Eureka - 3 feet of water at 5 feet!

How to dig a well - by hand (open dug well)

It's been a long time that we have been trying to get some regular source of drinking water supply at the farm. The neighbors have started acting stingy in allowing us to draw water from their wells. It was about time that we made a 3rd attempt I thought.

Digging a well in a rural-Indian village is not a simple matter. There aren't that many people around still doing it, so first you got to find someone who is in this line of work.
Then there's the weather thing - you can't dig in the rainy season (duh, every thing will have water!). You should ideally dig in the peak of summer because if you find water at that time, it is very likely your well will always have water in the peak summertime in future. BUT, since well-diggers are few and far between, they are in high demand and it's very unlikely you will find somebody in the peak of summer to do this for you in your remote little farm!

Plus you have to know where to dig. This is a tough one - how do you know where to dig? Well, you get a water diviner - who will come and tell you where to dig. Amongst the many ways that they could do this (aside from using scientific equipment) - the two most popular ones involve the use of a coconut or the use of a y-shaped tree branch. It's quite an interesting thing to watch. The coconut water diviner will put the coconut pointy-side facing upwards in his open palm, arm outstretched at the elbow and then start walking around. At certain points, the coconut moves a bit - seeing adequate movement he slows and down and concentrates his steps in that area - and voila - at some particular point, the coconut just tips over out of the palm! The stronger the water current below - the faster / harder it will tip over. At this time, the water diviner can also suggest how many feet down they have to go to get the water. Talk about modern technology! The twig is similar - the diviner holds it in his two hands (one end each of the y) and the tail pointing out - as he walks around - the Y takes on a power of its own and starts to bend up-or-down as it senses water. I have tried both techniques myself with very little luck - neither coconut nor branch shows any inclination of moving!
If all this is not enough - there is one thing nobody can predict - rock. Water they can predict, but in the process of digging, if they find stone - then you give up. For that's the end of the well. Maybe there's water underneath the rock, but nobody's going to dig below that. How can you?

So anyway, we tried to make our first well two years ago - in the peak of summer - got the well-digger, got the water-diviner, chose a nice location near to the shed-house and started digging. About 15 feet in, a nice round hole in the ground ready, we hit some partially-hard rock. The diggers said they saw ghosts at night and promptly left next morning. So that was that of well #1.

Last year, we tried agian. New well-digger guy. Two water diviners - one coconut and one Y branch. Matched the locations till we found one that both agreed had plenty of water. They predicted there were three veins of water running below and all three joined at this precise spot. Imagine my good luck! Well (sic), we started afresh to dig a well. All went well. For 15 full feet. and then we hit partially-hard rock. My well-digger's men had stomach upset and would come back soon. Like in the next century. So that was that of well #2.
And so here we are in 2011 with well #3. Same well-digger of year 1. Promises that this time, we will make it happen, come what may. I was asked to be prepared to get dynamite if the need arose. Prices about double that of year 1. Desperation at about three times of year 1 and therefore price-elasticity is very high. On an auspicious note one morning they started. By afternoon, they had done about 4 feet. Late afternoon, 5 feet. And Boom - gushing water. Not a trickle. Not a small rivulet. Here was a gushing river - filling up the well with 3ft of water in 10 minutes! Hooray!

Now comes the balance hard work of actually making this well and finishing it. I hope to have good updates for you in the near future. Oh, to finish the class:
1. So you need to book your well-digger early - just after the rains. Like November maybe. Get him to start like in December. Once he finds water, he will go away and dig some more - at other people's farms and villages. He will keep doing this - find water and move on. No water in 2 days - abandon and move on. Then he will come back after a couple of months and make the concrete rings and leave them to set. Then he will come back in the peak of summer - ensure depth is adequate and water is still there. If it is - you have got yourself a nice well that you can now finish, seal and hopefully have perennial water supply.
2. Choose the lowest position in your farm - the lower you are (closer to sea level :-) - the more likely you are going to find water.

Hopefully we will end up with something like this.

More to come, stay tuned.

P.S. Images aren't our farm's. Copyright of images acknowledged.


Who would have thought digging a well was fraught with so many ifs and buts.

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