A shallow well can be dug on any property that has a high water table. Typically, the shallow well is used on farms or for homes that do not have access to a city water supply. A hand pump or motorized shallow well pump is installed to draw up the water. The well can be dug in many locations, as long as water is available, and the project can be completed by an ambitious homeowner or do-it-yourselfer.
Finding a Location
A shallow well can only be dug in an area where there is water accessible (i.e. high water table). Your town or county should have information on the height of the water table on your land. A shallow well can also be dug near a spring or natural water source. Make sure the source of water is clean and abundant both in wet and dry months. You should make sure the spring is still running in summer before you dig.
Digging the Well
If the water table is less than six feet deep, you can dig the well with simple hand tools. Any depth greater than six feet will require larger excavating tools. A Bobcat with a backhoe attachment or a backhoe excavator are two options. You can rent either from a rental supply store, or ask a landscaper to help you complete this part of the project. Another option is to "jet" the well. This method only works in areas with sandy dirt. Using a hose, you force water into the ground to clear the sand and dirt. A PVC pipe is then forced into the ground behind the water.
To build a well, you will need a container to keep dirt out of the water and retain the shape of the well hole. For a large, shallow well, you can use a barrel. Be sure to carefully clean the barrel and remove all paint with a grinder or torch. Another option is to sink a wide metal or PVC pipe into the ground. PVC will not rust or oxidize, but it could crack in cold weather when the ground expands. PVC will also not withstand landslides. Once the pipe is installed, a filter must be added to clean the water of soil and sediment.
A hand pump is a typical solution to draw water up from the well. The pump fits over the pipe, and pumping the handle creates suction and draws water up. Another option is to install a motorized well pump. However, this requires electrical wiring and can be expensive. The well pump fits inside the pipe and creates suction using an electric motor. Since it is a shallow well, you need to buy a shallow electric well pump, one that is designed to pump water shorter distances. The well must also provide a continuous source of water, or the pump must have a regulator that shuts it off when no water is available so that it is not damaged.
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