Knowing Our Limitations

Published On: November 17, 2022By Categories: Business Management, Drilling, Plan for Success

We need to make sure our industry is protecting the resource we provide to our customers.

By Ron Peterson

The water well industry is possibly the oldest industry. The first record of well construction I know of is in the Bible. Genesis, chapter 21, verse 30 states: “For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.”

We have come a long way from the first record of water well construction, and the groundwater industry we work in every day is strong and growing at this time.

We now have many new innovations making well drilling easier and safer. Yet with all the innovations, we can still find situations where the early methods and technology are still in use. There are still people hand digging their wells. I’m not sure about the spring pole, but the cable tool is still in use.

In some instances, we still tend to resist change largely because of the cost of the newer technology and uncertainty as to whether it will improve the performance, quality, and efficiency of the operation.

But there are many of you who embrace the advances and integrate them into your operations successfully.

It is becoming more difficult to find people who want to work on drilling projects, which makes the embracing of newer, more innovative methods critical to continuing your operations.

The amount of water on the earth is finite and doesn’t change. What does change is the quality of the water and the location of the water.

Today we have automated rod handling and computerized drilling rigs that can be controlled and monitored remotely. Innovations like these can appear attractive to new employees entering the industry while keeping them safe.

We also continue to frequently overpump the aquifers, which depletes them and makes it necessary to drill even deeper for usable water. However, even in the deeper aquifers, we frequently find the water is not potable without some form of treatment.

Knowing the Rules

There are three rules regarding water that are irrevocable: It is where it is. It is in the quality that it is. It is in the quantity that it is.

The fact that water is where it is has not changed.

The fact that it is in the quality that it is has not changed, but we now can filter and treat water that is not acceptable and make it usable to meet our needs.

The fact that it is in the quantity that it is has not changed, although our ability to replenish aquifers that have been over-pumped has advanced.

With aquifer storage recovery (ASR), or as it is now known more often, managed aquifer recharge (MAR), we can enhance the recovery rate of aquifers to reduce negative impacts of overpumping.

It is critical that we more fully utilize MAR as part of our water management program. The depleted aquifers may over time become unusable and lose their ability to be recharged. This can result in ground subsidence where the aquifer collapses and no longer has the storage capability it once did.

The amount of water on the earth is finite and doesn’t change. What does change is the quality of the water and the location of the water.

When we overpump the aquifers, that water must go someplace and frequently winds up in the oceans, contributing to rising ocean levels. When you think about how low the Ogallala Aquifer is, this becomes a significant volume.

The natural water cycle cannot keep up with our voracious demands for water, so we need to consider sources of water for MAR. Ocean water is certainly a viable option but requires proper treating and conditioning of the water. We have the technology to use ocean water and it is currently being used in many places around the globe.

Desalination is currently being used in many places, both to make seawater usable and to recharge aquifers. It has been in use in Saudi Arabia for years to provide potable water and is being used in Israel to provide potable water as well. An example of such, a pipeline will be put in operation in 2023 to use Mediterranean Sea water to replenish the water that has been overdrawn from the Sea of Galilee. The technology is available.

We also can move water from the area where we find it in surplus to the area where it is depleted.

Questions for Me? Topics to Cover?
If you have a question, concern, or topic that you would like me to address in an upcoming column, please contact me at I look forward to hearing from you!

Knowing Our Priorities

We simply need to recognize the error of our ways and change our priorities to correct our past mistakes.

We need to make the correct choice now before it is too late. It will not be easy and may be expensive, but our options are limited. Let’s take the bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground. The choice is ours.

I frequently say that a man must know his limitations, and this is especially true in this instance. However, in this case, the limits may be self-imposed.

It is my belief that we borrow the earth’s water and other resources from our descendants. Therefore, we need to do everything that we can to leave things in better shape than when we found them.

I have enjoyed my involvement and association with the drilling industry through the years. The staff and members of the National Ground Water Association are dedicated and are committed to providing us with pertinent and up-to-date information on the industry.

Working together, we train each other. Working together, we make the groundwater industry stronger and better able to meet the needs of our customers.

Ronald B. Peterson has been involved with the drilling industry for more than 40 years. He previously worked for Baroid Industrial Drilling Products and is now with Mountainland Supply Co., a supply company in Orem, Utah. He served as The Groundwater Foundation’s McEllhiney Lecturer in 2015 and was given NGWA’s most prestigious award, the 2013 Ross L. Oliver Award. He can be reached at

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