Drilling a Well: Developing a New Water Source On-Property

Apr 01, 2018 - By Hayden Outdoors

Developing a water source for your property shouldn’t be a daunting experience.


Once a buyer has purchased a parcel of land, one of the most likely first steps in developing the property is drilling a well. For the first-time landowner, the prospect can be daunting, but it needn’t be. Wells are simply part of rural life and, while not inexpensive, they provide both reliable water sources and a sense of self-sufficiency for property owners.


What to Expect When Drilling a Well?

So, what can a new property owner expect when it comes to drilling a well? Public records (likely available through a state’s water division) offer a good source of usable intel. By examining well permits and pump tests for neighboring properties, one can gather data on common well depths and pump rates in the area. It’s important to remember that each property’s drilling conditions can be unique; a neighbors’ experiences might not reflect the reality encountered on a particular parcel.


Planning a Well Location on Your Property

A landowner will need to investigate the well-permit application process. A state will generally offer different permit types, which regulate how water can be used. In Colorado, for example, a “domestic” permit typically limits usage to household use, the watering of livestock, and the irrigation of up to one acre; “household” permits are available for in-home use; higher-volume uses require irrigation or commercial permits.

A drilling contractor will consult with a landowner on potential well locations, taking into account the contours of the land and the parcel’s geology. A well driller will work to avoid geologic barriers, like bedrock, and low spots in which surface water could pool, potentially contaminating a well. A well should be located away from other potential contamination sources, such as septic fields or ag ground on which pesticides and fertilizers will be applied.

The contractor will drill the well. If all goes according to plan – and the process generally does go according to plan – the driller will hit a productive aquifer, then line the hole with steel casing. A well pump will be installed, most likely in the well itself. A pump test can then be performed, providing data on water quality, pumping rate, and well performance. It’s a good idea for a property owner to have a well test performed regularly (some suggest on an annual basis) to monitor both a well’s functionality and the nature of the water being output.

As for the cost of drilling a well, this will depend on geography, geology (the degree of difficulty in hitting water, the depth a contractor will need to drill), and the regional market. A very general guideline often cited is $15 to $30 per foot. A contractor, though, might charge a set fee that covers fixed costs and drilling to predetermined depth at which water is commonly hit, then charge per foot after that point, if further drilling is necessary to reach an aquifer. A well pump, a pressure tank, and remaining water-supply infrastructure are additional expenses.


Well Maintenance & Water Source Management

Once a well is in place, protecting that water source, particularly from potential contaminants, should be among a landowner’s chief priorities. A well pump won’t last forever, but quality equipment can typically be expected to last 10 to 15 years before requiring replacement; in the event the well pump shuts down, have a contractor’s number handy. Some landowners install cistern systems as backup measures; water contractors can generally outline such options and their costs.