Free Encyclopedia of Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, Repair
Ask a Question or Search InspectAPedia
InspectAPedia ® Home
WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS
WATER CONTAMINANT LEVELS
WATER HAMMER NOISE DIAGNOSE & CURE
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE
WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER TANK REPAIR PROCEDURES
WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WELL FLOW RATE
WELL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS
WELL YIELD IMPROVEMENT
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Hand dug wells: their properties, construction & sanitation. This article offers advice for hand dug water wells and the sanitation and maintenance concerns with this water supply type. We provide advice about what to do when things go wrong, how to inspect hand dug wells for safety, safe practices for actually digging a well, and how to address hand dug well sanitation. In our guide to hand dug wells we discuss how a hand dug well is constructed, maintained, and kept sanitary or "safe to drink".
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
Digging & Using Hand Dug Drinking Water Wells
As we show in this sketch at left, courtesy of Carson Dunlop, Usually a hand dug well is less than 20 feet deep.
Dug wells have the same sanitation difficulties as springs and cisterns: they are easily contaminated by surface runoff and in some cases may have limited ability to deliver water at modern quantity and flow rates.
Hand dug wells range in depth from a few feet to as much as three meters and are used worldwide. Often the Dug-well was lined with dry-laid stone.
Dug or excavated wells are the picturesque wells we see on postcards, with an above-ground wall and a bucket lowered by rope into the well.
But dug wells continue into modern use, often with the installation of either an in-building jet pump draw water from the well into the building. We weren't sure what the little cover in our photo above was hiding - a dug well, a cistern, or a modern well casing extending above ground.
Sources for repair parts and installation instructions for hand pumps on dug wells and shallow wells are provided at our reviewers list below.
The hazards of hand dug wells include poor sanitation (ground water and surface runoff easily enter the drinking water supply), and cave-ins during construction or injuries to tools dropped into the well during construction. We are particularly concerned about the safety hazards to children when a dug well does not have a child proof wall and/or cover.
At Hand Dug Well Procedure we describe the procedure for constructing a hand-dug well with concrete well rings in Mexico. But do not begin a well digging project without advice from an expert and do not try digging a well without following these and any other recommended safety measures for well excavatioin:
Hand Dug Well Construction Safety Advice
The following advice is adapted from The Hand Dug Well [instruction manual, by Henk Holtslag & John deWolf, Foundation Connect International. Links to a copy of that free manual are at our references section .
Additional Dug Well Safety Advice [Opinion of InspectAPedia]
The chemistry of water in a dug well, and its sanitation, depend on how much surface runoff is entering the well and other factors such as the well's depth.  A dug well that gave sanitary drinking water a hundred years ago may be at greater risk of contamination today as more chemicals contaminate both surface runoff and groundwater. And it's hard to keep contaminants out of a dug well.
OPINION: While 100 years ago or more surface water found in dug wells and springs was often of high quality and potable - at least in some areas of the world.
But today it is very difficult to find sanitary drinking water where surface runoff and shallow subsurface water enter the water supply such as that provided by a dug well. This is also true for other types shallow wells such as Driven Point Wells, and even drilled wells protected by a well casing in some cases.
Shocking a hand dug well (WELL CHLORINATION & SHOCKING) to "fix" a bacteria problem in its drinking water is probably pointless.
It is almost impossible to keep a dug well sanitary - the Dug well is completely open to both surface runoff and ground water runoff.
You can shock the Dug well, but if you are not going to drill a modern sanitary well (costly), in order to assure safe potable drinking water you will probably need to install water treatment equipment to sanitize the water - after testing to see what contaminants besides bacteria (Interpreting the Level of Bacteria) are present.
Frequently Asked Questions & Answers about hand dug water wells, construction, inspection, safety, sanitation, and well collapses
Question: Our Old Water Well is Collapsing - What Should We Do?
Do you know of a geotechnical engineer near Screven County Georgia that can assist me in determining what to do with my situation? From what I have been told in the past, there was an old well in my front yard; Very old.
In about 1970 my father walked past it, heard rushing water and the dirt that had been used to "fill it in" fell out the bottom. You could see down about 20-30 feet in the earth. So my father filled in this well with a brick chimney and for years it was fine.
In the last 6 months, the earth has begun to fall again in that area. We added some more soil. That soil is falling lower and lower.
I don't know who to contact in this area that has any expertise in this area. Do you know who to contact? - D.L., Georgia
Reply: Put Immediate Safety First where a Collapsing Well is Found
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem around the well or at your site, including possible subsidence due to a sink hole or other similarly dangerous events.
If there are sinkhole or soil collapse risks the hazards are greater than just a problem with the well or with local groundwater contamination. It wasn't clear if you are asking about a drilled well or a hand dug well.
Watch out: First: rope off or cover or otherwise prevent anyone from walking anywhere close to the present collapsing well. The safety hazards of soil collapse around a dug well are still more worrisome and dangerous as they could result in someone falling into the opening - risking a fatality.
That said, you will want to
Questions & answers or comments about hand dug water wells, construction, inspection, safety, sanitation, and well collapses.
Ask a Question or Enter Search Terms in the InspectApedia search box just below.
Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.