5 Tips For Spacing Your Water Wells On A Busy Farm

While the average home may only need a single well to supply all the family's water needs, a busy farm needs thousands of gallons a day in peak production. Even the deepest well in an area with plenty of ground water usually fails to provide enough water all by itself. Installing multiple wells provides more water, and it also shortens the distance between the water source and your crops or livestock. Take care when spacing the wells to avoid drainage and contamination problems.

Check Local Restrictions

First, start your well spacing quest at the local Ministry of Environment or land management office. Each area of the country has different requirements due to the types of aquifers and soil composition, so the distances listed below are only rough guidelines. Follow the exact setbacks required by your local administration or you'll end up facing fines and having some or all the wells condemned.

Mark Your Septic Systems

Septic systems pose the first danger to your wells. Even if you plan to use the water only for irrigating crops, E. coli and other fecal bacteria can kill your plants or spread disease to the consumers receiving them. Keep each well at least 100 feet away from both the septic tank and any part of the drain fields. If you have a closed and water-tight septic system that uses sunlight or air to speed up decomposition, you may be able to move the well closer, but only with specific approval from an environmental officer.

Avoid Both Livestock and Feed

Since you can't put a well near human waste, it's pretty obvious to keep the water source away from cattle and poultry as well. However, even feed can leave your well contaminated. Aim for:

  • At least 100 feet and preferably 250 feet between wells and any manure piles, feedlot pens, pig enclosures, or other sources of fresh and aged manure runoff
  • A minimum of 50 feet of border from feed storage containers like silos and bins, even if you use non-medicated feed and rarely experience a spill
  • About 500 feet between water sources and burial pits used for dead livestock

When you need hundreds of gallons a day for keeping five or six poultry houses running through a hot summer, it's tempting to drill only a dozen or so feet outside the structures. However, you'll quickly lose so many chickens from the bacterial contamination that it'll cost you less to site the well further away and pay for extra pipes and pumps if needed.

Remember Chemical Runoff

Don't forget to take a tally of the chemicals you use on your fields each year. From pesticides to herbicides, even organic farms end up with a lot of runoff during rainy periods. Keep your well above sloping fields and away from drainage ditches since these ditches gather and absorb a high level of chemical runoff. You can end up with a dangerous concentration of heavy metals or salts since many crop sprays rely on copper and potassium salts to kill pests or prevent disease.

Consider Property Boundaries

Finally, get a clear marking of your land's boundaries from a surveyor before any water well drilling. All Canadian provinces set regulations on how close wells can sit to a neighbor's property. Measuring twice before you drill is the best way to ensure your investment doesn't go down the drain.

Farm wells still need to produce water that is drinking water quality or close to it for both plants and animals to thrive. The same mineral concentrations and bacterial contamination that makes water unsafe for people affects equipment and the rest of the farm too. Get your well professionally drilled and tested before you so much as water a single plant to avoid expensive mistakes.