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How Does a Dry Well Work?

A dry well is a device that is used for removing excess or unwanted water from the surface. A dry well is commonly implemented to eliminate flooding and erosion by basically accelerating its progress into the ground. It works by obtaining water from the surface through grates or pipes, and uses the force of gravity to collect the water in a common storage area. The water is then redistributed into the ground farther below the topsoil, where it would naturally collect over time.

What is a Dry Well?

A dry well is a device that is used for removing excess or unwanted water from the surface.  A dry well is commonly implemented to eliminate flooding and erosion by basically accelerating its progress into the ground. It works by obtaining water from the surface through grates or pipes, and uses the force of gravity to collect the water in a common storage area.  The water is then redistributed into the ground farther below the topsoil, where it would naturally collect over time.

The Types of Dry Wells

There are various types of dry wells, from basic to complex.  A basic dry well is typically a pit with gravel or some other filtering material in it. The water travels down through the gravel, which filters out debris, and the water is redistributed at the bottom.  These basic dry wells are disadvantaged because of their small storage capacity. An advanced dry well typically consists of a large concrete cylinder with holes along its sides and bottom, which allow the water to be redistributed into the soil over a larger surface area.  These types of dry wells have a much larger storage capacity, and therefore are suggested for larger or more industrious areas.

Restrictions on Dry Wells

The Safe Drinking Water Act mandates that the Environmental Protection Agency regulate all storm water drainage wells, including dry wells.  The intention is to check the water for harmful items, such as metals and microorganisms. Since the water from dry wells is redistributed into the soil, it can join the mainstream drinking water, thereby threatening the health of any and all persons who consume it.  To approve a dry well, contact either your state environmental agency or the EPA. To find out which to contact, visit the EPA's website, which has a state-by-state listing of authorities. 

About the Author

Nathan Egelhof is a freelance writer and amateur photographer. He holds a degree from Kansas State University in literature and creative writing. Since May 2008 he has specialized in online publications, with his emphasis in areas such as Food & Wine, Pets & Animals, Relationships & Family, Politics, Literature, Cinematography, and more. He currently hails from the Midwest.