In Idaho, there’s well drilling, then there’s, well, drilling. Lots of folks can poke a hole in the ground and get some water for your home. But not all of them drill a straight well, which is more important than you might think. (Pumps tend to get stuck in crooked wells.) And not all drillers will isolate sand (or other problem areas down the well) with casing. They’ll tell you that casing is more expensive, which is true. What they won’t tell you is that casing keeps the well from caving in if there are broken rocks or volcanic cinders.
If your well caves in, even just a little, it can cause a lot of expensive problems. A caved-in well can keep a technician from getting a dead pump out to replace it. That means more time pulling the pump, or possibly even drilling a new well, and it costs you a lot more money. Sometimes if a well caves in at the bottom, it can keep you from setting the pump deeper. (See the Dry Well page for more info.) Sometimes a caving well can even ruin the well completely.
Not all drillers have been working a drill rig since fourteen years old, like Fred Walker. With his experience, he can generally tell how deep a well will go, how much casing will be needed, and about how much water you’ll get out of the well. That means fewer surprises like having to re-drill a caved-in well, or having to drill deeper than the estimate shows. It means being able to plan out how much water you can use in your shower, or how many sprinklers you can run at once.
Drilling in the Magic Valley requires a drilling permit from the Idaho Department of Water Resources. IDWR oversees well construction standards, water rights, and logs for all wells drilled in the area. A domestic water right, included in a domestic drilling permit, allows for watering up to 1/2 acre or 13,000 gallons per day. Heat pump wells, irrigation wells, and others require a different permit and a separate water right.
If you’re curious about what a well looks like after it’s been finished, here’s a video that shows a trip down a finished well with a camera.
Well Drilling Basics
and Questions to Ask your Driller
Cost: Drilling a well might seem pretty expensive! But if you consider that your property value plummets without a viable water source, it makes more sense to consider your water well an investment. The value of your property will increase many times the cost of your new well – especially if it produces lots of water!
Needs and Availability: How much water are you going to need? Your builder probably won’t have this conversation with you, but you’re welcome to give us a call if you’re curious. A bare minimum for a home is 7-10 gallons per minute, but we find that many customers appreciate having a bit more water. Especially if they have a big house and lawn. Groundwater availability can be tricky! Depending on where you live, the water may be deep underground, or there may not be enough in the aquifer to deliver what you want. Again, if you have questions just give us a call.
Drill before you Build: If you’re looking at your home as an investment, it might be a good idea to know how much water you’ve got before you build it. Most builders in the area don’t do this, since the Snake River Plain Aquifer is pretty reliable. But it wouldn’t hurt to have an idea of how much water you can expect – if you have a big house with a trickle of water, your property may decrease in value.
Shop Around for a Contractor: If you’re reading this, you’re probably already shopping for a contractor. Of course we’re going to tell you we’re the best drilling firm in the area! But here are some questions you can ask us (and our competition) to get an idea of who’s going to best meet your needs:
- Are you registered, licensed, or certified? Walker Water Systems is AAA public works certified, and holds licenses in well drilling, plumbing, electrical, very small water system, backflow testing, hazardous materials, and more.
- Do you have all the proper equipment? We bring over $1 million worth of equipment to the job site to drill your well and install your water system.
- Do you have insurance? Yes. Certificates of insurance are available upon request.
- Will you provide an estimate and/or contract detailing the terms and conditions of the job? Absolutely – it’s our standard procedure. Typically, we estimate the parts and labor required so you have a line-item list. If the project runs over, we get permission from you before continuing, and we only bill for parts used and work performed.
- What kind of reputation do you have? Check out our testimonials page. If you’d like more, just give us a call – we’ve got plenty of happy customers who’d be happy to tell you about our work.
Get the Details: Some things you might want to ask include:
- The diameter of the well
- The size and type of casing, and how much casing the well will be expected to take
- Whether any well screen will be used, what kind, and how much
- Will the well be test pumped, and if so, for how long?
- When will a well log be provided
Trust the Contractor: Sometimes, unexpected things happen while drilling a well. No one can look underground to see what the conditions are like! If you’ve vetted your contractor well, then you can trust that they’re being professional and following the best industry practices. Trust your contractor’s judgment if there are any surprises. And if your contractor recommends any changes, it’s a good idea to take their advice.
We offer several types of drilling:
- This is just a regular well to provide water for your home. Domestic wells generally run 6 to 8 inches in diameter, and depending on the area, can run anywhere from 40 feet deep to over 800. Idaho Department of Water Resources requires a 38-foot surface seal (with casing), and in some areas with lots of sand or other loose material, additional casing may be used to keep the well from caving in.
- This type of well runs from 6″ up, and is generally used only for watering plants or crops. This could be a spare well for watering your lawn, or an enormous well for use with a pivot. Our driller is equipped to drill up to 30″ wells.
- A stock well is used to provide water to any sort of livestock – dairy cattle, sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas, etc. These can be drilled on dairies and ranches, and are sometimes drilled on BLM land for cattle grazing.
- Low-Temperature Geothermal
- Low temperature means less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. (It takes special equipment, licensing, and procedures to drill deeper for higher temperatures.) We drilled the geothermal wells for Canyon Springs Golf Course, and for Pristine Springs inc. (Pristine Springs recently sold the geothermal well to the City of Twin Falls.)
- Municipal Wells
- These are wells for cities and subdivisions. We’ve done municipal wells for Sun Valley Water and Sewer, the Cities of Bellevue, Hailey, Ketchum, Kimberly, Hollister, and for Valley School by Hazelton.
- Very Small Water Systems
- A Very Small Water System is a designation by the Environmental Protection Agency, in which a water source provides water to at least 25 connections. It requires special licensing, monitoring, and maintenance. We’ve drilled, installed and currently maintain a number of VSWS’s. Check the Public Water page for more information about our VSWS programs.
- Monitoring Wells
- We usually drill this sort of well so that a client can look at the groundwater and test for contaminants. We’ve done monitoring wells for wastewater plants, gas stations (including abandoned ones), and for environmental protection.
- Test Wells
- If there aren’t a lot of wells drilled in an area, sometimes a client will order a test well to look at the geology under the ground. A test well is usually used to get an approximate depth and amount of water, but can also be used to see if casing is needed to isolate bad sections of the well.
- An artesian well is a pretty rare creature, because there aren’t a lot of places in the country where you can get one. And even if the geologic conditions allow it, an artesian well is difficult to complete successfully. A well is called “artesian” when the water flows out on its own, without needing a pump. We’ve drilled most of the Artesian wells in the Wood River Valley.
- We’ve also drilled a number of other types of wells, like heat-pump wells, injection wells, and elevator shaft wells. (Elevator shafts are interesting, because they have to be straight.) We’ve also done fire protection wells (for use with fire hydrants), cathodic protection wells (used to prevent corrosion damage to pipelines and other equipment), and various other projects.