how does a well work - bucket in water well

What Is A Well (And How Does A Well Work)?

You’re going to want to know what a well is — and how a well works — before you move to the country. Wells are quite common in rural areas.

Or maybe your existing home has a well, but you haven’t given it much thought. Is it an actual working well? Is the water safe to drink and use?

You’re in luck. This article is going to answer those questions and more.

What is a Well?

A well is a hole driven into the ground to gain access to an underground aquifer. Water is extracted from the ground using a pipe and a pump. The pump uses a screen to filter undesired particles that could clog the pipe. 

how does a well work - well with bucket
This is what most people envision when they think of a well. But there are many shapes and sizes. But all wells work similarly in that they are holes dug into the ground to access and bring up useable water.

How Does a Well Work?

To get to the water, wells are excavated as deep as 1,000 feet into the rock. To prevent impurities, pipe casing is put into the opening and surrounded by a concrete or clay sealant. A well pump transports water through this casing. 

Above the ground, the well’s system is sealed. The water then enters your home through a pipe that connects the casing to a pressure tank (which is typically installed in the basement). It is then dispersed to all of the faucets in your home.

how does a well work diagram
So, how does a well work? This illustration shows the simplicity of most wells. The hole is dug into the ground, reaching the aquifer. A pump brings up the water through pipes. It is then dispersed throughout the home.

3 Different Types of Wells

Wells exist in a variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the type of material into which they are drilled and the amount of water they pump out. In the United States, more than 42 million people rely on individual or private wells to provide water for their households.

Here are three different types of wells:

  1. Consolidated or Rock Wells: Drilled into a formation made entirely of natural rock, with no soil and little chance of collapsing. They are roughly 250 feet deep on average.
  2. Unconsolidated or Sand Wells: Drilled into a collapsed formation made up of dirt, sand, gravel, or clay material.
  3. Bored or Shallow Wells: Drilled into an unconfined water source, usually at a depth of less than 100 feet.
how does a well work - looking into hole
Wells on a residential property are made by drilling into a number of different materials, such as rock, dirt, sand, gravel, or clay.

What are the Parts of a Well?

A well is made up of several different parts. The following are the most important materials used:

  • Casing: utilized to keep an open access in the ground while preventing any intrusion or leakage from the surrounding formations into the well. Black steel, galvanized steel, PVC pipe, and concrete pipe are the most common casing materials. 
  • Gravel Pack: prevents sand from entering the well or clogging the screen and supports the well assembly. The gravel pack is placed around the outside of the screen.
  • Grout: is a sealant used to fill in the voids around the well’s perimeter. It prevents impurities from getting into the well. Cement, bentonite, or concrete can be used to make a grout mixture.
  • Screen: keeps sand and gravel out of the borehole while letting groundwater and water from formations in. Screens are made of a variety of materials, the most common of which being stainless steel and slotted PVC pipe. When drilling wells in unconsolidated materials, a screen is utilized.

Can Well Water be Contaminated?

If a well is not properly constructed or if harmful elements are released into the well, it can quickly become contaminated. Toxic pollutants spilled or deposited near a well can leak into the aquifer, contaminating the groundwater pumped from that well. 

Contaminated drinking water wells are very harmful. Wells can be examined to see what chemicals, diseases, and other pollutants are found and in what quantities they are there.

how does a well work - signs of contamination
There are many signs of possible well water contamination. In addition to the above, they include water with a salty (brackish), metallic, soapy, or chemical taste. Look out for smells that resemble methane, detergent, gasoline, oil, chlorine, or rotten eggs.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, answering the questions, “what is a well and how does a well work?” is a bit more complicated that you might have thought. But I hope we’ve made it easy to understand the basic principles.

If you’re interested in an off-the-grid plumbing solution like a private well, just keep in mind that there are different types that need to be considered. Each type of material is used for a different purpose inside the well. Most important, look out for contaminated water.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you need help with any of your off-the-grid plumbing issues, such as a water well.

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, or water damage problem. We also handle the excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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