Water Well Planning

Published On: October 19, 2021By Categories: Business Management, Drilling, Plan for Success

It is a must to go into each well drilling job with a detailed and organized plan.

By Ronald B. Peterson

Problems can occur in most situations, but especially when drilling a water well—even in carefully planned situations.

For example, hole problems may be encountered in areas where similar drilling practices were used earlier and no such problems existed previously. This is because the Earth’s formations are nonhomogeneous, not the same or uniform throughout. Therefore, two wells near each other may have totally different geological and hydrological conditions.

In well planning, the key to achieving objectives successfully is to design drilling programs anticipating potential hole problems rather than on caution and containment.

Drilling problems can be costly. They can also come via other factors not directly related to the actual drilling operation—such as unexpected rig failure, inaccurate previous and current paperwork, poor training, human habits, etc.

Identifying and anticipating potential drilling problems, understanding their causes, and planning solutions in advance are necessary for overall well-cost control and for successfully reaching the target zone. Keeping the drilling project successful and profitable by managing the loss control is dependent on proper planning.

The 6 P’s of success are Proper Planning and Practice Prevents Poor Performance. It has also been said that failure to plan = planning to fail.

The Important Details

Proper planning is the key to the success of any project. Planning must start at the very beginning when the well is simply a thought or desire. There are three irrevocable rules or laws, if you will, when it comes to groundwater:

  1. Water is where it is.
  2. Water is in the quantity that is present.
  3. Water is of the quality that we find it.

None of these rules are within our control to change. Do not drill a well hoping for water. Hope is not a strategy.

Success begins before the first turn of the bit. There are areas where you can poke a hole in the ground with a stick and find water and other areas where you can drill forever and never encounter water.

Try to determine how much water is available from information available on other wells in the area. You may only get one gallon a minute, and if so, you may be able to get by with that amount if properly managed. Look at other alternatives if water isn’t there such as piping or hauling water and cisterns.

Is the available water potable, and if not, can it be economically and adequately treated to make it acceptable?

There are several other questions that must be asked and answered. They involve:

Pre-planning: What information do you have from other wells drilled in the area? How deep do you think you will have to drill? What is the anticipated water potential? Is the desired goal feasible?

Geographic location: Where will the rig and related equipment be located and how will you get them on the location safely?

Geological information: What are the geological characteristics of the determined site of the well? What flow and pressure data do you have from offset wells? Do you anticipate any borehole stability issues? Do you or any of your crew have any previous personal experience in this area?

Drilling method: What exact drilling method will you use? What auxiliary equipment will you need and what equipment will you want to have on hand for potential contingency use?

Make sure you include drill pipe, stabilizers, drill collars, drill bits, pumps, mixing equipment, drilling fluid tanks, and solids control equipment. Also, what drilling fluid additives do you need, and do you anticipate any losses of returns or artesian flows?

Keeping the drilling project successful and profitable by managing the loss control is dependent on proper planning.

Finally, you need to ask how are you going to complete the well: open hole completion, screen diameter and slot size, gravel pack, sealing method (cement or grout)? Do you have the material and equipment necessary to accomplish the final construction?

The Critical Numbers

I firmly believe that in the drilling business it is better to be looking at it than looking for it.

Once you have determined the potential for potable water is acceptable and you are ready to move forward with the project, you need to know and understand your costs.

Make sure you have considered and are aware of the following:

  • Fixed costs: This is what it costs you to be in business. Things in this category include overhead, office costs, wages, insurance, utilities, and lease or other payments required whether you are drilling a well or not.
  • Variable costs: Wear and tear on the drilling equipment, labor costs, expendables (bits, fuel, drilling fluid additives). All these costs are directly related to the completion of the well.
  • Short-term goals: These are things that need to be done immediately such as price quotes, identifying suppliers, contingency plans, and availability of the necessary materials.
  • Long-term goals: These are the anticipated completion and timing of materials needed during each stage of the project.
  • Profit goal: These are your wage. After you have paid all the fixed and variable costs, this is what is left for you and your business.

I think it is important to remember our objectives going into every job are to:

  • Protect the environment and the aquifers.
  • Optimize the well for long-term sustainable production and the desired acceptable volume.
  • Maximize the use and sustainability of the aquifer.
  • Produce water in the desired quantity and quality.
  • Comply with all applicable regulations and laws.
  • Do it all in the most economic manner possible and still realize an acceptable profit.
If you have a subject that you would like to see addressed, please contact me at ron.peterson@mc.supply.

Where Do We Go from Here?

So, how do we apply the six P’s to a successful well drilling job?

  • Be a part of the solution.
  • Match the tools and methods to the job at hand. All tools are good when properly used.
  • Plan the entire process prior to submitting the proposal and starting the job.
  • Realize your limitations and make sure you can do the job correctly.

Take advantage of tools that are available to ensure your success—such as training from the suppliers you use, the NGWA Drilling Cost Calculator, the NGWA Pump Installation Cost Calculator, appropriate training seminars when offered, and the experience of others when offered.

Plan your work, work your plan, stay safe, work smart, have fun, and make money.


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@mc.supply.

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