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Flood of Raleigh Residents Seeking Wells

Posted February 25, 2008

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— Tightening water-use rules have local residents sinking to new depths to find enough water to keep their lawns green.

The number of permits to drill private wells has jumped ninefold in the past year. From last December through last Friday, 110 Raleigh residents applied for a private well, up from 12 applications from city residents during the same period a year ago.

Fifty-nine applications for wells in Raleigh have come in the last three weeks, said Greg Bright, groundwater supervisor for Wake County, who attributes the gusher of activity to the city's new water restrictions.

Raleigh implemented Stage 2 restrictions on Feb. 15, banning outdoor watering and pressure-washing and closing car washes that don't recycle their water.

"There is this mindset among some people – they really value that green lawn and will go to whatever ends it takes to get that," Bright said.

Graham & Currie Well Drilling Co. has been awash in business in recent weeks, well driller Jerry Hamilton said, noting he's been putting in two new wells a day lately.

"It's pretty wide open for this time of the year. Usually, this is the slack part of the year," Hamilton said. "There are a lot of people who love their yards."

The 32-ton machine he drives into people's yards usually isn't an issue for customers, he said. "What good is their grass if they're out of water?" he said.

Digging a private well costs $4,000 to $6,000, on average, but some homeowners have had to shell out as much as $10,000 to dig down far enough to tap ground water. The county also charges a $400 permit fee.

Well-driller Benford Graham said most new wells in Raleigh are going down about 315 feet, which he said is a safe depth to get into the groundwater supply. Most wells that have gone dry in the region were drilled no more than 100 feet, he said, adding that those wells still rely on what is considered surface water.

Bright said the growing number of private wells in Raleigh shouldn't impact the public water supply, which is fed primarily by water in Falls Lake.

"If we started putting a lot of wells in the Raleigh watershed – the Falls Lake watershed – and pumping a lot of the water out of the ground, then maybe you could make a connection," he said.

A recent study looked at the amount of groundwater available in Wake County.

About 141,000 county residents depend on groundwater, with 93,000 using private wells and 48,000 on community well-water systems. The report predicted water supplies would keep up with the growing demand, but the forecast was based on municipal water systems extending their service.


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  • dplowman Feb 26, 2008

    That's right people let the folks with brown grass drill new wells and deplete the water table that the people outside of the water districts use to have for drinking and bathing.
    I use well water at my home and two years ago had to drill for new water, seven hundred and fifteen feet (and $14000) later I now have water again.
    I live in Moore County where some of the towns get water from the underground wells.The drilling of water-wells to have a green lawn may sound good to people with a town supply running by their home but for me and others the well is the only way to get water. This is a bad policy to allow drilling for lawn's and if you were in my shoes you would agree. D Plowman

  • jse830fcnawa030klgmvnnaw+ Feb 26, 2008

    IMHO, I believe it is sad that homeowners are this greedy to drill for water just to keep their lawns green. If enough well-owners empty the water table, maybe cave-ins will occur. Underground water tables are shared among neighborhoods, and with enough new wells (or excessive use of existing wells), you can run the water tables dry to the point that you cannot get any more water without "hopefully" drilling deeper. I believe it costs $2-3000 to drill a new well.

    In addition, well water is not chlorinated, so it is assumed that the water is clean for consumption. I test my well water regularly to ensure it is clean, but I am sure not many "new" well owners would bother.

    Finally, well water takes longer to recover from a prolonged drought. I conserve my well water use, but I am sure I am a minority in doing so.

    Very sad indeed...

  • piperchuck Feb 26, 2008

    "Finite means measurable or countable. One would think that the county is considering this when they consider permits. Being the government, who knows if they are."

    Finite also means having a limited nature. While the aquifer may have lots of water, it's very doubtful that it's limitless.

    "It's my understanding after speaking to a hydrologist at NC State that there is a nearly unlimited aquifer that begins several hundred feet below the surface."

    If you look back 50 years of so, they probably said similar things about underground oil supplies. Heck, they probably used similar words when selling the idea of building Falls Lake. Aquifers have limits and if you push them too far, the consequences can be severe.

  • bobbythreesticks Feb 26, 2008

    Did anyone stop to think that these people may be tired of the gov't digging in their pockets to put a band-aid on a problem they should have been brainstorming about a year or two ago? I thought about calling a well driller as soon as the gov't was talking about increasing water bills 50-75%. I'm not for paying extra for a necessity that I am trying to do the right thing, and limit my use. I have cut back on my personal water consumption, but that won't make a difference in my back pocket if they increase our water bills. I'll be paying a higher price for less water!! I will not be able to decrease my usage enough to offset the increase. I wouldn't start watering my grass by any means, but you can bet the city would see a drastic decrease in my bi-monthly bills.

  • charlesboyer Feb 26, 2008

    "The wells will definitely have the ability to lower the lake levels more."

    That's funny, experts say that they won't. But you say that they will. I am confused who to believe. An expert or someone on the Internet.

    "There is a finite amount of fresh water. It doesn't matter whether it comes from a lake or an aquifer, there's a limited amount."

    Finite means measurable or countable. One would think that the county is considering this when they consider permits. Being the government, who knows if they are.

    It's my understanding after speaking to a hydrologist at NC State that there is a nearly unlimited aquifer that begins several hundred feet below the surface.

    The best idea is to use runoff as a poster below suggests. That and to use drought tolerant grass. Long fescue isn't it. Zoysia and Bermuda is a lot better for that purpose.

  • on3wheels Feb 26, 2008

    I have a well and this is my only source of water. If my well goes dry, and I am concerned with this drought! I will be extremely upset that people who have city water are allowed to drill a well and potentially affect my only water source.

    The city of Raleigh really needs to take this serious and not allow such selfish behaviour be the norm.

  • Just Once Feb 26, 2008

    I didn't realize we had so many experts. Boy do I feel better.

  • ncsulilwolf Feb 26, 2008

    I think I'm seeing a few connections here...

    "sinking to new depths" - seriously, this is low folks

    "to find enough water to keep their lawns green" - if they had a better reason than this, I might be more apt to see the benefit in them drilling more wells into the yards of folks who HAVE ACCESS TO CITY WATER

    "The number of permits to drill private wells has jumped ninefold in the past year" - require the property-owner prove the need for well water other than aesthetic purposes (lawn, car washing)

    "$400" permit fee.... make it $10k for those already capable of receiving city water

  • seeingthru Feb 26, 2008

    If you have access to city water I do not think you should drill a well the only folks I know who are on well water have no access to city water therefore no choice------- unbelievable how selfish some people are, if I am wrong plz enlighten me...

  • foetine Feb 26, 2008

    my water bill is $10 a month. So spending $6,000 for a well isn't in my cards. Wish I could understand sacrificing so much for grass.