Hand dug well under construction (C) A Starkman D FriedmanHand Dug Water Well FAQs
Questions & answers on how to dig, install, maintain & use hand excavated water wells

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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".

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Hand dug well FAQs

Hand dug well converted to drilled well (C) Daniel Friedman Question: what to do about contaminated dug well water in Phuket, Thailand - use chlorine tablets?

2016/09/14 Sky said:

I live in Thailand, on the island of Phuket in a small compound where, as is customary here, each house/bungalow has its own well.
I have a hand dug well.

I am not sure weather it is lined but, the soil here is mostly red clay). At surface/ground level it is covered by a 1 meter concrete lid (covered by decorative pebble stones).

An electrical pump fills a black 2000 litre pvc onion tank buried about 1 meter away from the well.

A second electrical pump pumps the water from the onion into the house (all on ground level, no second floor).

Nobody can drink tap water in this country unless they install a special filtering system.
I have been wondering if I could purify my water (to a degree) by dropping Chlorine tablets into the onion tank (because a. It is easily accessible, b. I know the size so measurement is more precise than trying to chlorinate the well, also I would not be happy to contaminate the soil with chlorine).

I have a pool and regularly buy Chlorine tabs for my pool. I would also like to know if a chlorine tab will corrode PVC.

(If I drop the tablet it will rest on the bottom of the tank, in contact; should I suspend the tablet?) The water from the well is actually channeled into the onion at surface level sensor being a balloon.
I bought this house of plan and moved in straight after construction. All taps in the house including the washing machine; during the first year all my whites were pale clay colored and bathwater was so full of clay particles we gave up on baths & Jacuzzi the first year.
Thank you for feedback.

Reply: how to make dug well water safe to drink in Phuket, Thailand


Putting aside issues with beach water contamination at Phuket that are much in the news, Phuket's groundwater is, from what I've read, largely contaminated by sewage, from intrusion of sea water, nitrates from fertilizer used on golf courses (depending on where you live), and by metals and by arsenic or possibly other chemicals from the old history of tin mining.

While popular articles about drinking water contamination in Phuket describe sewage contamination as a bacterial hazard I worry that those writers are missing something important; sewage often also contains high levels of heavy metals and other dangerous contaminants. Phuket groundwater was also contaminated with both ocean water and ground contaminants when Phuket was swept by the 2004 tsunami disaster.

And for Phuket residents who are on a centralized water supply system you still need to be careful. Except for Patong where the distance from point of treatment to point of use is short, even where there is centralized water treatment there are also risks of contamination of the water supply en route between source and user.

It is reasonable to disinfect small emergency-quantities of drinking water using chlorine tablets - as we discuss at

But you will find that that's not practical when you're disinfecting 2000 litres of water. In addition, I would want to know what else - what other contaminants besides bacteria - are in the drinking water. For example there are some cyst-like organisms (like Giardia) that will not be addressed by disinfection OR you'd have to use so much chlorine (bleach) in the water and you'd have to bring the water to such a high chlorine concentration that the resulting water would be UNSAFE to drink.

And disinfection will not do a thing about chemical contaminants in the water supply. DO NOT rely on swimming pool tablets to make Phuket dug well water "safe" to drink.

We discuss using household bleach as one (of many) methods of disinfecting water - over at BLEACH DISINFECTANT for DRINKING WATER

And at CHLORINATORS & CHARCOAL FILTERS we discuss the use of more permanently-installed chlorination systems.

You will also want to read about the health effects of drinking chlorinated water CHLORINE HAZARDS in WATER - see

If you want to make Phuket's groundwater that is taken from dug wells safe to drink you will need to know what contaminants are in the water, what treatments are required to remove them to make the water safe to drink, and you'd need a permanently installed water treatment system that did those treatments economically, reliably, and that was easy to maintain.

Small amounts of water for drinking-only might be provided using reverse osmosis: see REVERSE OSMOSIS WATER TREATMENT.

Research Studies on Contamination of Drinking Water in Phuket

Supporting my point that you need to know what contaminants are in water before you try to "disinfect" it, is this research

Reader follow-up: what about the safety of using Phuket water for bathing?

2016/09/15 Sky said:
Thank you for feedback and info sources regarding Phuket water & studies.(I have homework! Lol)
I will share with neighbors
I guess avoid ingesting is the best solution.
Last question:
Is Phuket well water at least safe to shower/bathe in? And wash dishes?

