We here in the United States have no idea how fortunate we are. Most people do not consider how easy it is to go to the kitchen faucet and obtain a glass of pure water, and this is something that we take for granted.
Take that access to clean water away all of a sudden for whatever reason, and people will realize how lucky we were. Yes, if you’re prepared, you’ll have plenty of water…But how long will that water last you?
You will need more water sooner or later because there is never enough of it, even with rationing. A state-of-the-art bunker and all the weapons in the world will be useless if you don’t have access to water.
We lost our way with all this technology
I find it difficult to believe that, considering the number of wells in my neighborhood, no one knows how to hand-dig a well.
There are numerous drilling activities that use various types of equipment, but in the scenario most preppers are considering, there will be no access to that equipment. It might be present, but there will probably be no fuel to power it.
Picks, shovels, and muscle will be required to dig a well. However, this appears to be a dying “art” in this country.
I did an extensive study to discover the information I needed.
I merged my expertise in hand-digging sump pits, the history of the people who first came here, and the activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) worldwide. This article contains the results of my research.
So, if the unthinkable happens, I hope this information keeps you and your family alive, and hopefully, you will be able to dig a well.
For thousands of years, people have dug wells by hand. In fact, in east-European countries, people will often dig a well to have access to water for their gardens and animals.
Many areas in Europe have well remains to date back to the Copper, Bronze, and Iron Ages. Finding these remains requires considerable effort because many wells were simply holes with no protection from cave-ins.
Every farm had a well in the early days of American colonization, and many of them were hand-dug. Fortunately, many of these were built to last, and they can still be found and studied today.
I want to dig a well, but where should I dig?
Simply digging a hole in the ground does not guarantee that you will locate water. You must have the proper information to believe that water will be found where you intend to dig. Hopefully, the land’s topography will provide you with vital information.
Water flows downhill, including subsurface water. While in Arizona, I discovered evidence of this. I was riding the Verde Canyon Railroad through the sand and rock country of Verde Canyon.
While the high ground was rocky and dry, the Verde River at the canyon’s bottom supported a small forest of willow and cottonwood trees. Granted, the water these plants require is supplied by the river, but it got me thinking: look for plants that require a steady supply of water.
This method was put to the test when trekking in the canyons near Sedona, Arizona. I noticed a little clump of willows and cottonwoods from the canyon’s rim.
Because there was no visible surface water, the trees had to rely on groundwater to survive. I had no idea how deep the water was, but this is where I would have tried to dig a well.
In the Northeast, there are several sites that appear dry in the summer but turn into ponds in the spring. This standing water is typically caused by rain and melting snow.
There are also brooks and streams that arise one minute and then vanish the next. That standing water is there because the water table underneath it is full or nearly full. As the table falls, surface water is pulled down to replenish it.
Similarly, that vanished brook or stream went underground. Both of these regions are worth looking into as potential well locations.
Another method for locating water is dousing. Dousing is the process of locating water with a forked stick. This method has been established for a long time, but it is not without its detractors.
Is it truly effective?
I’m not sure, but if locating a location to dig a well is a matter of life and death, I’m willing to attempt almost anything.
Time to dig a well
Before you begin digging, you should inspect the soil. What exactly is it made of? Is it mostly sand, gravel, clay, or rock & boulders?
Hand-excavated wells are limited to soils that can be easily dug by hand. If there are a lot of large boulders, look for another location.
While a place containing rocks may be out of the question, so may soils that are very sandy. These types of soils can cause the well to collapse.
How do you go about digging for water once you’ve decided to do so?
Keep in mind that this is a severe scenario. Drills, backhoes, or anything other than hand tools are not permitted.
You must secure water for your household using only shovels, picks, and other manual tools. Everything will be fine if you are successful. If not, you’ve merely wasted calories and energy.
There are occasions when digging a well is good, better, and best.
When you run out of water is a good time. When you have time because you have water resources, that’s the better time, and the ideal time is when you have water reserves.
In other words, you have scouted and discovered the location and can afford to wait for optimal conditions. Those conditions are frequently present immediately before the rainy season begins (or spring snowmelt).
If the dirt is too dry, the hole of the well may collapse; if it is too wet, the same thing may occur. Even worse, it may fill with water while you are in it.
Even in the best of circumstances, cave-ins are possible when you dig a well. To avoid this, the sides of the hole should be strengthened in some way.
Gather as many boards as you can before you begin excavating; the longer these boards, the better.
Special concrete sleeves can be installed in the hole in optimum conditions, with further sleeves added to prevent cave-ins as you go deeper. However, we are not under perfect circumstances here, and concrete casings may be out of the question. You have to make do with what you have, so boards are probably your best bet.
Another material that may be accessible is a metal or plastic culvert. If you can get your hands on some of this, it will function far better than the boards and can be left in the hole to serve as the well’s liner.
Measure a circle at least 5 feet in diameter. Begin digging with your shovel and pick, taking care to dig evenly around the full circle. After a few feet, begin lining the hole with boards, inserting them vertically (or placing the first length of culvert).
Check that the boards are close fitting and use cross members to keep the boards tight against the hole’s sides. As you dig deeper, keep hammering the boards down. Although time-consuming, all of these will help protect you from cave-ins.
True, this isn’t ideal, but we’re working with what we have to get the job done in a less-than-ideal circumstance.
Hand-dug wells are typically shallow, ranging in depth from 5 to 65 feet. Even so, to dig a well with that depth requires a significant amount of effort and a lot of energy and calories you cannot afford to lose in a survival scenario. You must calculate the risks and the rewards before starting a labor-intensive activity.
One possibility is to ask neighbors to help you dig a well, split the work, and share the reward. This option is heavily reliant on your relationship with possible partners and your ability to iron out the plethora of factors related to shared access and usage.
Another item that should be obvious but still needs addressing is the importance of having a reliable path out of the well’s hole. If and when you hit water, that hole might quickly fill up. Make sure you have a ladder or some other way of getting out alive.
You already have the material to line the well hole if you’re utilizing metal or plastic culvert. If not, line the sides of the well with masonry or stones. This will help to stabilize the well and avoid further cave-ins.
Back-fill the gap between the liner and the walls (if there is one) with crushed stone, gravel, or tiny rocks once the well is established. This will assist in keeping silt out of the well water. Cap your well to prevent objects from falling into it and contaminating the water.
In an emergency, a working well may be your only source of drinking water. However, before embarking on this adventure, give it some thought.
Are you going to stay in one spot, or will you be on the move? Water is valuable; thus, you must plan for its concealment and defense.
Are you willing to go through with it? Is the time and effort invested worthwhile?
Stephen Harris has written this article for Prepper’s Will.