Thirsty Are Those Who Do Not Prep- Part 2, by The Grumpy Gunfighter

Without water, survival is impossible, even if you have a storage facility filled with bullets, bandaids, beans, and batteries. My family and I prep in the desert southwest and have taken action so that we won’t find ourselves thirsty in the event of a crisis.

Well Drilling 101 (continued)

Methods and Techniques Used to Find Groundwater

Ideally, you want to have year around dedicated water access. However, not everyone has access to a fresh lake, spring, aquifer, pond, or stream. Many people have to drill a well, and that’s what we are talking about now– Well Drilling 101. Specifically, we left off just beginning to discuss the methods and techniques used to find groundwater. I mentioned the scientifically proven ones but then referenced Dowsing, which should be approached with a healthy dose of skepticism.


For hundreds, if not thousands, of years, a method called Dowsing has been used by individuals called “dowsers” or “water witches”. These individuals claim to have the ability to detect significant amounts of groundwater below the earth’s surface. Dowsers often use a method involving two “L” shaped rods or a Y shaped tree branch. The “water witches” will then hold the rods or tree branches between their finger and walk over an area. They claim that if the rods or branches twitch or cross in a certain way, it is because they are sensing water below the surface in aquifers, veins, or faults.

Now while personally I try and stay clear of anyone holding a stick and calling themselves a witch, there are many people all over the world who claim that this is a viable way to locate ground water. A close family friend of mine works for a professional well drilling business here in the Southwest, and he states that they use a water witch who is correct about 95% of the time. Ultimately, it is unclear if these individuals are able to sense something abnormal or if they just happen to get lucky, as some form of groundwater is common in most places if you dig deep enough.

Topographical Map and Indicators of Groundwater Below

If you aren’t in the business of employing witches but still want to locate a good place for your well, it may be beneficial to obtain a detailed topographical map of your property. A detailed topographic map can help you easily locate valleys or low points on the property. Many times these locations provide better, viable water sources, because water naturally collects there. Such indications as continually produced puddles and also seasonal trees and other healthy plants both that stay green longer than others in the area are good indicators that there is a significant amount of groundwater below.

Drill Off To One Side of Valley

It is important to realize that it may be logical to drill a well in the exact center of where that valley or low area comes together. However, it is often better to drill off to one side or the other, instead of directly in the middle. The direct center of where valleys come together is often times comprised of rock that is more likely to crumble and be broken into small fragments, which have a tendency to collapse in on itself. Ideally, you will want a well drilled through solid bedrock that won’t erode into itself.

Test Hole To Sample Characteristics of Rock Below Earth’s Surface

After considering the topography of the area in which you want to dig, many ground water surveyors and hydrologists use a test hole to sample the characteristics of the rocks and minerals found below the earth’s surface. This process is often called lithology, which is another way of saying the study of a rock’s composition, description, and classification. Based upon the lithology of the test sample on your property, hydrologists can get a good idea of the depth and composition of the groundwater in your area.

Determine How Much Water You’ll Need

Additionally, a test hole can give you indications on how much water can be sustainably pumped out of that location. The information that is going to be most applicable to you is your well recovery rate, which in essence is how quickly the well can recharge with water after or while being drained. In addition, you will want to take into consideration the capacity volume of the well you want to dig.

Volume of Water in the Well

To give you some perspective, a regular six-inch diameter well stores right around 1.5 gallons of water per foot of well depth. However, the overall volume of water in the well depends on how deep it is, where the static level of water lies, and the location of your water pump. The static water level is the natural level of the water when it is not being pumped out.

Water experts from the New Hampshire Well Water Board recommend that for a four-person household with moderate water usage have a well that can sustain a “water flow rate of four gallons per minute for a four hour period”. (This is from New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, 2010.) If you plan on doing light irrigation or watering small amounts of livestock, you will likely need a larger, deeper well that can sustain a flow rate of five gallons per minute or higher.