Moderator reply: water contaminant & microbiological standards for water safe for bathing

I'm still researching an authoritative answer to your question about the safety of Phuket's bathwater (not sea-bathing not swimming water) in Phuket. Here's what I have so far:

Short answer: taking a bath or shower in Phuket, Thailand

I don't know, but here's what we have learned so far:

You should not use the hand dug well water supply you describe in Phuket for drinking nor for brushing teeth. There might also be hazards from bathing in unsanitary water, depending on what biological, organic, or inorganic contaminants are present and the level at which they are found. The hazards of bathing in sewage or bacteria-contaminated water are probably increased if the bathwater is heated, and there might be hazard of breathing micro-droplets of contaminated water when showering. So some form of bathwater filtration and disinfection may be recommended. Use soap.

If you are bathing an infant be sure that the baby doesn't drink the bathwater.

If you have your water tested so that you know what contaminants and at what levels are present that will inform you better than more speculation and it would also inform us about what level of water filtration and treatment would make bath water safe in your Phuket home. Check with a water test lab who has familiarity with water in your area, as such a lab will know what contaminants are commonly found and thus what to look for. Keep in mind that the level of contaminants in surface water and thus in dug well water will vary seasonally.

Other sources that we reviewed and that discussed municipal water supplies for cities such as Bangkok assert that that supply is safe for bathing.

Details about bathwater in Phuket:

Water for bathing, washing and personal hygiene need not be of the same quality as that used for drinking and cooking purposes. (Rogers et al 1997). But in Thailand, the total coliform standard of 1000 MPN/100ml to define [safe] bathing water is considered to be too general (Wong 1998). In reviewing standards for safe bathing water it's also important to distinguish between sea-bathing and personal bathing or washing of bodies & clothing.

However depending on what organic and inorganic contaminants are present, bathwater that is contaminated could be unsafe. For example in areas of high radon in water (not Phuket), radon levels produced during showering can be high, and in areas where a private water supply used for bathing is high in chemical contaminants, those may be absorbed through the skin during bathing. Airborne contaminants produced by a shower an be inadvertenly inhaled during shower-bathing.

When there are bacterial hazards in water, those may be actually increased by use of a water heater. Warming or heating water may increase bacterial growth and further, the water heater tank itself can become a bacterial breeding ground. For this reason, treating and filtering bathwater water before it is heated by a water heater is recommended if the water supply is not sanitay, and in some countries such as Japan that filtering or treatment is required by law. (Kobayashi 2016).

Some of the studies I cited earlier and others cited below refer to bacterial hazards when bathing in beaches at Phuket where discharge of sewage into the ocean is a concern. For
compliance 80% of samples should not exceed the guide level and 95% should not exceed the imperative level. Barrel et al. ( 2000) note that

Epidemiological research on the effects on health of swimming at bathing beaches has shown that swimming in bathing beaches carries some risk of illness even when the beach complies with existing legislative standards1,28-31. The risk to health increases in proportion to the amount of faecal pollution as measured by indicator organisms (figure 1), but the bacterial indicator most strongly associated with risk to health seems to be the enterococcus count. ... For compliance 80% of samples should not exceed the guide
level and 95% should not exceed the imperative level.
(Barrell 2000). 

The standards for allowable bacterial contamination in bathing water varies by country and published standard and also by the type of bathing waters. While standards and water quality vary across Thailand and again in Phuket, in Bangkok, for example, the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority follows the World Health Organisation standards for providing safe drinking water. Standards for swimming facilities are differen from standards for home bathing in showers or tubs. Standards for safe swimming water (swimming baths, spas, hydrotherapy, and beach water) vary also by the contaminant-parameter: the type of organism: E. coli, pseudomonas aerguinosa colony counts, etc. Typically for a swimming bath (not the same as a bath tub or shower) E. coli should be 0/100 colony forming units / mL while in seawater a typical guide for faecal coliforms is 100 / 100 mL CFUs. (Barrell 2000). 

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

Question: how to abandon a dug well

(June 21, 2015) Theodore said:
We have a 30" ID concrete-lined hand-dug well that is ~ 20' deep. It has become non-productive during the dry season, so we are considering filling it in. Does it matter if it is filled in with gravel or soil? We were thinking about a 4" RC slab six feet below ground and installing a septic tank. Your thoughts please.


