Building a House and Digging for Water

Blog Author - Sherry Noyes
Sherry Noyes

When you build a house from the ground up, drilling a well for your water supply is one of the first—and most important—tasks your general contractor will undertake. With a commodity as essential as water, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding about how that process will unfold.

close up of water filling a wooden bucket in a green field

For many thousands of years, people have acquired water in time-proven ways. They have pulled it out of streams, rivers, and lakes. They have captured rainwater in large cisterns. Or they have dug holes in the ground and waited for water to bubble up to the surface.

All those options are still around today. Indeed, rainwater cisterns have made something of a comeback. Increasing numbers of homeowners supplement their water supply by harvesting the precious commodity as it falls from the sky.

The most likely bet for your property, however, is to drill an artesian well. The word artesian stems from the Middle Ages and the Roman city of Artesium (now Artois, France), which was famous for its wells. For our purposes, though, artesian refers to a well that is drilled hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth.

Here’s what you can expect to happen.

  • Working with your general contractor, an artesian well expert will walk your site and determine the best place to drill for water. That decision will be based on a combination of factors, including the subcontractor’s knowledge of the area, other existing wells, and geological surveys. They also must take into consideration the lay of the land. Wells cannot be drilled on a steep slope, for example. And they’ll be looking ahead to where a septic system will go and, of course, where the house itself will be.
  • Depending on the location of the proposed well site, heavily wooded areas will have to be cleared, at least enough to provide access for the drilling equipment.
  • Most wells are drilled to a depth of at least 50 to 100 feet and may even extend to a depth of 500 feet. Drilling costs are generally calculated as a dollar figure per foot, so your hope is that an aquifer, or vein of water, is found relatively sooner rather than later. Bear in mind, however, that, for safety reasons, a water source cannot be too close to the surface.
  • Assuming water is found, the well company will calculate how many gallons of water per minute (gpm) the well can produce. According to the New Hampshire Water Well Association, a flow rate of 4 gpm for a period of four hours is considered an optimal water capacity supply for domestic use.

A good well makes for health and peace of mind for the life of your house. Be sure to start out with a solid foundation! For more information on other important aspects of building a house, check out our blog on the difference between house plans and house specifications—they're not the same thing!