When to Dig

Knowing when to dig is nearly as important as knowing where to dig, as fluctuations in the dry and wet seasons will significantly impact the depth of your water table. Optimal well drilling is usually done at the very end of the dry season in order to ensure that the well is deep enough during the driest part of the year, when the water table is at its lowest point. Digging during the rainy season often isn’t recommended, because the wetter the surface soil, the harder it becomes to drill deep without it sloughing off into itself, which can effectively fill in well shaft as quickly as it is dug.

Legalities of Well Drilling

During a societal collapse, the last thing you might be worried about is county ordinances and regulations regarding well placement. But, unfortunately, the best time to build your well is prior to a disaster, and so it is important to also familiarize yourself with the permits you may need in your county to legally drill one. Many countries and states have very strict and specific requirements for well specifications. Some restrictions include how far the well needs to be from from roadways, septic systems, and property boundaries. Every state and county is different, so be sure to look through your state and county regulations prior to hiring a drill contractor.

Having a Professional Well Built

One of the many reasons why it is important to begin well construction before any type of unrest is because modern wells in the U.S., anywhere from around 200 feet deep to 2,000 feet and even deeper, take a very specific set of expensive machinery and techniques to properly drill. There are several types of well drilling machinery, but for the purposes of this article we will focus on one of the most common types, which is where a tri tip rotary drilling machine is used to punch and blast through the top layers of the earth and eventually into the bedrock where groundwater can be accessed.

Tri Tip Rotary Drilling

This process begins after the optimal site has been chosen. A drilling team consisting of the a drilling truck that is equipped with a hydraulic boom, and one or two supporting vehicles will be needed to hold water and extra drill attachments. The drill truck will have to begin on level ground so that the hole is as straight down as possible. The more material between the ground surface and the top of the bedrock will determine how deep the well will need to be dug.

The boom truck is able to take a series of roughly 20-foot long drill extensions that attach to one another and continually push down the drill bit that rotates at the tip. The drill bit has openings through which water and compressed air are pushed through to blast out excess material while also keeping the drill bit cool.

Professionals Wells Dug Deeper

Most professional wells are drilled several hundred feet deeper than the static water level. The reason behind this is because when pumping water, the water level will be drawn down in a conical fashion. If the water level draws down below the pump, it can destroy the pump, which is why most are outfitted with a pump saver sensor to turn it off before it becomes exposed.

After Water Table Tapped

After the water table had been tapped long steel tubes called casings are dropped into the length of the well hole. These casings are bolted and welded together piece by piece as they are dropped down the well. The casings ensure that the earth won’t collapse around the well while also having perforations to allow water to seep in so that a pump can suck it up the well shaft and out, so it can be used.

Gap Filled In Between Casings and Earth

Once the casings have been set in place the gap between the one- to two-inch gap between the metal tubular casings and the earth around them is filled in with a cement or grout mixture to help ensure that contaminates don’t travel down the length of the gap into the water table below.

Submerged Pump

Most modern wells have an cylindrical electric run pump and filter that can be fed down the length of the well casing. This pump resides submerged in the well water and feeds water through a hose to the ground level, where it can be used.

Costs Can Be Thousands, Even Tens of Thousands, of Dollars

All of that sounds simple enough, but it is important to remember that having a well professionally built can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on its depth, location, and the type of pump and equipment you use to draw water out of it. Ideally, a professionally built well is recommended for the best chance of a stable and clean water source that you and your family can live off of. However, it is entirely possible to build your own well at a significantly lower cost.

Tomorrow, I will talk about building your own emergency well.

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

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  1. I have witched water and sewer lines for years with great success. I was never more than a foot off. I don’t understand how or why it works but i know it does.

  2. Grumpy. Great article! There is so much I didn’t realize you must know and consider when it comes to wells. Keep it coming…I’m hooked. John, thanks for your observation. Rainwater here is prevalent and seems like it should certainly be a collect and store option. Plus it is much cheaper than having a well dug. Thanks again.

  3. We are in the mountains of the Redoubt. Yes indeed, costs of professionally drilled wells can definitely run into “Tens of Thousands, of Dollars”. It is so common here that I recommend finding out the depths of nearby wells BEFORE purchasing any property. I believe the data is public information. Well drillers can provide it to us.

