How to Make a Water Well by Hand

For centuries hand-dug wells were the primary source of water, and the process of drilling down into the earth, then filling a bucket with clean water, was both difficult and dangerous.

A well is a wonderful thing. It’s a lifeline. It provides a constant source of safe drinking water. Even in areas with a reliable supply of freshwater, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan. That’s why we’ve gathered this helpful guide to making a simple hand-dug well.

You’ll need to apply for permits.  Be sure to follow any instructions provided by local authorities.

In this article, you will learn how to build a simple hand-pumped well to produce safe, clean drinking water.

Here are some easy ways to get started making a water well by hand:

Have an understanding of water distribution

When your family decides to install a new well system for their home, it’s a huge decision. It can also be an expensive one. If you’re going to build a well, you should know exactly where the water is coming from, how it moves through the pipes, and how the water travels before reaching the tap. This is the foundation of understanding well-water distribution. And this is why the first step is to understand where the water is.

According to the EPA, nearly 40 percent of all drinking water is contaminated by chemicals and other substances. Even if you don’t live near a polluted river or lake, your own well could be at risk. That’s why it’s important to learn how to properly evaluate your water supply.  There are a number of different routes water can take to get from source to tap.

Know how the well will be used

After identifying the source of your water, the next step is to determine how it will be used. This includes knowing how much water your family will use and when you’ll need it. If you plan on using your well for both drinking, bathing, and cooking, you’ll need to have a larger well than if you’re only planning to use your well for drinking. Don’t underestimate the size of your family’s needs. Think about how much water you need and how often you need it.

If your well should be used for drinking, cooking, and washing dishes. You’ll need enough of a supply to last for at least seven days.

Find an area with a lot of rainfall

If you’re going to build a well, you’ll need to find a location with a lot of rainfall. Rainfall is the main way water is replenished in nature. Rainwater fills up underground reservoirs called aquifers.

These underground reservoirs provide a dependable source of water that can be drawn to the surface. It’s important to know where the wells will be located. You’ll want them close to your house so they won’t require too much maintenance. And you’ll want them to be away from any buildings or paved surfaces.

They need to be in a relatively flat area because any depressions in the ground can collect surface water, which can contaminate the well.

If the land is steep or rocky, it can be challenging to find an appropriate location for your well. If the site is in an area with a lot of water runoff, you may be better off finding another location.

It’s easy to assume that drilling a well is a simple process. The truth is, building a well is a difficult process. It takes time, money, and effort. And while there are many different types of wells available, your best bet is probably to hire a professional. That way you can be sure you’ve got the right well for your situation.

Drill away from potential contaminants

While you can’t avoid all pollutants, you can avoid some of them by choosing the proper location for your well. In addition to looking for a safe, flat area, you’ll want to avoid anything that may contaminate your water.

The following things can pose a problem:

  • Pavement: A lot of well-drilling equipment is metal. Metal is good for drilling into soil. But it can also be an issue. If you have any paved surface, it’s best to avoid drilling directly into the paved surface. And you shouldn’t drill any further than 4 feet below the pavement surface.
  • Buildings: Buildings are also problematic. They can affect the quality of the water and make it unsafe to drink. You’ll want to avoid drilling within 25 feet of any building, including a house, barn, or outhouse.
  • Contaminants: Water wells can become contaminated with a number of things.  They include pesticides, herbicides, detergents, solvents, and other chemicals. Chemicals are usually introduced into the water by the nearby use of pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides.
  • Oil: Oil and gas wells are common in rural areas. They often use water from the ground as a natural solvent. And because oil and gas are flammable, it’s important to avoid drilling near them.
  • Animals: Animals can contaminate your well water. Deer, beavers, birds, dogs, cats, and many other animals can cause problems. Animals can carry parasites, bacteria, and other contaminants that can affect your well.

Understand that hand digging is not only labor-intensive but also prone to flooding and soil erosion

It’s easy to assume that drilling a well is a simple process. The truth is, building a well is a difficult process. It takes time, money, and effort.

In addition, it can be a very expensive proposition for you as a landowner. Digging a well is a major undertaking.  If you’re going to build a well, you’ll need to understand how the well is constructed. This includes understanding that the process can be both difficult and dangerous.

According to the EPA, the most common type of well construction is the vertical well. Vertical wells are dug down about 50 feet and then lined with concrete to keep the well from leaking. These wells have the advantage of being able to draw water more efficiently than other types of wells. They require fewer pumps to move water to the surface. Vertical wells are also easier to maintain because the walls provide a stable surface for repairs. But they require the most amount of excavation.

A horizontal well is another type of well construction. Horizontal wells are dug in a line and then lined with concrete. The horizontal well has the advantage of producing water more quickly. It also requires less labor to maintain than a vertical well.

 Talk to a well drilling consultant or company

Don’t just start digging. First, talk to a well drilling consultant or company about your project if you can.  They are experts and even if you don’t use them to build your well they can show you the best spot on your property and give you an idea of how deep you will need to dig.

Gather all materials and tools you will need for the project

Here are the tools you are going to need to dig your well.

You should also include:

  • A pickaxe or shovel (preferably a hatchet)
  • Steel reinforcing bar (“rebar”)
  • A hacksaw
  • A pair of wire cutters
  • An adjustable wrench
  • A 12-foot section of 3/8-inch galvanized steel pipe
  • A section of 4-foot, 6-inch galvanized steel pipe
  • Drilling mud
  • A 5-gallon bucket
  • A container to hold clean water to be used as you dig
  • Flashlight
  • Work gloves
  • Eye protection
  • A dust mask
  • Protective clothing

Prepare your site Make sure the area is free of any debris and brush. If possible, have the area graded and compacted. Use the dirt from the grading and compaction to line the bottom of the hole. This will prevent the hole from caving in when the well is constructed.

Dig the hole

Well building is typically done by drilling, digging, or driving the well out. There are many different ways to do this, again, we can’t say this enough, you should check with your local authority before starting your project.

Right now we’re going to do it the old-fashioned way and dig a water well by hand.

You will need to dig a hole at least 50 feet deep. The length of the well depends on several factors including the yield of the soil, your water table, and how much water you want to withdraw from your property. The deeper the better. It’s also a good idea to backfill around the outside of the well with dirt so it will not erode and cause more problems for you in the future.

As you dig the hole, keep an eye out for objects that are likely to be in your well, such as large rocks, underground springs, or other types of plumbing. If you see these objects, stop digging and mark the spot so you don’t accidentally dig them up. Also, if the ground becomes soft or wet, stop digging until it dries out.

What’s more, keep in mind that while you are digging, the walls of the well can collapse, and this is not good. It’s always a good idea to check on your progress as you go and to stop every few minutes to rest. The depth of the well depends on how much water you want to withdraw from the well. As mentioned before, the deeper the well, the more water you will have access to. Once the hole is 50 feet deep, cover it with a layer of gravel (a mixture of pea stone and river sand) and tamp it down firmly with a tamper. You can do this by hand or with a tamper, which is a long-handled tool similar to a trowel. The gravel keeps rainwater from seeping into the well.

16. Place the pump in the hole

17. Cover the pump with soil

18. Attach the water line to the pump

19. Check the water line

20. Connect the water line to the well

21. Turn on the pump

22. Test the water

23. If everything is okay, fill the well with water

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