Drilling for water has never been an easy thing to do. Imagine having to dig your own well with a shovel, and a bucket, and your own strength. You dig, fill the bucket, empty the bucket and keep on working until you hit water, and the hole begins to fill. Not a nice job; and that wasn’t the end of it. The sides of the well had to be braced with rocks and stones or some other material so that it wouldn’t collapse, and then covered with a cap made of brick, stone or concrete. Of course that’s not the way it’s usually done today, thank goodness.
The dug well had limitations. It couldn’t be deeper than the top of the water table. There were limitations in the next stage of well production as well. By the mid twentieth century, people were producing wells using augers or pipes driven into the ground. Augers or pipes could only go down to the point where they hit water and then they had to stop, limited by their length. As well, neither of these instruments could produce a wide hole, so the amount of water the well produced was limited.
The modern way to get a water well is to drill it, in the same way that the oil industry drills for oil. The advantage is that the drillers can produce a deep well, one that produces a lot of water and delivers it with the help of a pump that pushes the water up to the surface. The drilling rigs are mounted on the back of trucks and they use rotary drills to smash their way down through the rocks and the ground. The disadvantages to drilled wells is their expense and the environmental mess they make.
No matter what method is used to drill for water, one initial problem remains. How can the landowner be sure — before bringing in the drilling rigs, or the man with the shovel and bucket — that there will be water at the bottom of the hole? There were a few common methods. Sometimes people determined the presence of water based on the types of vegetation in the area, other times they hired a water diviner to walk across the area with a forked stick. Another method was to throw a hat into the air and drill where it landed. In other words, they made their best guess.
Today, we can do better than that. Seismoelectric technology can find water without blindly drilling down 1,000 feet. The equipment sends a sound pulse through the ground that gathers information that can be used to determine the amount of water that drilling in that spot will yield. The information that comes back can provide the landowner with enough to know how much water will come from the aquifer, how long it will last and how fast it will flow. This is very much better than guessing.