Local News

Flood of Raleigh Residents Seeking Wells

Posted February 25, 2008 5:36 p.m. EST
Updated February 25, 2008 8:51 p.m. EST

— 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.