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Water Well Hell Story, If You’ve Ever Drill a Water Well this Well Drilling Story Could Save You a Fortune!

Water Well Hell Story – Warren & Diane (Ontario, Canada)

Water Well Hell
Our Water Well Hell Story
Warren & Diane (Ontario, Canada)

These letters are submitted to No BS Water and are written by the contributor. They are posted as received and remain unedited and remain the opinion of the author and are open for comment and opinion.

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!

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!

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  • Not For The Faint of Heart

    Thank you for your comments, I am considering building a home in the country and will have to drill a well, now I will make sure to ask many questions.

  • Fracking

    The fracturing in the states you reference is
    for gas drilling which using a fracking fluid other than water which is
    the environmental concern, very different that the fracking you are
    experienced with in Ontario.

  • Perfect Timing

    I am happy to have read this. I am looking at
    drilling a well within a year. I did ask about well depth in the area
    and they are around 20 feet, so I am quite happy. Thanks for writing
    about this.

  • Thank-you!

    Thanks for posting this hectic experience.
    This will definitely be useful in the future as I may be drilling a well
    in the future.

  • Provincial Records and Geotechnical Consultants

    The province keeps records of all registered
    wells. This information can be requested via a form you can find on the
    Ontario Government website. Nearby well records should give you an
    indication of the depth to aquifer in your vicinity prior to drilling.
    Local drillers should have an awareness of the depth at which to find

    However, a conservative approach would be to hire a geotechnical
    consultant (scientist/engineer) to do the research for you, which would
    likely cost a few hundred dollars (they will quote you a price ahead of
    time). They are regulated by their professional organization and do not
    carry the same risks as dealing directly with a contracting company. If
    you elect to have them act as project manager, they will hire the
    driller and ensure your satisfaction.

  • Fracking

    Fracking is being outlawed in oil and gas applications not water well applications…misleading fact

  • Oh My Nerves!!!

    Man, I can just see it now…standing there, watching that huge, massive machine drilling and drilling and drilling and PANICKING with every minute that goes by and no water is found!!!

    I know myself all too well… Iwill not be able to stand there and watch it happen, I am too much of a panick case in life. Not to mention the $$$$ that is spent with every single foot they dig!!! I’m having nightmares about it already!

  • Thank you for this post!

    Thanks for posting this info. I will certainly use your pointers when contracting drilling well on our property.

  • From A Well Driller
    From The Well Driller – Maine, USA

    Drilling for 50 years just drove me crazy dowsing works! I
    am a Well Driller Dowser and I’m good at it. Most well drillers around
    me hydrofracture 20 to 30 wells a year. Me only 2 to 3 a year do your
    home work every one.

    Well Driller,
    Maine, USA

    • Thanks The Well Driller – Maine, USA

      I have been dowsing and contracting drillers for nearly 20 years… if we drill where the water is there is little reason to frac.
      In fact I don’t even know what a frac machine looks like…
      I think we have maybe fracked 2 wells on my sites in 20 years!

      I love a driller that represents the public with integrity, you and I would have made a great team!

      Colleen Roberts

  • Marnie Nieuwenhuis

    (Clinton, British Columbia, Canada )

    New Water Well in The Cariboo
    Marnier Nieuwenhuis

    We had a wonderful experience with our dowser Colleen, of South Island Water Services, Vancouver Island.

    She drove to Clinton and not only found us plenty of terrific water, but when dowsing for water Colleen ensured us that both of our neighbors water wells would not be compromised by our new well.

    We would have no hesitation recommending her well dowsing service to new customers! Thank-you Colleen!

    ~Marnie & Bernie Nieuwenhuis~

    Clinton, BC,

  • My Dowsing Experience – Donna ParaviciniQualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, BC

    We were skeptical of drilling so close to a well that only produced 1/2 gallon per minute as was the well drilling contractor. Yet, Colleen was adamant that we drill exactly where she placed a stake only 15 feet from the non-producer.

