The history of well digging technology

From the beginning of time, the hunt for drinking water sources has been of utmost importance. In fact, it was the difference between life and death. People could go weeks with limited food supply but only days without water, and because of this urgency, people focused on technology to remove the stress associated with this act.

Hand digging wells

Hand digging water wells used to be the only method of well digging. Today this technology of digging water wells is almost a lost art everywhere but in Africa and other developing nations.

Well digging is universal – from animals like elephants who were observed to dig pits in dry riverbeds to human societies living near and following shallow dry streambeds. This approach to water finding was probably followed for thousands of years while the focus was on core survival and there was limited time for invention – people were nomadic and only relied on temporary water sources from camp site to camp site.

These wells were no more than a few meters deep but slowly evolved to be big enough for a person to climb into to drink from. The evolution from temporary water sources to deeper, more permanent water sources likely developed as the technology to lift or carry water evolved – pottery or bags made of animal skins were used to transport water from the holes; eventually ropes were tied to containers to lift dirt in the digging of wells and to carry the water from greater depths to the surface for transport.

Some of these earlier wells were engineering marvels, impressive even in today’s standards. In fact some of the earlier 4th century BC wells found in Greece were more than thirty meters deep and recent excavations in Athens uncovered early wells up to 33 meters deep. Many of these same Greek wells were large enough to accommodate stairs reaching down to the water table. These wells would have had casings or liners made from wood, stone, brick or mortar.

Technology to select location

Just as the technology to dig the water well was relevant, so too was the ability to find the ideal location to dig the well – other than the obvious digging in shallow streambeds to find water. One way that this was done is through the observation of certain plants such as bulrush, alder, reeds and ivy being an indicator of the presence of shallow groundwater. Early settlers and explorers of North America also used cottonwood and sycamore trees as evidence of shallow subsurface water.

American Water Surveyors

Focusing on the evolution of well digging technology has made survival that much easier. For those seeking guidance to find these water sources, the need for technology to guide us in finding adequate water sources will continue to rise. At the American Water Surveyors, we spend a lot of our time dedicated to using state-of-the-art technology to provide necessary professional and accurate information to our clients with respect to water sources. While we provide our services at Fort Worth, Texas, our equipment is highly portable, which allows us to conducts groundwater surveys almost anywhere we are needed. Contact us at 877-SEISMO1 (734-7661); 817-788-5716; or e-mail to find out how we can assist you.