Ultimate Guide to Water Well Drilling

Water well drilling is an essential service for both residential and commercial customers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Access to a reliable source of clean water is critical, and the urgency becomes even more apparent when an existing well runs dry or produces a low amount of water. In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of water well drilling, including special considerations for farms, neighborhoods that want to share a single well, and other unique circumstances that need to be taken into account when drilling for water.

well-drilling technician monitoring water floor at drilling rig

How Are Water Wells Drilled?

There are several methods used in drilling water wells, depending on the geological conditions and the desired well depth. When working with an expert well technician they will recommend one of these services based on your specific location and local regulations.

Mud Drilling: This is an efficient and versatile method that involves using a mud rotary drill rig to circulate a drilling fluid (mud) through the borehole and is common in softer geological formations like clay, silt, and sand. It utilizes a drilling fluid, or “mud,” which is circulated through the borehole during the drilling process. The mud serves several purposes, including maintaining borehole stability, cooling and lubricating the drill bit, and removing drill cuttings.

Primarily, mud rotary drilling is prevalent in coastal areas with sand, silt, and clay, such as the Maryland counties of Anne Arundel, Harford, Calvert, St. Mary’s, and some parts of Baltimore County. In Virginia, locations east of I-95 and near the Potomac River may also use this drilling method.

Rock Drilling: This method is used when drilling through solid rock formations with hard, dense geological layers that other drilling methods may struggle to penetrate. The drill bit is attached to the end of steel drilling rods, which is then rotated by the drill rig’s hydraulic system.

mud drilling rig and rock drilling rig parked next to each other in rural Virginia Mud and Rock Drilling Rigs

As the drill bit rotates, it applies pressure and cuts into the rock, breaking it into small fragments. As the drilling progresses, cuttings (small pieces of rock) are produced. Drill cuttings are removed from the borehole by the injection of high-pressure compressed air, down the middle of the drill rod, exiting out of the annular space between the drill rod and the borehole.

Air rotary well drilling is a common method used in most counties outside of the coastal regions in Maryland, Southern Pennsylvania, and Northern Virginia.

Geothermal Drilling: This type of drilling is primarily used to access geothermal energy resources. Geothermal wells can be quite deep and require specialized drilling equipment and techniques. These drilling projects may be located in environmentally sensitive areas, requiring careful planning and adherence to regulations to minimize the impact on the surrounding ecosystem.

Environmentally responsible green technology, such as geothermal systems, helps reduce the reliance on fossil fuels by eliminating on-site combustion. This substantially decreases the demand for power generation, resulting in a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and minimizing the environmental impact associated with nonrenewable resource extraction.

What is the Typical Cost of Water Well Drilling?

A typical water well generally costs $15 to $30 per foot, with deeper wells being more expensive. Cost can vary significantly based on factors such as depth, location, geology, and the type of drilling method used. When considering a well drilling contractor, make sure to ask about the following considerations:

  • What drilling method do they plan to use?
  • What are the estimated depth and cost per foot?
  • Any additional costs, such as permits, water testing, or well casing
  • Is this an all-inclusive estimate for well pump, pressure tank, and excavating the ground from the pump to the home or commercial building?
  • How long have they been drilling?
  • What type of customer support do they have after well drilling is complete?
  • Do they have any references for the local area?

well-drilling rotary drill bit lying next to well-drilling rig

What is the Typical Well Drilling Process?

The well drilling process typically involves the following steps:

1. Site Selection

A suitable location for the well is chosen based on factors like accessibility, geology, and proximity to potential sources of contamination.

2. Permits and Regulations

Necessary permits are obtained, and local regulations are followed. Some counties have special requirements for drilling and well casing depth. The permit issued before drilling will always list special conditions and requirements.

layers of dirt in a well borehole

3. Drilling

The well is drilled using the appropriate method for the site’s geology and desired depth (mud or rock).

4. Casing and Grouting

The well is lined with a casing to prevent collapse. The annular space around the casing and the hole drilled then needs to be filled with a grout to protect the well and prevent contamination.

