How to Dig a Well for Your Own Fresh Water Supply

Learn how to transform the tiniest flowing spring into a dependable year-round source of drinking water.

| July/August 1972

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    The Olivieri family found a way to tap into a fresh water source on their property, and you can learn to do it, too.
    Photo by Fran Olivieri
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    A well can provide pure, fresh water for a refreshing drink.
    Photo by Fran Olivieri

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Our new Colorado cabin was nearly perfect except for the fact that it didn't have a water supply . . . and we didn't have $1,500 with which to drill a well. So, with a little imagination and a lot of work, we devised a supply of potable water that surpasses any municipal setup.

The cabin sits on an abandoned gold claim only 150 feet from a spring that bubbles to the surface in a natural draw. The water from the fountain is pure, clear and sweet . . . but it surfaced only in a tiny spot about the size of a dishpan. This was a good thirst quencher—you could kneel, bend over and drink as much as you liked—as long as your back held out. With time and patience, a container could even be filled to carry back to the cabin . . . but time and patience it did require.

We needed a means of collecting and storing the water for use as needed without interfering with the natural flow of the spring . . . and one step at a time, we found the solution.

First, we dug a hole four feet deep at the spot the volunteer fountain surfaced. Three sides of the excavation were lined with rocks to keep dirt and debris from falling in while allowing clean, sparkling water to continue seeping into the basin.

The fourth, or downhill, side of the hole we surfaced with cement. We also cemented the hole's floor (designed with a built-in depression in which sediment could settle) and, three inches above the floor, we imbedded an outlet pipe in the excavation's cement wall.

Not bad. We had a catch basin into which pure, cold mountain water flowed, collected and overflowed in a controlled manner. Still, ours was a very elementary arrangement . . . and the overflow pipe left the basin four feet below ground level! It was time to construct the second part of our water system.

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