    Although the odds, we felt were poor, we decided to follow her professional opinion. We only had to drill 70 feet and found a well yielding good water at 12 gallons per minute! Colleen Roberts is an amazing and very gifted woman!!

    Donna Paravicini
    Qualicum, Beach , BC

  • Bryce LeBaronQualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, Canada

    My wife and I contracted verbally with Darren Grafton of Anderson Water Wells, Courtenay, B.C., to drill a water well for us at our address here in Qualicum Beach. Prior to commencing drilling, Darren asked me for a check for $3,500 (approximately half of what he estimated the final cost to be). I gave him the amount requested and after about a week of drilling, he declared that the site selected by him was a dry hole.

    Before he had started drilling, I had requested that he wait until I could get a reputable water dowser to help with a site selection. Darren dismissed this disdainfully and unequivocally, stating that he was a professional with a 95+ percentage rate of successfully getting an adequate water supply. He himself walked over our property and selected a spot that he said had a high probability of hitting a good water flow at an estimated 70-100 foot depth.

    After a week of drilling, at a depth of 120 feet, Darren pronounced his efforts to be a dry hole. He again walked our property and wanted me to agree to him drilling a new hole close to the property line between us and our neighbor to the east where they have their own well within a few feet of where Darren was proposing to drill. I refused to let him drill there, as I was of the opinion that he was hoping to hit the same water flow as our neighbors.

    I asked him if this would not adversely affect their present supply and
    he agreed that it likely would diminish their supply if we were pumping
    from the same source. This was an unacceptable solution for me. It
    seemed unethical and un-neighborly to say the least, but Darren kept insisting that “one has to do whatever it takes to get water.”

    At this point, I called both Ken Fyfe and Colleen Roberts, both noted dowsers and requested that they dowse our property to see if they could pinpoint a good subterranean water flow. Both of them independently did walk over our property, with me observing them as they dowsed. Both of them zeroed in on precisely the same spot as a good water flow.

    Darren told my wife and I that he would re-drill for us at no cost to us
    in that spot, but that he had to go to another job for about 10 days,
    promising to return and drill within two weeks at the latest. That was the last I have seen of him. He has never answered numerous attempts to phone him, to email him, nor has he responded to letters mailed to him asking for some resolution.

    Before he went away with his drill rig, he pulled out all the casing from the dry well and took it with him. According to him, drilling costs are about $20 per foot and another $20 per foot for the casing. Since he took out the casing, at the most, even if he charged full drilling rate

    for the 120 feet of dry hole, he had only fair claim to $2,400 from the
    check that I had given him. However, he has never returned to drill, has never communicated or responded to my attempts to reach him, nor has he offered to settle up with me financially and refund back the difference ($1,100).This entire affair has left my wife and I with a very bad impression of Mr. Grafton and the manner in which he conducts business. We have initiated an action for redress in Small Claims Court.

    I have received information today that now Grafton’s drill rig has
    been seized, leaving me with the belief that there is a great likelihood
    that even if I succeed in gaining a judgment against him, there will be little chance of ever seeing a dollar back from him. After the poor manner of being treated by him, I would most certainly refuse to have him come back for any reason, nor would I recommend his services (if he should still be in business) to anybody.

  • Bad Water, No Contract – Does The Driller Have Any Libilty?Grant Malcolm, Savary Island

    We have had a well drilled on Savary Island (just north of the Powell River area). The driller picked a spot near a neighboring well (that well is good), ours came with so much salt in it you can’t drink it. We had the driller send a sample to a lab and the results are shocking.

    Very High In: Dissolved solids, Dissolved Chloride, Iron, Manganese and Sodium.

    The Lab states: Health (Unacceptable)

    When a well comes in with all of these issues, do we have anything recourse?

    Grant Malcolm
    Savary Island, BC

    • Will Probably Be Soft Water Grant! (Not Funny)
      A Response From: Colleen Roberts

      Grant… I’m sorry to hear of your new well. The driller cannot really be held accountable for quality or even a dry hole.

