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How to Sink a Shallow Well

Larry Simmons

A shallow well is 50 feet deep or less. These wells generally extend down to an aquifer beneath the surface, allowing you to tap into the layer of wet soil to extract the water it contains. To reach the aquifer, you’ll need to sink your well past the point at which the water table begins. Since the well is shallow, you can do this by hand with a fence post auger and extensions. While it’s a slow and labor-intensive process, if the soil is stable, you’ll be able to create the well, gaining clean fresh water where it’s needed.

Create a source of water where needed by digging a shallow well.

Step 1

Put a mark on the ground with a bit of landscape paint at the center of your proposed well site.

Step 2

Dig a shallow hole about 8 inches wide and 6 inches deep using a spade at the marked location to serve as a pilot hole for the auger.

Step 3

Put the auger into the hole and then begin turning the auger handles in a clockwise motion to bore your hole. As your twist the auger the metal spiral on the outside of the stem will transport the dirt of the hole to the surface where you can haul it away. Twist until the handles are level with the surface of the soil. Reverse the direction of the auger to remove it smoothly from the hole.

Step 4

Unbolt the handle from the top of the auger with a wrench, and then bolt on a 4-foot long extension. Screw the handle back in place and push the auger back into the hole until it reaches the hole base. Twist the handles counterclockwise to continue digging the well to the 8-foot auger depth. Repeat the process of auger removal and adding an extension to continue your digging until you reach the water table. You’ll know you hit the water table when water begins to seep into the well.

Step 5

Continue digging the hole for a few more feet until you reach a point where the water in the base of the hole quickly fills it and you begin to pull up mud.

Step 6

Remove the auger from the hole. Use a pump and a hose to remove the mud and water from the hole. Continue digging until you’re about 9 feet beneath the water table. This gives you adequate water to fill your well quickly as you use it.

Step 7

Cut a piece of 6-inch diameter threaded PVC pipe to the length of the hole’s depth plus about 2 feet to serve as the casing for the well. Use a hacksaw to cut the pipe to the length needed. Run the edge of a utility knife over the cut surface to remove any burrs present in the pipe edge, both inside and out. About 6 inches from the base of the pipe, cut horizontal slots into the pipe spaced 1/2-inch apart on three sides of the pipe extending up the pipe length about 6 feet. Run the edge of the utility knife over all cuts to remove burrs. These slots allow the water to seep into your well center from the sides of the well hole.

Step 8

Place a rubber O-ring gasket on the threaded end of the pipe, then screw the 6-inch cap into place.

Step 9

Pump out any water that may have seeped into the well. Pour about 6 inches of filter sand into the base of the well, and then lower the PVC pipe into the well until you hit the bottom with the capped end of the pipe pointed downward.

Step 10

Fill in the hole surrounding the pipe with the filter sand up to a level that’s 2 feet higher than the water table. This allows the water to seep into the casing without mud seeping in as well. Put a layer of bentonite pellets over the sand for 2 feet. Add water to the pellets to expand them along the side of the casing, sealing the hole as protection from surface runoff. Fill in the rest of the hole surrounding the casing with mixed grout up to the surface of the soil.

Step 11

Attach a lever-activated hand pump to a 2-inch PVC pipe long enough to reach to a point about 6 inches from the base of your well from the top of the casing. Screw a foot valve onto the base of the PVC pipe to retain water within the pipe once you begin pumping. Put a 6-inch cap around the base of the pump, and then place the second O-ring gasket into the cap before attaching the pump to the top of the pipe.

Step 12

Pump the well pump for a few minutes until the water begins to run clear.