5. Abandoning existing well

This step is necessary when a new well replaces an old one. The process involves pumping grout to the bottom of the old well until it is completely filled and no longer in use.

6. Well Development

The well is developed to improve water quality and flow. This step helps to ensure the well’s long-term performance, efficiency, and water quality. Proper well development can also prolong the well’s lifespan and reduce the need for maintenance or repairs.

7. Water testing and treatment

The well water is tested by your well drilling company for quality and treatment if necessary. In some counties, the permit fee also includes a usage and occupancy (U&O) test by the county to verify the well is drilled properly, the water is portable and free from bacteria.

8. Installation of pumping equipment

A pump and associated equipment are installed to bring water from the well to the surface to provide a reliable and efficient supply of water for use in the home or business.

9. Water analysis

The water test performed by the well drilling company isn’t always comprehensive. So, to be fully assured of the safety of your water, this last step can be completed by a water treatment technician who will review all the basic levels of your water like acidity (Ph), iron, and hardness. Since Carroll Water is a full-service well drilling and water treatment company, they will conduct a free water analysis.

clear glass of clean drinking water

Expert Well-Drilling Tips and Misconceptions

Can you drill a well anywhere and find water?

No, not all locations have access to a reliable water source. It’s essential to consult with a professional to determine the feasibility of drilling a well on your property.

Does a divining rod really work?

Divining rods, also known as dowsing, have been used for centuries to locate water sources. However, there is no scientific evidence to support their effectiveness. It’s best to rely on professional knowledge and equipment for well location and drilling.

Are there any special considerations for a farm well?

Many considerations are essential in providing a consistent and reliable water source to a farm for irrigation, livestock, and other operations. The well-planning process requires specialized knowledge and expertise, as water quantity and quality are critical for maintaining healthy crops and animals.

When drilling agricultural wells, it is important to consider factors such as water rights, environmental impact, and long-term sustainability, ensuring that your well supports your farm’s needs while promoting responsible water management.

aerial view of well drilling site on a coastal Maryland farm

What considerations should neighborhoods be aware of for a community well municipality?

When neighborhoods share a private municipal well source, also known as a community well, there are several important considerations to ensure the well can provide an adequate and reliable supply of water for all users:

Well capacity: The well must be designed to meet the peak water demand of the entire neighborhood. This involves calculating the expected water usage for each household and any shared facilities, such as parks or community centers, and ensuring the well can produce enough water to meet these needs.

Water quality: Regular testing and monitoring of the well water are crucial to ensure it remains safe and free of contaminants. A shared well may require more frequent testing than an individual well due to the larger number of users and potential sources of contamination.

Infrastructure: A shared well system typically requires more extensive infrastructure, such as distribution lines, pressure tanks, and booster pumps, to ensure water is delivered consistently and at the proper pressure to all homes in the neighborhood.

Legal and regulatory compliance: Shared wells may be subject to additional regulations and permitting requirements compared to individual wells.

side view of carroll water well drilling rig

Call on the Experts in Well Drilling

For over 100 years, Carroll Water has provided our customers with reliable and efficient water well drilling services including well drilling, equipment, inspection, and maintenance. Our team of licensed professionals is dedicated to ensuring you have access to essential pure water, always. Contact our expert well technician for a site visit and a free quote for your well drilling or water service today.

Brian Gaughan

Brian Gaughan

Brian Gaughan, CEO of Carroll Water, oversees all of the day-to-day operations and leads a dedicated team of professionals specializing in water filtration and treatment, well drilling, and geothermal services. Brian and the Carroll Water team of expert water professionals are licensed Master Well Drillers, Water Conditioner Installers, Wastewater Operators/Plant Operators, Class A Contractors, Maryland Home Improvement Contractors, and Pump Installers.

Brian joined Carroll Water in 2015 as the Sales Manager. Over the years, his expertise in sales and customer service, particularly in the residential and commercial sectors, has reinforced the company's stature in the mid-Atlantic region for providing expert services in water treatment and well-drilling.

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