      When drilling near the ocean your situation can easily occur… even sometimes miles from the sea in some areas. Sometimes we drill into very old sea-bed. So we may not be dealing with saltwater intrusion Grant but sodium naturally occurring in the bedrock causing brackish water.

      I drilled in Victoria once and the drillers began bringing up some old sea shell materia at quite a depth… we decided to abandon the hole immediately, no point in throwing good money after bad.

      But we do know that usually the deeper we drill the higher the risk often as soon as we enter shale in some areas we know we can get into trouble.

      I feel dowsing can be very preventative (sometimes). When deciding on a well location I will never, ever drill on one source… I want several. This may greatly reduce the risk of drilling too deep. But even then it’s not 100%.

      When locating a site for drilling a water well every precaution must be well thought out and taken but even then we can run into trouble Grant. The Park & Drill Method that so many people sign-up for can be a very costly event but it seems that it keeps some of the water well drillers in business… I guess I have just seen a little to much.

      Grant the well driller did what some drillers do… drilled a hole in the rock for you, they often figure if they drill deep enough they’ll hit water eventually. Asking for anything more would be like asking a cherry tree to bare plums that not what cherry trees do!

      At the end of the day the bill is based on how many feet they manages to drill and you’re the guy who pays the well drilling invoice regardless… the lack of contract will likely not matter.

      But to be completely fair… quality is not a drilling issue. There are decisions we make when we know it’s not going to be good, but that is based on experience and each situation. There are some awesome drillers out there to Grant… doing the best that they can.

      Colleen Roberts
      Groundwater Consultant
      EOCP Certified, BC

  • Throwing Good Money After Bad…

    We were so excited making a new beginning a new home nothing fancy but it was going to be our home !! Got all moved in set up and living happily ever after… we thought. We had a well dug it wasn’t a deep well and not the greatest water but we were told it was just high in iron and could be filtered. Well the filter worked great for a while then the water was smelling of iron and then was a reddish color so we called a filter guy out he said the well was no good any more it was dry . What did that mean? We didn’t know.

    We called the people that drilled the well they said the pump is probably stopped up with iron they could clean it, so they did. That was a pretty big job and in the end didn’t work… the well is no good. So now we have our home and no water. We are using water from our neighbors well and it’s not good water very high in iron but useable with filters but what do we do eventually in the yrs to come our house will need its own water source . Good water here from a well is like 800 ft down and cost like $25000.00 we just don’t have that kind of money. We are in central Texas and still don’t know what we are going to do just hoping for a miracle I guess.


    • Reply from Colleen Roberts:

      Hi Lorilie… just reading your comment, I can hear your struggle. I realize that there is a lot of information that I may not know. Please in the future, do have a professional water system inspection… I know that will not resolved this issue.

      Is there anyone in your area such as myself who works more as a consultant and who may be able to help advise you through this situation?

      If you call a driller… we’ll he will drill, that’s what drillers do. If you call a pump guy… he will look at the water pump and pressure system, then there is the filter guy… I think you get the picture.

      Try to find someone who works more independently who will advice you accordingly. That often what I will do here for people… then we can easily and effectively manage an entire project without going down any rabbit holes.

      The bottom line is the fact that you will need to drill if there is not another approved source for you to connect to. The value of your property will depend on a viable water source. I would go into your lender if you have a mortgage… they may also be interested in helping.

      Remember it’s not just the cost of drilling the water well, if you do drill to 800 feet then that’s a costly deep well pump installation as well. The pump will be going down on steel pipe etc.

      Wish I was closer to help you with this…

      Check in if you have any other questions or comments!

      Colleen Roberts

  • Should I Drill My Well Deeper?

    Hello my water well is dry, there’s no more water. Some contractors are telling me that I can’t go any deeper, that I have to drill a new well. My question is can they drill deeper, and how deep can they drill for a water well. I dont really what to spend $17,000 for a new water well. That’s why it makes more sense to me to drill deeper on my existing water well but they won’t do it.

    Please advice me, I have read so much on your website. Thanks for putting this water website up, I think it’s one of the most valuable on the internet Colleen.


