Australia to Texas: Drilling the Well

Reader Contribution by Jim Christie
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As we continue to get ready to build on the property in Texas while still mostly living in Australia, we needed basic electrical access and water. While we plan to do a large amount of solar for power generation, we though having access to grid power (both for backup and for selling back) would be a good idea. We found that we had only one choice — a local power cooperative — and contacted them. After a few phone calls and emails, we arranged to have power put onto our land at what we thought (and still think) is a pretty steep price for pulling the power essentially from the main road a few hundred feet onto our property. We can get about half of the money back when we build the house and occupy it full time, but it was still expensive and turned out to be the only thing we could afford to do last year.

This year, we’re going to do a lot more and the first thing we needed was a well. There was a lot of conversation about whether we should drill an approximate 8-inch hole or a 12-inch hole as there is a fair difference in the price. We opted for the latter after some conversation with friends here in Australia who are in the irrigation business. The theory is that you have more flexibility as to the size of the pump you put in with a larger hole.

The driller we contacted and retained was a local operator (as you can probably tell by the equipment). 

Not too fancy, but we hoped adequate to get down to the 350-foot mark where our neighbors have had their wells for a few years. Given the nature of the soil (mostly sandy), we figured that a couple of days would suffice.

Toward the end of the first day, they were about half way or more there so good progress and we figured they would work through the night and get it done. However, they stopped at dark and asked our family next door if they would keep the water running so that the drilling site would remain intact overnight. However, somehow the water was turned off in the middle of the night resulting in a collapse of the well and a near large problem with the equipment. 

They fortunately recovered from this problem and got back to where they were the first day by late afternoon and this time, continued through the night until the well was down to the desired depth.  Packing with tons of gravel and finishing the site resulted in a site that looks like this:

The finished well head is on the left and the electrical setup is on the right. Both of these are relatively near the proposed building site, so we won’t have to run power and water too far. Also, the solar panels will go fairly near the area where the photographer is now standing.

Once the well was done, the driller connected a pump and tested the flow rate. While it will be large enough for what we intend, it is much lower than the same depth well would have produced a couple of years before. The extreme drought in Texas coupled with the few years of peanut farmers drilling wells down to 700’ and pumping large quantities of water from the aquifer (even in drought conditions) has really made one of Texas’ largest aquifers much less efficient. Let’s hope people get much smarter about water usage and the types of crops one plants in drought conditions.