsing, pour a twenty five foot cement sanitary seal around the top of the casing, plus, drop the sucker rods or threaded pipe to attach your submersible pump to.

That pump is electric, so, where's the power to feed it going to come from? Either a new power line of some sort or a generator. Generators are not only a hassle, they also grow legs and walk, all the time. Lots of drilling crews go through employees like flapjacks at a firefigher's cookout. These guys are always on the prowl for items to grab on lonely sites. Stuff easy to sell or trade to other drillers in other counties, no questions asked.

If you do find water, pay the extra expense to run a power feed. You say, "Hmmm, maybe I'll just chain up the generator!" These guys pray you're that dumb. Any chain or cable you put on it will be cut like butter with a cutting torch in three seconds. Factor in power costs. Since we're on a power kick, factor in another five to seven grand to get your water up and into the daylight.

If you're down over five hundred feet, you'll need a pump about three horse power if not more. The power lines that feed such a submersible pump are special wires for sitting in water. Usually taped to the drop pipe as it goes down into your well in twenty foot sections, it can get expensive.

Then, once the water is now at your feet, where is it going to go? Into your water tank. Since the powers that be demand so many stored gallons of water for square foot of new house for fire department. Figure at least a five thousand gallon holding tank. Put out a little dough extra for all steel.

Sure, plastic tanks are a lot less expensive. Those extra bucks you saved will bite you in the ass years later as the tank makes your water taste lousy. Plus, if a fire does sweep through, steel holds up. Plastic doesn't. Tanks don't just appear like magic. They have to be built, loaded up onto a truck with a crane, then brought on site to be placed on a steel ring set into a leveled piece of ground with gravel as a base.

Figure a budget for these items too. After the tank in in place, now you'll need a pressure tank to boost the water into your soon-to-be-built house or shop. More power. If you have harsh climate, figure in a well house to protect your pump.

Might as well have a light in it for troubleshooting problems that will arise down the road. Even more power. This is where running that power lead will pay off. It would take a top of the line generator to run all of your new equipment, plus, you'll be constantly having to fill it with fuel and oil. If it's still there in the morning. If you're lucky, you have some high points on your property.

If possible, place your holding tanks on the highest piece of ground you can reach with a truck. If no power for some reason, you can gravity feed your house. Slow, and no pressure, but better then having to bucket fill your toilet tanks. The ability for a truck to reach your tank is critical. Wells go dry all the time.

A water truck will have to have access at some time in the future to fill your tank. Best to plan ahead. With the placement of your tank as high as possible, always put your septic tank and leech lines as low as possible. We'll cover septics at another time.

Pretending that all has gone well, let's do a quick review of how things should proceed. Witch for water. Prepare site for drilling rig. Drill well. Set power. Install water tank. Install pressure tank. Possibly construct well house.

Oh, if your thinking of a cool looking wind mill to save some dough, I have a nice bridge to sell you. First off, wind mills won't draw water up past two hundred foot down. If you're lucky enough to have water levels higher then this, mills still are a bad deal. Having worked on or replaced a couple of dozen, here's the highlights. Hundred mile an hour winds start up and the brake on your mill just burned out. You haven't lived until you've had to get up at three a.m. and had to deal with a ten foot around razor sharp windmill whirling so fast your tower is creaking side to side.

How would you even know it was out of control? The screech of your red hot connector rod waking everyone up for ten miles is your first clue. When the blades start flying off is your next. They make odd sounds as they whirl past you as you step outside to see what the hell is going on.

On top of these joys, windmills bring up your water with little sucker rods that need servicing all the time. I've seen submersibles go ten years without a hitch. Stick with the tried and true. If you have to have a windmill, get one of those cute ones that drive away gophers. Next time, setting up your house foundation and installing your septic tank.

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