Residential Water Wells
The majority of residential wells
in Virginia are located in a random fashion. That is, that once
standoff distance from streams, ponds, buildings and drainfields have
been met, wells are drilled in the most convenient location. More often
than not, this method works fine for a residential groundwater supply
because water use is very modest. For instance, the Fauquier County,
Virginia Water and Sewer Authority estimate that the average household
consumes approximately 235 gallons of water per day. This translates to
a well producing approximately 0.16 gallons per minute (gpm)!! Most
well drillers will tell you that a well possessing a "blown yield" of 3
gpm can satisfy most long-term residential needs. Still, some
residential sites can experience difficulty in obtaining even this
a Hydrogeologist Become Involved?
usually become engaged in residential water prospecting after the
health department, the well driller and the dowser have given it their
best shot. This is due to the homeowner's reluctance to pay money and
the fact that adequate water can usually be found without professional
advice. However, people do call me and by the time I get involved a
number of mistakes have been made. More often than not I get called to
a job and the first thing I notice is several wells clustered in a
hilltop position. This is absolutely the wrong way to prospect for
graphics represent an example of job where the owner's two wells "flat"
gave out during the drought of 2003. The site was on top of a mountain
in the foothills of the Blue Ridge in the northwestern piedmont
province of Virginia. Two dowsers recommended that our client drill a
replacement well on the highest part of her property (within 35 feet of
a dying well). My client thought better and decided to obtain some
contacted, we consulted the geologic map of Virginia and observed
the area was mapped as a granite, or granite equivalent. Now here's
where someone familiar with local conditions can make a difference.
Since I have been working in the foothills of Virginia for 18 years, I
knew that "feeder" dikes of Catoctin Greenstone often occupy the
hilltops of these small mountains. In other words: not a good place to
drill if you have other choices.
The next step
was to conduct a fracture trace analysis of the site and site vicinity.
Figure 2 on the left is one of a pair of air photos I obtained from the
Virginia Department of Transportation (for $11.23). The dark lines are
suspected fractures I observed after studying these photos. Some
scientists use the words "Remote Sensing" to describe this exercise. I
can tell you that "Remote Sensing" has absolutely no value if the
geologist does not become intimately familiar with the landscapes of
the site. The only way to achieve this is by performing a thorough
reconnaissance of the property (with air photos in-hand) and verify the
landforms observed from the photos and then make a decision regarding
visiting the property I recommended several well drilling "targets".
Figure 3 to the right is placed on a USGS Topographic Map and shows the
fractures along with three test well locations (TW-1, TW-2 and TW-3).
My client and I decided to drill TW-1 first, since it was more
conveniently located (even though it represented the least potential of
the three targets). Drilling the well here resulted in a 450-foot well
that yielded approximately 25 gallons per minute (gpm). Needless to
say, this satisfied all her water needs and no other wells were
parcels of land less than 5 acres in size, my advice to most homeowners
is that after the first well is drilled without success, they should
move as far as possible from the dry-hole into a different landscape
position altogether. For example: if you drill the first well on a
hilltop, then move to a side-slope. If that well is unsuccessful, move
down the hill to as close to a stream as possible. Generally, a change
in landscape will produce the water required for residential purposes.
While this can be a painful financial experience, it should,
nonetheless, be conducted in a systematic fashion.
greater than 5 acres, fracture trace analysis coupled with a thorough
site reconnaissance usually produces excellent results in sighting a
long-term groundwater well supply. Every situation is different and
requires interpretation of subtle features related to the soil and
geology. True North Environmental can conduct these studies for
homeowners at a very reasonable price. Please call to discuss.
are considering purchasing rural real estate dependent upon
groundwater, I highly recommend that you contact a local well driller
or a hydrogeologist to obtain a general idea of well yields. This kind
of information is free and will give the purchaser some kind of
"feel-good" information regarding the chances for success on the first
and (good) hydrogeologists have more experience
than anyone regarding well yields on a local scale. The Virginia
Water Well Association is good source for contacting
local Virginia drillers.
And feel free
to contact us.