Poor Patrick. One of the kids left a hose running in the garden, and this month’s water bill hit $400. “That’s it. We’re watering with well water from now on,” he fumed. I said I’d look into it.
“Usually, when you drill, you will hit water,” says Tony, owner of Waterlocating.com (760-742-3727). “The question is, how much?” A good well, one that hits close to the heart of an aquifer, yields a higher gallons-per-minute flow of water. “A good well should give 50 gallons per minute. But I know an East County woman who drilled 900 feet and got only a cup per minute.” (She wasn’t using Tony’s system of computer-generated targets.)
Besides how much water, there is also the question of how deep you have to go to get it. “I know people who drilled blindly, or using a water witch, who had to go 1200 feet to get water. But most water that you find on a computer-generated target is at 300 to 400 feet down.” Generally, he says, that’s where you’ll find the heart of the aquifer. “But the strata down there tilt at a 45-degree angle,” and water flows downhill. “So, the further you get away from the heart, the further down you have to drill,” and the more money you wind up paying. “For most people, every 100 feet they don’t have to drill down is another $2500 to $3500 saved.”
That’s where Tony comes in. “What I do to locate the water is sort of like an MRI, taking vertical slices of the earth,” he says. “Think of slicing an egg with an egg slicer. When you look at the slices, you see a small section of yolk, then a medium section, then a maximum section, and then back down to a small section. So, you can see the geometry of the yolk based on those slices. Similarly, I take pictures of slices of your parcel, and by looking at the slices, I can see how the water system meanders through your parcel. I can see what areas within the system are more promising for drilling than others.”
Tony gets his images through electromagnetic sounding. “When the energy wave hits the conductive aquifer, it reflects. I measure the reflections, and my computer processes that into an illustration.” The service costs $850 for surveys of parcels from 0.1 to 2.5 acres and $1550 for surveys of parcels from 2.6 to 5 acres.
Tony doesn’t think much of water witching — he says the rods react to magnetic fields more than anything else — but he does think well of driller/witcher Buddy Wilkerson of Wilkerson Drilling (619-454-4813). “I’ve never drilled a dry hole,” Wilkerson says, “and I’ve had 100 percent success with my witching. If I can’t find a fracture, I won’t drill. I don’t charge for the witching, either.”
Not everyone can witch, he says, and he admits that the whole thing is a bit mysterious. “But the man who taught me explained it like this: there are cracks under the ground and the water is carried through those cracks. The water has minerals in it, and when the minerals rub up against the rock, it creates a kind of static electricity. That’s what the witching rods detect. I try to find a place where two cracks cross each other.”
When figuring cost for drilling, Wilkerson stresses that “the cost per foot of drilling is not the most important number. The total cost is. I may drill for $15 a foot and my competitor may drill for $13 a foot, but my total cost for, say, a 300-foot well is less because they leave open ends for charges on things like casting and permits. So, I would say something like, ‘The cost for a 300-foot well will not exceed $6500. Then, for a one-horsepower pump, pipe, control box, pressure tank, and motor, it’s another $3500. Then you might want a storage tank. And the cost of running power from your house to the well will vary.’”
It’s a lot of money, but, says Wilkerson, “With water prices going up, it just makes sense. We’re getting more calls from the inner city than we used to.”