    • Should You Drill Your Water Well Deeper?
      Response from Colleen Roberts.

      Joseph, there are many variables and this would require so much more information to make an educated decision. The driller’s may have a number of reasons for not wanting to drill your water well further.

      I have taken a number of wells deeper over the years with 100% success, you are right… for a few thousand dollars it makes great sense to go a little deeper… but if there is no more water any deeper then you will just end up with what I have coined, “The Dry Hole Syndrome.” Trust me, you won’t enjoy it!

      Generally, I will side with the well drillers on this, I will often suggest that we start ofer for the simple face that the water well was not properly located in the first place, which is why it’s now dry!

      I would first ask the driller’s why they have decided that it’s best not to go deeper? Then if possible get a few opinions… they will all be very helpful.

      Maybe they feel that the existing casing is too old and would need to be pulled anyway so it would be better to begin again… I don’t know but these are the questions I would be asking.

      Secondly, looking at your situation through my eyes regardless of what the well driller has to say about the redrill issue I would want to decide if there is a chance of hitting a bit more water. If there is a better site nearby then yes, you need to move that hole to a better location. There is no point in attempting to resurect the dead Joseph.

      I do understand that you don’t want to spend any more than needed but why throw more money into the ground and come up dry?

      You may want to find an independent consultant… someone third party who will help you with this. This person will also have some very credible dowsing skills, they will hopefully help you make an educated decision.

      There is much more to look at than what you think you are seeing right now, really need to to look at the entire picture.

      Hope this helps Joseph… please revisit No BS Water if you have any other questions.

      Colleen Roberts
      Groundwater Consultant

  • Jason Meunier
    Moncton, New Brunswick

    This story is only to provide the facts. You may form your own opinion.

    We built a new home on an acreage that backs onto a river. We meticulously planned the details of our home and made the assumption that we’ld get water and good water as we would be drilling our well about 100′ from the river. Our contractor set us up with Paul Caissie from Caissie’s Well Drillers in Irishtown, New Brunswick.

    Paul had initially drilled our neighbours well just a couple days prior to ours and went down to 300 feet. The only thing we knew about the neighbour’s water at this point was that they drilled down over 200 feet and had 3-5 GPM. We later found out the water was 3 GPM and contained unacceptable levels of fluoride, sodium, chloride, arsenic, selenium, just to name a few.

    Paul drilled our well and went down to 180 feet and the water was salty, and had all the same harmful elements as our neighbour’s water. “Now what?” this is what we we’re thinking. All this planning and we were kicking ourselves in the butt for assuming the water would be good and not drilling our well before we built. The cost of our well was $7500.00 and the cost to install a reverse osmosis system to remove the same harmful elements that is $15,000+. This was not in our budget.

    We figured that is would be more cost effective to try another well versus the reverse osmosis system. So out of frustration my wife and I went down the path of dowsing. We wanted to have everything in our favour before drilling. We hired the help of a dowser . My wife and I believed that we had found the spot. It was estimated to go down 70 feet, over 30 GPM, and free from harmful minerals, this seemed too good to be true.

    We hired Hawke’s Well Drilling which uses a pounder type drilling system rather than the rotary type the last driller used (this is another story). He put the rig right on the spot and hit beautiful clear, clean, healthy water at 70 feet with almost 40 GPM ($2500.00). After we did our second well our neighbour hired the dowser and hired a new well driller. They drilled down 50 feet and again lots of water (50+GPM) and excellent water quality.

    Dowsing might seem like some hooky voodoo nonsense but it might save you money. You don’t have to believe in it but for the cost of a douser ($250 – $500 est.), it’s not much to lose. My only advice is to always dowse before you drill and drill before you build!


  • My New Water Well
    Ed Burkhard

    Well, (no pun intended) we had our well drilled last October/November and purchased a package deal. So glad we did!

    They drilled 440 feet and no water. Came back the following week and did “Fracking” at 220 feet. Got nice clean water at about 8 gal/min.

    It’s passed the second sampling for coliform and ecoli. One more sampling to go. The whole cost was approximately 10k.


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