New well drilling is an essential part of finding water in many parts of the country. Before you begin a well-drilling project, it's wise to understand the factors that tend to affect a job's likelihood of success. Property owners need to be aware of these four key factors.

Geology and Hydrology

The rocks underneath a property often determine where there will be water and if it'll be fresh. Even the shape of the ground will serve to channel water to or away from certain locations. Likewise, the surrounding hydrological features can indicate the potential presence of water.

Fortunately, many local, state, and federal databases include data from geological and hydrological studies. For example, the USGS maintains a catalog of proven wells. While it's not an exhaustive list of every well, you'll get a good idea of which rough areas have been the best spots for others who were exploring for water.


Well drilling is only part of the battle. A big part of the process is testing because quality is just as important as exploration. If you find a well, it could still be close to a coal seam or a pocket of radon gas, potentially spoiling its quality for many purposes. Also, a well might be okay for some industrial purposes but not great for residential use. Some wells are good enough if you're willing to invest in conditioning the water, but you still need to balance the costs against the benefits before deciding.


Your water demand will also dictate whether a well is worthwhile. A farmer sinking a well to irrigate a water-intensive crop might not use a proven well that someone building a homestead would be thrilled to find. Many industrial applications require significant proven reserves to be worth the effort of new well drilling.

Similarly, water pressure is important. Even if a proven reserve is large, it might not sustain the water pressure that you require. The well's replenishment rate also matters because it needs to keep up with your needs.

Ideally, you've calculated what your needs will be. You and the well drilling company can then assess whether a particular site is sufficient for the job.


Any work involving water runs the risk of running afoul of regulations. There may be conflicts with the water rights of other property owners. Likewise, environmental restrictions could prevent you from pumping water. Even if all is good, there may be a permitting process. 

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