    The depths of the nearest wells to our property where 500 ft. (at a higher elevation) and 140 ft. at the our elevation. We hired a dowser who said, ‘Drill here. You’ll hit a good supply of water at 140 ft.” We hit 35 gal. per min.+ at 160 ft. We were happy.

    Side Note: In Montana, Big Brother requires well drillers to give them the GPS coordinates of all wells. Big Brother also requires well drillers to cap all artesian wells.

  4. Living on a lake, I have an inexhaustible supply of non-potable water, as well as an inexhaustible supply of water for purification. I also have a well, but power for the pump could become a challenge. Does anybody have experience with solar powered well pumps?

    1. Check out the YouTube videos by Engineer775. He has done many offgrid wells and various roof water collection systems.

      He has some inspirational designs. Typically, he prefers having at least three ways to power well pumping: solar, generator, and manual, and on-grid being a 4th way. He has hydraulic ram videos and well drilling I think.

      He also does wood-fired power videos for tractors, cooking, etc. God Bless.

    2. OldParatrooper; My well pump is 240 volt and runs on solar. Drillers fault cause I wanted a simple 120 volt system. But it is what it is. Got a solar setup stand alone for the well consisting of 3 -160 watt panels and the inverter was configured for 240 volt ac running off of 3-24 volt batt banks by Solarc, which I can’t recommend highly enough.
      The pump refused to recognize the ground system used by Solarc at first and always gave a ground fault error code. Solarc’s chief eng. worked with me until the problem was solved (many phone calls & e-mails).Solved by running an additional 240 v ac input to 240 v ac output transformer. Bit of a hassle at first but it worked out fine. Cabin runs off Solarc 48 volt driven 120 v ac system and no issues. A fine company and they offer EMP hardened inverters.

  5. If the info is available, do some research on line, and find the well permits of the surrounding properties (depth, location, gpm)… plot those points on a map and draw straight lines between the wells. Assume that at the middle point of the line, the depth and gpm will be the average between the two end points. Your map will look like a web of intersecting lines. That should give you a pretty close approximation of the water available on your land. It worked for me.

  6. I have observed water witching used to find pipes, and it really works for that. My husband (a faithful believer in Christ by the way) who works in water and wastewater is able to douse looking for pipes. I figure that there is something to do with the water or pipes that makes the sticks react.

  7. Grumpy Gunfighter
    We in the field of dowsing prefer the term “Dowser” or “Diviner”, the term of water witch is no longer used, as you stated it makes one believe we are witches.

    An credited dowser actually attends classes which are taught by the members of The Society of American Dowsers all over the United States. We are professional trained not only in area of water location, it can go far a field into the oil business, gold, precious gems. Depends on what the individual wishes to persue in this field of endeavor.

  8. Excellent information thus far, thank you. I look forward to parts 3-5.

    Has anyone ever done a comprehensive piece on how to ensure that your well is completely hidden from view? All of that time and money could be wasted if The Golden Horde sucks it dry.

  9. Good solid science reaffirms what the bible says and how things work but I have never ever ever heard or seen basic science test or even prove the reason or basic understanding of how dowsing works or why it works. Couldn’t it be scientifically proven to work if it’s as legit as everyone claims it is? If it’s based on waves or magnetism then couldn’t a tool or device be made for anyone to use since our technology today is so incredibly advanced? Basic scientific observation should be able to reduce how this works and that anyone can use this method to find water. Also seems less about a method or tool and more about this particular person with a gift for “dowsing”.
    I’ve spoke to a few dowsers over the years and their basic explanation of how they do what they do just does not pass the smell test so that’s why I’m waiting for someone to build a HANDHELD UNDERGROUND WATER FINDER (I’m working on the copyright ) and entrepreneur this thing immediately! Until this device comes out I’m remaining very skeptical.
    Could it be a supernatural gift that some people have in order to find water, which is the most essential necessity to stay alive? That’s plausible but I’m still very skeptical based on the origin and history of Dowsing
    My 2 cents

  10. I remember when our well was drilled back when I was in my early teens. The dowser went out to the property at about 6 a.m. when everything was quiet. We had selected several potential home sites and after his survey, he recommend a specific one. He said, “Drill here, and you will hit water at 155 feet and have 7 gallons per minute at 210 feet.” The well drillers told us he was within five feet for both.

