Drive A Water Well

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    X marks the spot; how “witching” for water works is a mystery, but this time-honored method of locating good well sites is still in use today.
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    The well point is attached to a length of water-supply pipe and a pipe cap screwed on to prevent damage or deformity from pounding.
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    Here, a pilot hole is augured to guide the well point as it is driven downward.
  • 5. Well.Hammer.001_phatchfinal
    A 100-pound “slam-hammer” drives the well pipe and point down to the water table.
  • 6.Well. Drop string_phatchfinal
    When a “bong” sound is heard it’s time to check the depth of the water in the well pipe with a drop string.
  • 7.Well.PipeJoint.001_phatchfinal
    A good vacuum is critical to hand pump efficiency, so all threaded joints must be sealed with Teflon tape or pipe joint compound.
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    Priming the pitcher pump with water helps to seal its suction cylinder.
  • 9. Well.FirstPumps.001_phatchfinal
    The first several gallons of water from your well will be muddy, until loose soil is pumped away to leave a cavity filled with clear water.
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    Well output is tested using a portable electric pump to see if it delivers the benchmark 5 gallons per minute.
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    The well point. Slotted holes permit water to enter, while stainless steel mesh inside keeps out abrasive sand.

Strike Water

When the well point reaches water you’ll hear a hollow “bong” sound from the pipe with every blow. Remove the cap and drop a chalk line down the well pipe until slack in the string tells you that the weight has reached the bottom of the well point.

Pull up the string, and measure how much of it has been wetted to determine how deeply the well point has penetrated into the water table. To ensure suction at the pump, it’s important that the entire length of the well point be immersed, and preferably 2 feet beyond that to account for seasonal variations in the water table.

Install The Pump

When the drop-string is wetted to a length of at least 5 feet, it’s time to screw-on a pitcher pump (remember to seal the threads). Prime the pump to create suction for its vacuum cylinder by pouring a cup of water into the pump’s top, and jack the handle until water spurts from the pump with each down stroke. Jack the handle roughly 100 times to create a cavity filled with clear water around the well point.

Alternately, you can use a portable electric water pump to create a cavity more quickly around the well point, and to test for a benchmark flow of 5 gallons per minute. When only clear water comes from the well spout, remove the pump and thread-on a “check valve” between the well pipe below and the pump above; this will help to prevent water in the pipe from draining back down, reducing the need to prime the pump.

Well debth depends on how deep the water table might be at your place. The depth to which manual pumps can operate is limited, depending on the type of pump, the force of gravity and the length of its drawing stroke. In general, pitcher, jet, or centrifugal hand pumps are effective to a depth of 25 feet. Larger stand pumps with draw cylinders will work to a depth of 50 feet.

Even with all of the pesky red tape, a driven hand-pumped well is worth the hassle for the peace of mind it brings knowing that you can never run out of drinking water, come what may.

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