Water Well Hell Story – Warren & Diane (Ontario, Canada)
Our Water Well Hell Story
Warren & Diane (Ontario, Canada)
The following is a description of our Water Well Hell water well drilling experience on our property in Eastern Ontario. I post it here because, in the middle of the stress and anxiety of it, we had occasion to speak with Colleen who answered our many questions and put a lot of it in perspective for us.
I wish we had found Colleen Roberts much earlier. If I had to do it again, God forbid, I would be calling Colleen first, I would never drill a well without her complete guidance!
~ Warren and Diane ~
We agonized over the issue of water for two years before we finally decided to have a well drilled. Water is a big issue when it comes to life beyond the grid. We take water for granted but we also take water infrastructure for granted.
One way of looking at adopting a life beyond the grid is that you have to become your own municipal utility, including your own waterworks department.
You have to decide where your water is going to come from, how to move it from one place to another, how to make sure it is potable… all the things a municipal utility normally does for you and that you take for granted when you turn on your tap. When you become your own water utility, you no longer take these things for granted.
If you’ve never had a well drilled…
here’s why we call it our Water Well Hell!
First of all, we did sign a water well drilling contract. This was enough to scare us off the whole idea for over a year during which we looked at every other alternative we might have. We could have taken water from the small lake at the back of the property, and that seemed like a no-brainer at the time, but the devil is in the details and you can double that when it comes to waterworks. To take water from the lake meant putting a pump in the lake to pump water up 100 feet from the lake and 500 feet in total to get it to the cottage.
Relying on solar power for pumping water, we were limited in the kind of pump we could use. We needed a slow start pump. OK, we found one of those but now how to get power to it? Do we run 500 feet of electric wire from the cottage or use a DC pump with a solar panel and battery installed down at the lake? And what about winter? How do you keep the line from freezing when the temperature drops? We solved that one as well.
We traveled to Mississauga to speak with a man at Cottage Water Systems who has developed a water system using valves and a pressure tank to drain the water back to the lake below the surface where it could freeze. Now, this guy knows his stuff and he was very straight with us by giving us enough information about how this would all work and the costs associated for us to determine that, in our case, drilling a well would not be appreciably more expensive.
If we were a bit closer to the lake or the head distance was not so great, his system would have been ideal and I would recommend it for those applications. Unfortunately, it was too costly in our case so we opted, finally, to drill the well.
The only thing close to an appointment to have a water well drilled is to have an appointment with the dentist. Like a visit to the dentist, you are having a hole drilled. In both cases you approach the day with great anxiety. In both cases the more drilling that happens the more of a hole it leaves in your bank account. In both cases there is pain involved!
Drilling a water well was a horrendous experience for us, here’s our “Well Well Hell” story.
Watching helplessly as a well driller goes deeper and deeper into the ground and deeper and deeper into your savings is an excruciating experience. One hundred feet goes by, then two hundred feet… still no water! You think… OK, any minute now they must hit water, but they don’t.
Three hundred feet and still dry and then they quit for the day leaving that hulking monster of a wallet sucking well drilling machine crouched on the front yard. By the end of the day our nerves are shattered and our tempers shortened.
It feels like we are in some kind of suspended animation from which we can be released only by the sight of water.
At the end of the second day, we are the proud owners of a $16,000.00 dry hole drilled over 400 feet into the bedrock. We decide to stop the well drilling insanity. The well drilling guys did feel a little bad and we felt sick, almost violated. So this is what ‘worse case scenario’ feels like!
So, What Did We Learn From Our Water Well Hell Experience?
1. First of all Water Well Hell does not happen to everyone. But some worn-out phrases you’ve heard before suddenly became very meaningful: read the fine print of the well drilling contract, get three estimates. We didn’t and we didn’t. I don’t know if this would have made any difference but it might have provided the opportunity to ask more informed questions.
2. Drill a well as a last resort only, I know that often there is no other choice. At the end of the day, the cost of drilling a well for us was more than the pumping and filtering water from the lake would have cost and we still don’t have water! You know… a bird in the hand.
3. Find a professional water dowser, it’s the very first thing we should have done. Long before speaking with a well drilling contractor. We found Colleen Roberts nearly after the fact and she was a wealth of information about water sourcing and well drilling. Whether you believe in the art of dowsing or not, please contact Colleen first. The cost is nothing compared to a dry well!
Colleen is located in another part of the country, the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island, the woman is a godsend and she did everything in her power to help us from a distance, she is extremely knowledgeable and in no way intimidated by well drillers. The well drillers were singing a different tune by the time she was done with them!
She knows the well drilling game inside and out, we would have gladly have paid to fly her to Ontario from British Columbia, we have since learned that Colleen Roberts is one of the best water well dowser in North America and people seek her services from all over the world.
It was an experience just to speak with her, not what you would expect, Colleen is very soft spoken woman with the voice of an angel and an incredible passion for her work. There is no wonder she has such a reputation and she refused to take any payment from us at all for her time!
4. Analyze the well drilling cost contract carefully, understand each well drilling item as they are presented. Understand the cost of drilling a well was something we needed to spend more time on. Our well drilling costs were $23./foot but there are other additional costs such as for casing at $15./foot and more.
We only had 20 feet of casing in our well because the drill was into bedrock immediately but, if you are sitting on a mile of gravel, the casing will have to extend the depth of the well almost doubling the cost of drilling the well.
Colleen says there is not really an average cost of drilling a water well in the Fraser Valley or Vancouver Island, it can vary. Get a very clear itemized well drilling quote.
5. We don’t have any neighbors anywhere near us but, if you do, ask around to see how deep their wells are. Colleen had many suggestions about this.
6. If your well goes to a certain depth without hitting water, you may be able to get some concessions from the driller from drilling a dry hole. Ours well drillers drilled the last 100 feet at his cost if he didn’t hit water.
7. A last resort awaits those of us who come up dry. It is called ‘fracturing’ or ‘hydro-fracturing’ which amounts to introducing water under high pressure into the well to open up any fractures that exist in the rock to allow more water to enter the well. Things to remember about this is there are two kinds: single and double bladder. We had single bladder fracturing done to no avail.
Colleen said, “If you drill where the damn water is there is no need for fracturing!” In fact she does not like it and never has a need for hydro fracturing water wells, can you imagine ~ she has dowsed and supervised well drilling sites for almost 25 years and does not fracture wells!
In fact, Colleen told me she does not even know what a hydro fracturing machine looks like! I was completely dumbfounded by her statement… how was this possible? It seems to just be another ad-on to the cost of drilling a well, except it’s added when you are most vulnerable!
With single bladder the drillers try to pressurize the whole well. With double-bladder they can isolate sections of the well and apply much more pressure. The catch of course is that double-bladder fracturing is more expensive… around $3200. where we live, but it has a good success rate, so we were told.
In fact, the well drillers will normally guarantee a certain amount of water in gallons per minute and deduct 50% if unsuccessful. Beware of ‘frackers’ who ask for their money up front, however. They may require that you prove they didn’t produce the flow rate they guaranteed and you will have to chase them to get your money back if they are unsuccessful.
(Just read that some states are thinking about banning fracturing due to the possibility of damage to aquifers or allowing pollutants into wells. Just something else to consider here)
8. After the experience and cost of drilling a dry water well we were left with big ruts in our yard, but that was the very least of this water well drilling nightmare “Well from Hell” experience!
Finally, a water well hell update. At the time of writing we actually have a very small flow of water into the well at about 4 gallons/hour, that right per hour! This is about 100 gallons/day which is technically a dry well but sounds like Niagara to us so we’ll take it!