Continuing a History of Technical Support

A new column on the construction of wells comes from a book thousands of groundwater professionals have on their shelves.

By Thom Hanna, PG

This is a new Water Well Journal column that I am excited to share with you. Groundwater & Wells is going to focus on what you need to know to properly design, construct, and maintain water well systems for your customers. Much of the content will come from Groundwater & Wells, the book thousands of you have on your shelf—first, second, and third editions! The third edition of the book featured many industry professionals contributing their expertise in the different chapters, and this column will call on those experts from time to time. I hope you’re looking forward to reading it as much as I am.
Thad Plumley, WWJ Editor

This is the first installment in a new column devoted to the design, construction, and maintenance of water wells. The information in most of the columns will be from Groundwater & Wells, Third Edition, and the lessons learned by the authors in their journey in the water well industry.

We will call on various authors on occasion for their expertise in the column to provide information on specific topics that were their contributions to Groundwater & Wells.

But first, let’s look at the history of how we got to this point.

There were various state water well drilling associations (North Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin) that were interested in forming a national association in 1928. The result was the creation of the American Association of Water Well Drillers that had a stated purpose of:

“1) Act as a central uniting body for the state associations so as to keep them working in harmony for the good of all, and 2) to take the lead in various matters of national significance such as standardization of well drilling and materials specifications, formulation of a code of ethics, etc.”

The inaugural issue of The Johnson National Drillers Journal (left) in 1929 was mostly delivered in the midwestern United States. It eventually was mailed worldwide until 1984. The May-June 1950 Water Well Journal (right) is shown as the publication was mailed bimonthly its first 10 years before being published monthly as it is today.

This is in fact what the National Ground Water Association is doing today with its many educational programs; NGWA Water Well Construction Standard; advocacy for the water well industry; and much more.

As the American Association of Water Well Drillers grew, there became a demand for an official trade journal, which was the National Well Drillers Journal. The association eventually began looking for a manufacturer that could produce a journal, was interested in the national water well industry, and had a product that “was as nearly as possible non-competitive with others and was willing to launch the project with its consequent burdens and privileges.”

Johnson Screens emerged as that company. While many things have changed today, others have not and we continue to have a variety of manufacturers supporting the water well industry through continuing education and financial support of NGWA.

The Johnson National Drillers Journal first appeared in 1929 and was distributed in the midwestern parts of the United States.

It was first published monthly, then bimonthly, and mailed to consulting engineers, geologists, and governmental officials involved in groundwater resources, as well as water well drillers all over the world.

The stated goal was: “To publish a journal of an educational and technical quality with a very definite aim toward quality and the little attention to the size.”

This column will be devoted to the design, construction, and maintenance of water wells and is in the right place.

The Johnson National Drillers Journal was published until the end of 1984. In addition to the technical achievements of the company, Johnson Screens has been a leading educator, publishing not only The Johnson National Drillers Journal but other titles, as well as providing classes and seminars all over the world, including the annual Groundwater and Wells class today.

Johnson Screens’ book publishing history includes:

  • “Groundwater—Its Development, Uses and Conservation,” an anthology of articles first seen in The Johnson National Drillers Journal, 1946.
  • Groundwater & Wells, which was also known as the “Green Book” and published in more than four languages, 1966.
  • Groundwater & Wells, Second Edition, which introduced more techniques related to rotary drilling and geophysics, 1986.
  • Chemical Cleaning, Disinfection & Decontamination of Water Wells, the first book dedicated to diagnosing well clogging issues and their remediation, 2003.
  • Groundwater & Wells, Third Edition, which features more advanced drilling techniques, well rehabilitation, borehole logging, and computer programs for well design, 2007.

NGWA eventually became the primary source of information and an outlet for sharing ideas to advance the groundwater industry as the industry grew and advanced. NGWA is the place today where the industry looks to for technical information and guidance through its publications that include but are not limited to:

If we look at the recent history of well design, the studies prior to the 1980s were focused on well efficiency as the cost of pumping was a critical factor in well design and operation. Because of the attention on energy savings, many of the studies and literature were dedicated on how to optimize well design.

As the 1980s brought attention to the protection of water resources and energy became cheap, the focus of the groundwater industry shifted toward groundwater contamination.

These trends are evident in the volume of literature devoted to different subjects through time. Recently, less attention has been given to well design and development, and this has resulted in an ambivalence to the importance in design of efficient wells over the last 30 years.

This column will be devoted to the design, construction, and maintenance of water wells and is in the right place. Water Well Journal is the primary publication that focuses on the construction and maintenance of water wells.

I first came to Johnson Screens from the consulting world with the idea of working on Groundwater & Wells, Third Edition, and heading back to consulting when I was finished. . . . Almost 25 years later I am still at Johnson Screens.

I am still at the company because Johnson Screens affords me the opportunity to work on technical projects and do research that helps advance the water well industry in association with great people who I have had the pleasure of working with.

The column will consist of a series of topics covered in Groundwater & Wells, Third Edition, by some of those people who served as the authors of the chapters for the book.

I look forward to your response to future columns.

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Thomas M. Hanna, PG, is a technical director of water well products/hydrogeologist for Johnson Screens where he works in areas of well design, development, and well rehabilitation. He is a registered professional geologist in Arizona, Kentucky, and Wyoming and has worked for several groundwater consulting firms. Hanna can be reached at