    I have never understood people who put in a well AFTER they build their house. Drill it first, just to be safe.

    A couple tips on the equipment after your well is drilled: Talk to your plumber or supplier about your intended water use. If you are going to use a sprinkler system, plan to water your garden or provide water for livestock, or have a bunch of kids, you may need a larger system than they would normally install for a standard house with, say, 2 baths.

    You should size your pump to its intended use, not the well’s capacity. Just because your well can potentially produce 20 GPM does not mean your pump should pump that fast. Not only is an over-sized pump a waste of money, if you keep the pump’s capacity is lower than the well’s capacity, you should never run out of water.

    Size your pressure tank to your pump capacity, but err on going bigger. You want your pump to run for at least one minute to fill your tank because this keeps the pump from overheating. (Yes, this sounds backwards, but the water going through it is used to cool the pump.) Also, the less your pump cycles on and off, the longer it will last.

    You generally want the pump to take at least one minute to fill your tank. It is much better for your pump to run once for 1.5 minutes than three times for 30 seconds. That kind of short cycling is bad for your pump. So if your pump produces 8 GPM, you want your tank to take at least 8 gallons when the pump starts to run. Depending on the type of pressure tank, you probably need at least a 25 gallon tank. It would not hurt to have the next size up.

    Our pump cycles on at around 35 PSI and cycles off a 68. (I check this at least once a year.) It runs for 1 minute 20 seconds if no one is using the water. If someone is showering or the washing machine is filling when the pump kicks in, it will run longer, which is just fine. You can set yours at 30 to 50 or whatever, but this will affect tank capacity and you may notice the different pressure when you shower.

  11. If you dig a well and the water supply is not sufficient to provide enough of gallons per minute to run a household you can still use the well. You will have to have a water storage tank of approx. 600 gallons or more and then just put your submersible well pump on a timer so that it comes on for short durations. That will keep the pump from running your well dry. Mine comes on every hour (24 times a day) and runs for two minutes. The pump pumps the water into the 600 gallon storage tank. I have an above ground pump in my well house that pumps the water from my storage tank into my pressure tank. So when we need water in the house and turn on a faucet the water comes from the pressure tank and we always have a consistent pressure of sixty pounds. Because my submersible pump is coming on every hour while we’re sleeping or gone to work we always have an abundance of water waiting there in our storage tank. We’ve been running this system for about ten years and never run out of water. Our well only produces about a gallon per minute and we have a shallow well with a thirty foot column of water to our disposal but it gives us all the water needed for our house.

  12. Good story. Come from a family of well drillers who think water witching is a good way to separate the gullible from their money.

    It’s common for a customer to inquire about dropping dynamite down the hole to open it up. What can happen is the strata the water is perched on is fractured and pthe well goes dry.

    Last thing. When it’s cold outside and you pat a well driller on the bottom and say “ yes it is colder then a well drillers a**” , he may laugh but he’s heard it hundreds of times.

  13. The geologist said it didn’t really matter where on my property we drilled, all the same. One neighbor to the north was at 350 feet another to the south was at 500 feet. So the estimate was for about 300-350 feet and about $17,000. We hit water after drilling thru 720 feet of solid rock. Once the pipe was put in the water came up to the 330 foot mark. Was end of fall so waited till spring to put in the pump. The water was up to the 300 foot mark and the pump is set at 500 feet down. It runs off solar, takes about 35 amps to pump and the water is very cold and tastes great.

    Total cost was around $35,000, sold my comic book/memorabilia collection to pay for it. Banks here wont fiance wells as they are risky. Also figuring availability and cost changes bought a second back up pump for the future (another $3500) . As the author says you have got to have water for survival.

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