From Antivist

A water well is an artificial excavation or structure put down by any method such as digging, driving, boring, or drilling for the purposes of withdrawing water from underground aquifers.

Well water may be drawn via mechanical pump (such as an electric submersible pump) from a source below the surface of the earth, or drawn using containers, such as buckets, that are raised mechanically, or by hand. Wells can vary greatly in depth, water volume and water quality. Well water typically contains more minerals in solution than surface water and may require treatment to soften the water.


Types of water wells

Dug wells

Until recent centuries, all artificial wells were pumpless dug wells of varying degrees of formality. Their indispensability has produced numerous literary references, literal and figurative, to them, including the Christian Bible story of Jesus meeting a woman at Jacob's well (John 4:6) and the "Ding Dong Bell" nursery rhyme about a cat in a well.

Such primitive dug wells were excavations with diameters large enough to accommodate muscle-powered digging to below the water table. Relatively formal versions tended to be lined with laid stones or brick; extending this lining into a wall around the well presumably served to reduce both contamination and injuries by falling into the well. The iconic American farm well features a peaked roof above the wall, reducing airborne contamination, and a cranked windlass, mounted between the two roof-supporting members, for raising and lowering a bucket to obtain water.

More modern dug wells may be hand pumped, especially in undeveloped and third-world countries.

Note that the term "shallow well" is not a synonym for dug well, and may actually be quite deep - see Aquifer type, below.

Driven Wells

Driven wells consist of a series of pipes with a point and a perforated pipe at the end. The point is driven into the ground, thus the name driven, to a depth of up to 75 feet[1].

Drilled wells

Drilled wells can access water from a much deeper level by mechanical drilling.

Drilled wells with electric pumps are currently used throughout the world, mainly in developing and developed countries, typically in rural or sparsely populated areas, though many urban areas are supplied partly by Municipal wells.

Drilled wells are typically created using either top-head rotary style, table rotary, or cable tool drilling machines, all of which use drilling stems that are turned to create a cutting action in the formation, hence the term 'drilling'. Most shallow well drilling machines are mounted on large trucks, trailers, or tracked vehicle carriages. Water wells typically range from 20 to 600 feet, but in some areas can go deeper than 3,000 feet.

Rotary drilling machines use a segmented steel drilling string, typically made up of 20 foot sections of steel tubing that is threaded together, with a bit or other drilling device at the bottom end. Some rotary drilling machines are designed to install (by driving or drilling) a steel casing into the well in conjunction with the drilling of the actual bore hole. Air and/or water is used as a circulation fluid to displace cuttings & cool bits during the drilling. Another form of rotary style drilling, termed 'mud rotary', makes use of a specially made mud, or drilling fluid, which is constantly being altered during the drill so that it can consistently create enough hydraulic pressure to hold the side walls of the bore hole open, regardless of the presence of a casing in the well. Typically, boreholes drilled into solid rock are not cased until after the drilling process is completed, regardless of the machinery used.

The oldest form of drilling machinery is the Cable Tool, still used today. Specifically designed to raise & lower a bit into the bore hole, the 'spudding' of the drill cause the bit to be raised & dropped onto the bottom of the hole, and the design of the cable causes the bit to twist at approximately 1/4 revolution per drop, thereby creating a drilling action. Unlike rotary drilling, cable tool drilling requires the drilling action to be stopped so that the bore hole can be bailed or emptied of drilled cuttings.

Drilled wells are typically cased with a factory made pipe, typically steel (in air rotary or cable tool drilling) or plastic/PVC (in mud rotary wells, also present in wells drilled into solid rock). The casing is constructed by welding, either chemically or thermodynamically, segments of casing together. If the casing is installed during the drilling, most drills will drive the casing into the ground as the bore hole advances, while some newer machines will actually allow for the casing to be rotated & drilled into the formation in a similar manner as the bit advancing just below. PVC or plastic is typically welded & then lowered the drilled well, vertically stacked with their ends nested & either glued or splined together. The sections of casing are usually 20' or more in length, and 6" - 12" in diameter, depending on the intended use of the well and local ground water conditions.

Surface contamination of wells in the United States is typically controlled by the use of a 'surface seal'. A large hole is drilled to a predetermined depth or to a confining formation (clay or bedrock, for example), and then a smaller hole for the well is completed from that point forward. The well is typically cased from the surface down into the smaller hole with a casing that is the same diameter as that hole. The annular space between the large bore hole & the smaller casing is filled with bentonite clay, concrete, or other sealant material. This creates an impermeable seal from the surface to the next confining layer that keeps contaminants from traveling down the outer sidewalls of the casing or borehole & into the aquifer. In addition, wells are typically capped with either an engineered well cap or seal that vents air through a screen into the well, but keeps insects, small animals, and unauthorized individuals from accessing the well.

At the bottom of wells, based on formation, a screening device, filter pack, slotted casing, or open bore hole is left to allow the flow of water into the well. Constructed screens are typically used in unconsolidated formations (sands, gravels, etc.), allowing water & a percentage of the formation to pass through the screen. Allowing some material to pass through creates a large area filter out of the rest of the formation, as the amount of material present to pass into the well slowly decreases & is removed from the well. Rock wells are typically cased with a PVC liner/casing & screen or slotted casing at the bottom, this is mostly present just to keep rocks from entering the pump assembly. Some wells utilize a 'filter pack' method, where an undersized screen or slotted casing is placed inside the well & a filter media is packed around the screen, between the screen & the borehole or casing. This allows the water to be filtered of unwanted materials before entering the well & pumping zone.

Driven wells may be created in unconsolidated material with a "well point", which consists of a hardened drive point and a screen. The point is simply driven into the ground, usually with a tripod and "driver", with pipe sections added as needed. A driver is a weighted pipe that slides over the pipe being driven and is repeatedly dropped on it. When groundwater is encountered, the well is washed of sediment and a pump installed. This is the cheapest and simplest type of water well known today, however it is only useful at relatively shallow depths and for small capacity wells.[citation needed]

Use classification

Two additional broad classes of well types may be distinguished, based on the use of the well:

  • production or pumping wells, are large diameter (> 15 cm in diameter) cased (metal, plastic, or concrete) water wells, constructed for extracting water from the aquifer by a pump (if the well is not artesian).
  • monitoring wells or piezometers, are often smaller diameter wells used to monitor the hydraulic head or sample the groundwater for chemical constituents. Piezometers are monitoring wells completed over a very short section of aquifer. Monitoring wells can also be completed at multiple levels, allowing discrete samples or measurements to be made at different vertical elevations at the same map location.

Obviously, a well constructed for pumping groundwater can be used passively as a monitoring well and a small diameter well can be pumped, but this distinction by use is common.


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