For most log home owners who build in rural areas, the water well is an essential element to the planning for a new log home. Wells can be an expensive part of a home’s infrastructure, so it pays to understand the process.

Locating water for a well — art or science?
The art of water location, dowsing, has been practiced for centuries. Because the control and access to water in many regions is the means to power, water dowsers were often thought to have magical or mystical powers.

Today dowsers use their skills to locate water, oil, minerals, lost objects, and even disease. One dowser we spoke with, Richard McKenzie, spokesperson for the Southern Maine chapter of the American Society of Dowsers, says there are a lot of theories but few facts as to how dowsing really works. He feels that the human body has a natural ability to sense where water is and can locate it when asked.

Dowsers use either the traditional Y-rod or an L-rod, which are pieces of wood, plastic or wire bent to a certain shape. Old timers selected woods known for their affinity to water, like apple or willow, but Richard claims a slightly less romantic wire coat hanger can work as well. The dowser will look for a “vein of water” by saying, “Show me a yes.”  The dowsing rod will respond when a “vein” of water is present. He wants to locate good, flowing water that will provide an adequate supply of water for a household’s needs. People for many generations have relied on dowsers to locate their water sources, and have had some success.

Locating a dowser may be a matter of word-of-mouth or through one of the local chapters of the American Society of Dowsers. Most dowsers charge a small fee for their services, plus mileage if they have to travel a distance.

For those more interested in the science of locating a well, a hydrologist is the professional to consult. Many well drillers employ a hydrologist, who will be familiar with the geologic formations, water reserves underground and surface conditions. The National Ground Water Association is a helpful resource for understanding and maintaining wells, and locating a certified well drilling company in your area.

Drilled or Dug?
In some areas where water is abundant and soil conditions permit, a dug well is an option. A dug well is dug relatively close to the surface to access ground water. Typically a dug well is dug or bored with equipment and lined with concrete tile. The depth depends on the water table in the area, but must be dug to a depth below the level of the groundwater. Because they are close to the surface, dug wells can be vulnerable to surface contaminants, and can go dry for periods of time when the water table drops below the level of the well.

A drilled well consists of a hole bored into the ground, by either a percussion cable tool or a rotary drilling machine. The hole is lined with casing to prevent the collapse of the borehole walls and to provide a housing for a pumping mechanism and the transport pipe to the surface. The well is sealed with cement or grout around the casing to prevent surface or subsurface contaminants from entering the water supply. Wells can be drilled as deep as 1,000, but most wells are up drilled up to 200 feet or less. In most residential applications, an electric pump is installed to move the water up to the surface and into the home. At the bottom of the casing, a screen keeps sediment and other materials from entering the well and water flowing freely.

Many homeowners in areas where frequent power outages can occur install a hand pump to access their well water during an emergency. One manufacturer, Bison Pumps, makes a stainless steel hand pump that is attractive and durable. The Bison Pump has a thread on the end of the spout where a hose can be connected to the house water system to pump water for convenient household use. Bison Pumps can be installed alongside of the electric pump, and also provide a good seal to protect the well from surface contaminants.

Locating a Well Driller
There are probably quite a few contractors in the area who will have the equipment to drill or dig a well to provide clean abundant water to your new log home. Pricing many vary, as well as scheduled availability, so it pays to get quotes and additional information before contracting to have your well drilled. Your water professional can also determine the best possible spot for your well given the geological formations, seasonal runoff and proximity to the building site. When considering a piece of land, many homeowners also consult with a well driller to ensure that equipment can be transported to the site, and to obtain advice on the composition of the underlying rock ledge and soil. Positioning the well in relationship to the septic system on your building envelope is also extremely important and maintaining an appropriate distance will help to keep your water supply safe.

Testing the well
Once you’ve installed your wellhead, you’ll want to test the water to see if it has any impurities that might affect taste or health. Many homeowners add filtration systems for the entire house to remove minerals, sulphur or other contaminants that might affect the way the water tastes. Most well drillers also treat new wells with chlorine to kill any possible microorganisms.