Gravel and rubble should be used enough that you don't have a later subsidence problem if poorly-compacted soil alone is used to fill in an abandoned well.

Question: cover for dug well

(June 23, 2015) Anonymous said:
does a dug well with a single jet pump need to have a air tight top?


No. It's common for there to be an air vent; the top may not need to be air tight but it should not allow surface runoff into the well.


(Sept 10, 2015) Ronald Falkowski said:
We live in Delaware, where can we go to get help with our dug well


Delaware department of public health.

Question: store rainwater in a dug well?

(Sept 10, 2015) Melissa said:
we have a hand dug well from the 1900s. we live in eastern Tennessee my question isn't about the well itself but the rain water catchment system, it has a cistern that flows into another small well and into the deeper well. im confused on the system and id like to get it working again but cant find any books on the subject. could you help me find information?



A rainwater harvesting system needs to store water in a water-tight cistern or container; sending rainwater into a dug well is likely to send that water onwards into soils around the well.

I'd need to understand more about what you're using and what's installed to be able to be more specific. Our CONTACT link at page bottom includes an email to which you can send photos.

Also search for RAINWATER HARVESTING and CISTERNS for details.

Question: dug well going dry

(Sept 27, 2015) Anonymous said:
I have a 25 feet dug well new pump new water tank was going good for two years well went dry 7, times we have water now but the problem is getting no water in the house What is wrong I need water please help


I need more information as I don't have a clue about symptoms at your well. It sounds as if your pump is not working. Search InspectApedia for WELL PUMP WON'T START or WELL PUMP WON'T STOP RUNNING for help.

Question: we bleached the well and now it smells

(Oct 10, 2015) Anonymous said:
I have a hand dug well that is 20-25 feet deep, we bought the house 5 years ago and have not had a problem. We do laundry and all our household things and have no problem with it running out of water, but my son told me to put bleach in the well and now I have a problem with the water smelling terrible, please tell me what to do?


If you over-dosed the well with bleach you will proably have to nearly empty it out and allow it to recover. See CHLORINE HAZARDS in WATER

Question: the hand dug well ran dry

(Feb 25, 2016) joe Deer Park ,wa said:
I bought this property with a hand dug well, aprox 25' it had water in it for the first 1 years then we had a drought and this year the pond that is close by is real full but the well is dry.. The pond is frozen on top still. Can there be away to clean or blow the water jackets to fill the well again?


Possibly, one can sometimes rod the soil around the well sides and bottom to encourage a limited improvement in water entry. My friend Paul Galow's dad used to drop dynamite into their well to restore its water flow. We DO NOT RECOMMEND use of explosives as someone could be killed or the well will collapse.

Question: brownish water from our hand dug well

(May 23, 2016) Henry said:
I have a hand dug well. At times it may be a brownish color. I'd like to know what is suggested for filtering to the point where i can use it to wash dishes and bath. It is not for consumption. I've been told the brownish color is decay from ground leaves etc.



Some brown contaminants are silt that an e filtered but others can be from iron or from such fine particles in the water (or chemicals ) such as the decaying leaf theory that most filters won't do much. Try a charcoal filter and a chlorinator but first perhaps have the water tested so we know for sure what we're trying to filter.

Clear the leaves and organic debris from the well and from its water source. Have the water tested so that we know its safety.

Question: prevent the dug well from collapsing

July 8, 2016) Anonymous said:
we need to change the waterline going from our pump to our hand dug stone well. Is there something you can put in the well to stop it from collasping?


Yes, Anonymous: depending on the well's diameter, if its walls are not already safe and secure, you could insert pre-cast concrete well rings into the well to form safe sides.

At the end of the article series given above you'll see a live link to WELL RINGS: WHEN TO USE or OMIT


Hand Dug Well Construction Procedure

The links below provide the details of how to dig and construct a hand dug water well.


Continue reading at HAND DUG WELL PROCEDURE - how to construct a hand dug well or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see EPA GUIDE to WATER QUALITY for a discussion of dug well water sanitation and potability


Or see WELL CAPS & COVERS safety and sealing requirements

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HAND DUG WELL FAQs at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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