Finding sustainable water sources, is a problem that humans have had to solve since the beginning of time. While some places might have ample safe water, there are other places where water is scarce and every drop counts.
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One of the difficulties is that around 97% of the world’s fresh water is underground, and like most other things in underground, it’s not that easy to get up. However, with the right well system, you might find that your garden can be turned into a source of safe water that you can use both inside and outside the house.
What is a Well System?
A well is simply a hole that has been created in the ground in order to access a liquid. We most commonly associate this with water wells, but they can also be used to access other liquids such as oil.
Wells can be used to access water and other liquids on many different scales. You might have one in your garden for your own personal water needs, but they can also be used on a much bigger scale, providing water to agriculture, industry, towns and cities.
Likewise, the technology varies greatly between wells. People have been accessing water through wells for the best part of 8,000 years, so as you can imagine, the technology was pretty rudimentary back then. The principles are still the same today, but we now utilize mechanical well pumps to get the water up more efficiently.
What Parts Make Up a Well?
Whether your well is accessing enough water to meet the needs of a village or it’s just for your own personal use, it’s going to be comprised of the same key components. At the top, you’ve got the wellhead, which is the main part you can see. Then you have a pump, storage tank, casing, screen and seal.
These parts help you to access safe, sanitary water and bring it above ground, ready to store.
When we think of a well, we probably picture the storybook well, where there’s a hand dug hole with a stone wellhead and a little wooden roof over the top. There are indeed plenty of these beautiful wells around, but often a wellhead will appear as a simple pipe (between 2 inches and 10 inches wide) protruding from the ground.
Because very cold weather can damage some components of the well, you will often find that in colder climate countries, the wells are stored in a wellhouse or a pumphouse. This helps extend the life of the main components of the well.
If you dig a hole down to a water source and simply leave it exposed, then it opens it up for insects, animals and other pollutants getting into the water and contaminating it. To overcome this, wells will have a sanitary seal at the top which stops anything that might contaminate the water getting down the well.
Although you do want to keep these things out of the well, you also want to have access to test the water levels and purity, so these seals have an access port which allows you to carry out the maintenance of the well.
When you dig out a big hole in the ground, it tends to want to collapse in on itself. To make sure that doesn’t happen with a well, a strong casing is built to keep the well open. The casing will normally come up around a foot out of the ground, but how deep it goes depends on the type of ground surrounding the well.
If the well is dug into soft ground such as sand or gravel, the case will often stretch all the way down into the water source. For wells dug into harder ground such as shale, the case might only stretch down around 18 ft from the top of the well.
To keep water from flowing out of the well, or other undesirable liquids getting into the well, a case seal is placed between the case and the regular underground material.
In order to get water from below the ground up to the surface, a pump is generally required. Depending on how deep the well is and the requirements it needs to meet, there are many different pumps you can use in a well.
Most commonly, you will see a centrifugal pump that sits above the ground, but these pumps don’t work so well for wells deeper than 25 feet. For these deeper wells, a submersible pump will normally be used.