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Hi, Kuldebar –

I don’t have any personal knowledge of West Texas, but I have studied a bit about how important water and water rights have been in the development of the western states  in general. When I read your post, I got interested in what kinds of challenges you’ll face as you head into a drought zone. Part of my interest stems from having just helped arrange for a well to be drilled on a parcel of land that our Community Land Trust owns.

This looks like a resource you probably already have, but if not it’s definitely one that you’ll want:

That pdf includes a link to the list of certified well-drillers, as well as maps and links to help you find whatever Ground Water Conservation district makes the rules for your land. Even working with a good well-driller, you will want to do your own measuring of distances from your land boundaries, neighbors’ wells, septic systems, right of ways, and so on. Because water is so vital in Texas and other dry places, it looks like there’s a ferocious network of regulations you have to be aware of. Eesh. It’s way simpler here in the northwest, because we have water everywhere.

This might also be helpful to you, in learning about wells that currently exist in your neighborhood:

Here’s what I know about wells  in general, from my personal experience:

As you probably know, you pay by the foot. When I had my well drilled, it was fairly terrifying because at something like $20 a foot I could just picture handfuls of $20 bills being thrown into a hole in the ground. You have no guarantee of how deep they have to go, or even if they’ll hit water at all, so it’s hard to gauge prices ahead of time. Your best bet for estimating depth and flow rate is to check the well-logs for the neighboring properties. That’s what that second pdf may help you do.

Also, drillers sometimes have to use more expensive equipment depending on what type of rock or clay they run into and then suddenly your per-foot price goes up. That happened to us recently. I think our final price is around $30 a foot for the Land Trust well. Your price may be lower, because ours includes the barge fee to get the well drilling rig to the island.

As far as pumps, they depend on how deep your well is and how many gallons per minute it can produce. Deeper wells need stronger pumps. Slower wells need pumps that sip water gradually.  I don’t have any personal experience with hand pumps in deep wells (I’ve used one at a rented house with a shallow well.) Hand pumps for anything deeper than about 25 feet would have to be awfully carefully engineered in order to lift water that far, and I’m betting they’d end up as expensive as a DC submersible pump. It sounds exhausting to even think about pumping water by hand if you had any garden to irrigate.

I have a $650 DC submersible pump, but it draws about 14 amps, which means I only run it in bright sunlight or when my generator is directly charging my batteries. It pumps about a gallon a minute, which is fine; it keeps my tank full if I remember to pump pretty often, and I only use about 10 gallons a day for household purposes. Irrigation takes more in summer, of course.

My well’s flow rate is only about 1 1/2 gallons a minute. Once I lived on property with a 40 gal per minute well; it was incredible. Gushing out of the pipe. My well is 245 feet deep, and just lifting the waterpipe and wires out of it to get the pump out requires two people and a mechanical winch. And you end up with sore arms, not to mention 245 feet of pipe curling through the woods.

I have a gravity-fed system, but I didn’t have to build a water tower because my land goes downhill a little bit. It’s not a big elevation drop, so my water pressure is kind of sucky: not enough for a flash hot-water heater unless I want to stick another pump in the system, which I don’t. My water tank is about 1000 gallons and I think it cost around $700, but I don’t quite remember. If your area gets any below-freezing temps, then insulating your above-ground pipes is a whole nother thing to consider.

Also… about well-drillers: you’re right to seek local recommendations, because flaky ones are a headache. The good ones often have long wait lists.

Let us know how you fare, and how your well-drilling prospects are affected by drought conditions in West Texas. I definitely wish you and your sister the very best!