Many homesteads wont be near water so creating a way to get water is essential.
Before the industrial era with its pumps and pipes bringing water in, people created wells. Homesteaders dug narrow holes down to the water table and then drew the water up that seeped into its bottom in a bucket attached to a rope.
We have all watched the old movies where you see the town pump, wooden water buckets and lots of arm action. Its nothing new, and in an off-grid situation or for any homestead it offers an excellent way to source water.
This well is a version of the old seepage well called a ‘driven’ well and basically means you are using a sledgehammer or large wooden mallet to drive a point down forcibly until it hits the water table.
Learn how by following these steps…
In its simplest form, this method of bringing safe groundwater to the surface uses a pointed, rocket-shaped “well point” to drive downward through soil until it reaches the water table. The well point is hollow, with slotted holes along its barrel to allow water to flow into it. Inside, these holes are covered with a heavy-mesh screen to keep out coarse sand and gravel.
Step 1 – Siting the well and digging the hole:
Look at your land and work out where the best place would be have your well. Look for where the largest amount of water is and where it is nearest to the surface.
If you have a local or someone you know who can ‘divine’ for you, this will increase your chances on finding where the water is.
Failing that, use local knowledge, find a geologist who will use more scientifically based approaches to determining where the water is.
Step 2 – Fitting the pipes:
A pipe cap screwed snugly, but not tightly, onto the threaded end protects it from being damaged or deformed while being pounded from above. It is critical that neither the open end nor the threads below it are harmed while the point is being pounded into the earth.
Begin by digging a pilot hole at least two (up to 5) feet deep using a hand auger or a shovel; the auger will make a pipe-size hole, but the wider shovel hole will require that soil be tamped around the well point to help hold it straight when pounding. A PVC casing placed over the well pipe — but kept above the point so that it doesn’t inhibit water flow — keeps loose dirt from falling in around the well pipe as it is driven downward.
When punching through harder earth, some well-drillers prefer a pile-driver weight (a pipe filled with concrete) suspended from a tripod where it is hoisted upward then dropped onto the capped well point. More physically demanding versions include “slam hammers” comprised of a heavy, flat-bottom iron weight with a long steel rod that extends from it and into the well pipe as a guide.
When the well point has been driven down until only about ten inches remain above ground, remove the protective pipe cap and screw a four-inch coupler (a collar with internal threads) over the exposed threads. Use pipe joint compound or Teflon plumber’s tape (wound in the direction of the threads, clockwise) to ensure a watertight seal.
Screw a 6-foot-long pipe that is threaded on both ends into the coupler — actual length of the pipe can vary, but it has to be short enough to reach the upper end (you’ll probably want a stepladder). Cap the upper end of the pipe, and pound it down until only about ten inches remain above ground. Remove the cap, apply joint compound to the threads, and screw-on another coupler, then screw another length of pipe into the top of the coupler. Pound this pipe down, and repeat the process, making sure to seal every threaded connection with joint compound or Teflon tape.
Step 3 – Driving the Well
The pipe should move visibly downward with each blow from your hammer. If it stops and refuses to sink further after several blows, you may have hit a large rock. Do not continue hammering to force the pipe further, or you might damage the well point. It’s easier and safer to pull up the well point by gently wobbling the pipe back and forth to widen the hole as you pull upward, then move the operation to another location.
Step 4…Reaching Water!
When you reach the water table you will hear a hollow “bong” sound that issues from the pipe with every blow. To test it, remove the cap and drop a long string with a weight tied to its end (chalk line works well) down the well pipe until slack in the string tells you that the weight has reached the bottom of the well point. Draw the string back up, and measure how much of its length has been wetted to determine how deeply the well point has penetrated into the water table. To ensure good suction at the pump, it is important that the entire length of the perforated well point be immersed, and preferably at least two feet beyond that to account for seasonal variations in the water table.
When the drop-string is wetted to a length of at least five feet, it’s time to screw on a pitcher pump (remember to seal the threads, or it may not draw efficiently). 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 downstroke. To be sure the well point is fully immersed in water, remove the
pump, replace the cap, and hammer the pipe another two feet. Replace the pump, and jack the handle roughly 100 times to create a hollow filled with clear water around the well point. Alternately, you can use a portable electric water pump to create a water-filled cavity around the well point, and to test for a benchmark flow of five 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 and will reduce the need to prime the pump.
Now before you jump up to go dig that well there are a couple of important things to check out. Without doing these you could be stopped in your tracks!
- Check with local authorities that it is ok to have a well. There may be laws prohibiting wells where you live so you dont want to go and build one, just to be told to take it down. There could very well be building permits required also and if so you will have the added step of getting the well inspected and approved once done.
- The other consideration is making sure that the groundwater is not contaminated by toxic chemicals that have leached their way into it.
Bottom line though, water is gold in any situation and whatever you come up against, its worth pushing through and getting a well for whatever happens in the future.
Read more about this here