A dry well is always concerning, but it’s rarely a long-term problem. Even when it hasn’t rained in weeks, it’s often possible to fix a dry water well using techniques developed to reach water still lingering deeper down.
Assess Your Situation
Before you look for solutions, make sure your well really is dry and not just running into a problem with the pump or pressure tank, or with a buildup of mineral scale that’s reducing your water flow. A professional well technician can measure the water level and assess the well’s condition to tell you exactly what’s going on.
In the meantime, there are a few signs to look for. When your well starts to run dry, you might notice reduced water pressure, sputtering faucets, and/or sediment in the water. The pump might run, but fail to draw water.
It’s rare for a well to run dry permanently. Once the water table is recharged by rainfall, you should have water again. The bad news is that if your well is dry due to severe drought, the best solution might be to find an alternative water supply until it rains again. Hiring a water delivery service is one option, but the water they bring should never be poured into your well. Doing so could damage the well and contaminate your water supply.
Lowering the Water Pump
There’s a good chance your well still contains water below the pump’s current level. If your well uses a submersible pump, the most common type used in residential wells, lowering it down to the new water level could allow you to draw water again.
Unfortunately, this won’t work if you have a jet pump. Your well also has to be deep enough to accommodate more pipe. Even with the right pump and depth, if the well is producing little to no water, lowering the pump might not be worth the effort for the little water remaining.
It’s possible to do this job yourself if you’re experienced with well development, but it’s always a good idea to consult with a well drilling technician, especially if your well is more than 150 feet deep. Although deepening is often the cheapest way to fix a dry water well, hiring a technician for the job can run well over $1000.
The technician will first need to assess the conditions in the well. In some cases, lowering the pump can interfere with motor cooling and isn’t advisable. The technician will then determine the depth of both the well and the pump intake, and compare the two. Finally, they’ll install more pipe at the top of the well to allow the pump to reach a greater depth.
Hydrofracture the Well
Also known as hydrofracking, this well rehabilitation method uses high-pressure water to clear away silt and sediment that’s blocking the fractures in your aquifer, allowing more water to flow to your well. It’s only an option if your well draws water from an aquifer.
When successful, hydrofracturing can increase your yield by 1 to 3 gallons per minute on average. The success rate is around 97 percent, but there are rare instances where geologic conditions don’t allow for any increase in water flow.
The cost typically runs between $2000 to $5000, but it’s almost always cheaper than drilling a new well. The technicians start by removing the pump, pipes, wiring, and other equipment in the well. They’ll then lower a packer, which resembles a giant balloon, into the well and inflate it. The space under the packer is then filled with clean water to increase the pressure until the pressure suddenly drops off, indicating the blockage has been cleared. Finally, the well equipment is reinstalled.
After 48 hours, a technician can perform a yield test to find out if the work was successful. Because so much water is used in the hydrofracking process, a yield test performed too early is likely to give you inaccurate results.
Deepen the Well
Drilling deeper could let you tap into another aquifer that’s still carrying water. This is typically the best option if your well is shallow, meaning less than 50 feet deep. A deeper well will give you a more drought-resistant water supply and better water quality.
For wells already deeper than 50 feet, drilling down just another 10 feet could be enough to reach more water. A well drilling technician can assess the area and tell you if it’s worth trying to find more water deeper down. Drilling work is expensive, especially in rocky terrain and on slopes, and you’re never guaranteed to reach water.
If your well casing doesn’t extend above ground, a technician will need to extend it to conform to modern safety codes. Before drilling, the technicians will remove the pump and other well equipment. They’ll then set up a drilling rig over the well and clean, or ream, the borehole to remove debris. Finally, they’ll attach a drilling bit to deepen the borehole.
Given the work involved, deepening isn’t always cheaper than drilling a new well. The cost depends on the condition of your well, the terrain, and the depth of the water table among other factors.
Replace the Well
Although many wells supply water reliably for 50 years or longer, their average lifespan is around 20 to 30 years, not including replaceable parts. If the well that’s run dry is older than a few decades, it might be time to have a new one drilled.
Before drilling, your well drilling technician will use groundwater exploration methods to find an ideal site, so there’s little risk of coming up empty handed. In addition to restoring your water supply, drilling a new well gives you the chance to correct anything you didn’t like about your old well, such as construction issues, storage tank capacity, and yield.
Because the technicians won’t have any equipment removal or cleaning work to do before getting started, drilling a new well is often simpler and less expensive than deepening an old one. The cost varies widely depending on your terrain and the depth needed, but it averages around $5500. You’ll also need to have the old well sealed according to local guidelines to protect your water supply and prevent accidents.
A dry well doesn’t have to mean disaster. If the drought is short term, just lowering the pump is often enough to fix a dry water well until the rains return. For longer dry spells, hydrofracturing or deepening your well could restore your water supply and improve your future yield, too.