Water Well Planning

Published On: November 15, 2023By Categories: Business Management, Drilling, Plan for Success

To ensure a quality water well system, several factors must first be considered.

By Ron Peterson

When drilling a water well, the most critical decision is where do I want this well, and even more critical, is where can I put it?

The closer to the house, the better is the answer in many cases, but there are other critical factors to consider too.

There are three hard and fast rules about water:

  • Water is where it is. Is there a real potential for water there? Okay, but if not, you will wind up with an extra deep and very expensive fence post hole.
  • What is the quality of the water? If it’s not of drinking water quality and can’t be treated to make it drinking water quality, you now have another post hole with unusable water.
  • What is the quantity of water that is there? This one is easier. With proper management, it is surprising how little water it takes to supply a home.

The Right Location

Proper due diligence can save you a lot of expense and heartache when it comes to selecting the location. Take advantage of available well records in the area and the experience of others.

You also need to consider if there will be a septic tank on the property and where it will be located. Where is the property line? Do you have the proper setbacks? What was the property used for before? Is there a potential for contamination?

I was once called out on a job to evaluate a bentonite annular seal issue. When I got there, I looked things over and asked about the quality of the groundwater. I was told that there was a fault within 10 feet, and the water on this side of the fault was brackish and the water on the other side of the fault was of good quality and fresh. Strike one!

There was a large building close by. I asked what about the history of the building and was told it was an old military armory. I asked if there was a chance that any diesel fuel, motor oil, or other chemicals might have been dumped in the area, and was told yes. Strike two!

There was also what appeared to be a track close by. I asked what that track was used for and was told that it was used for testing tractor tires. I asked if the tires usually had fluid (calcium chloride solution) in them, and again the answer was yes. I then asked if they ever had any tire failures, and again the answer was yes. Strike three!

The site was the perfect location for a failure of a bentonite-based seal. I asked why that site had been chosen . . . and was told it was easy to get to and convenient.

A well location must be thoroughly vetted as to the feasibility of it being fit for a drinking water well. Every job or project has potential risks and hazards. We need to evaluate all aspects of the job. This takes into account access to the location, previous use of the location, the location layout, the equipment to be used, personnel who will work there, and the level of training and skill of those working there.

The Right Equipment and Tools

Once we have picked the location for the water well, the next step is to design the well system. This includes decisions regarding what type of drill we are going to use and how deep the surface casing needs to be.

You also need to know if there is a need for intermediate casing. What will we use for the screen and final casing? What will we need for a gravel pack? How will we seal the annulus? All of these are questions that must be asked.

We always need to make sure we have the correct equipment, products, and tools to do the job. We need to be sure we are familiar with the products and tools we will be using, that we are familiar with how to use them, and that we are confident they will work as expected.

I have found that I hurry faster when I go slow. Take the time to make sure that you have considered all the risks and potential problems.

I have also found that I would rather be looking at it than looking for it. Make sure that you have everything you will need on location or that you know where it is and can get it quickly if and when you need it. Many problems become larger if the solution is not readily available.

The Right Expectations

Make sure that you confirm the job, the expected procedures, and the desired objectives with the client or customer. This will assure that you understand and meet the customer’s needs and expectations.

Make sure you know when and who to call for help. Always have their phone numbers ready and available. Use them when you need them.

When work begins, look around and be aware of your surroundings. Is there anything that can cause you a problem? Are the surfaces level and clear to walk on? Is the work area clear of debris? If it is a drilling site, is there any drilling fluid anywhere on the ground that may be slick and compromise your footing? Are there any hoses or equipment lying around?

Is everything around you properly secured, and are all the protective guards in place on operating equipment? Always err on the side of caution, and if there is any doubt, play it safe.

There are many protocols that if properly followed can ensure that we are safe. Make sure that if they are not properly followed, the appropriate people are notified to correct the situation.


There are several questions that must be asked when planning a water well system. However, addressing them can help lead to quality water wells, happy customers, and less expensive fence post holes.

Idea for a Column?
If anyone has a question or subject that they would like to see addressed, please contact me at ron.peterson@mountainland.com.

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 ron.peterson@mountainland.com.

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