Water Well Journal Q&A


Authors of Operational Stage of the Well

Thomas M. Hanna, PG
Thomas M. Hanna, PG
Michael J. Schnieders, PG, PH-GW
Michael J. Schnieders,
John H. Schnieders, Ph.D., CPC
John H. Schnieders,
Ph.D., CPC









Most groundwater professionals know wells deteriorate at varying rates depending on their environment. This is based on factors such as well design, hydrogeology, water quality, operational history, rehabilitation history, and more. Understanding all of this can be difficult, and a new book from NGWA Press is aiming to help industry professionals by providing a method to assess and assign a value to a well’s health.

The book, Operational Stage of the Well, is authored by long-time industry professionals Thomas M. Hanna, PG, Michael J. Schnieders, PG, PH-GW, and John H. Schnieders, Ph.D., CPC.

The authors bring a wealth of knowledge to the topic. John Schnieders, author of the 2003 book Chemical Cleaning, Disinfection & Decontamination of Water Wells, gave the William A. McEllhiney Distinguished Lecture Series in Water Well Technology in 2002. Michael Schnieders, his son, will deliver the lecture this year. Thomas Hanna, who wrote the 2006 NGWA Press text Guide for Using the Hydrogeologic Classification System for Logging Well Boreholes, has led several NGWA workshops and training sessions for other groups around the country.

All three have written multiple articles for Water Well Journal. With the new book now available, WWJ asked the authors about it.

Water Well Journal: What do you want the readers to take away from this book?

Authors: We as a society and an industry are looking to groundwater as a safe and reliable resource and, as such, are extending the use and demand placed on a well—oftentimes years beyond their design limitations. Sadly, wells still remain an out-of-sight resource that are operated to the point of failure or greatly diminished capacity before corrective action occurs.

This book gives the well owner, operator, and contractor a means of tracking well “health” while at the same time understanding the importance of tracking well changes and providing guidance on maintenance.

WWJ: What is the most common mistake made by water well professionals when it comes to maintaining a well’s life?

Authors: Not collecting and documenting data concerning the construction, operation, and production of the well and water chemistry data. If the data is collected, it is often not saved in a format that can be useful—this has led to a common industry practice of “run to failure” or a near failure attitude . . . and trying to revive a “near-death” patient on a lowest-bidder budget.

WWJ: The book mentions there are four operational stages, everything from a well designed appropriately and performing economically all the way to one not performing economically that may not be able to be rehabilitated. How did you come up with the four stages?

Authors: The four stages were developed as a way to track the aging or decline of a well in a way that could give the well owner or custodian a way of planning and budgeting for well rehabilitation and repair before it becomes an out-of-water emergency.

It also provided a mechanism for well operators to present budgets with documentation to budgetary committees that might not have water well backgrounds.

WWJ: The book provides a detailed table to help water-well professionals monitor a well’s aging. What is the most important parameter to watch?

Authors: In their own way they are all important and the more information you have about a well, the easier it is to track the well aging and prevent out-of-water emergencies. There is no one single parameter that defines a well’s operational stage.

Yes, the pump cavitating or a coliform occurrence may demand immediate action, but more often wells can show signs of changes in the well structure, production, pumping plant, and water chemistry that are indicators of well deterioration that are there before failure—and that is what we are attempting to educate the industry on and provide a framework for more proactive well ownership.

WWJ: How much can you potentially impact or lengthen a well’s life if using the method in the book?

Authors: The core foundation of designing the well correctly, taking care during construction and properly developing the resource, regularly monitoring and addressing maintenance concerns in a timely and safe manner, can easily prolong a well’s life.

A well is no different than so many things in our life; they require regular care and maintenance. More so when you consider the number of potential impacts and influences that exist when you are considering a water supply well.

WWJ: Flooded well systems are discussed in the book. What do water well professionals need to think about as climate change becomes more prevalent, bringing more rain and flooding?

Authors: Common sense issues such as setting the well outside of a drainage or low-lying area, diverting potential water pathways away from the wellhead, enhancing the well seal and wellhead protection efforts, and when necessary, going beyond the basic requirements are all important aspects as well as educating the well owner on these challenges and the potential increase in occurrences.

WWJ: What do you think is the most important factor today when it comes to good well maintenance?

Authors: Being proactive! Moving beyond the common runto-failure and out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitudes. We need to really look at the well as a long-term resource and design, construct, and maintain specific to that well setting and need—not just the basic requirements or cheapest effort.

Get the Just-Published Book on the Stages of a Well System
The book, Operational Stage of the Well, was just published by NGWA Press. The book is authored by Thomas M. Hanna, PG, Michael J. Schnieders, PG, PH-GW, and John H. Schnieders, Ph.D., CPC. It details how to understand various factors and how they impact well operation and maintenance. Through research, field work, and laboratory work they have developed a method for assessing the information and assigning a value to the well in regard to its health.

Get more information and order in the NGWA Bookstore.

Thad PlumleyThad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at tplumley@ngwa.org and on Twitter @WaterWellJournl.