drilling for water

Drilling for water on a hillside is not the same as drilling for water in the flats where there is a known water table. There you know before you drill how deep you have to go to reach water. Where we live in Juniper Hills, drilling for water is risky business because the underground water here runs in “streams” through the different layers of rock, sand, and clay. We have one neighbor who drilled five dry holes (at $10k a pop)!  So what us-here-country-folk do is hire a water witcher.

Now I know that sounds very woo-woo to city folk, but believe me, in the search for water you take the advice of the locals. We hired three witchers and had one of them come back a second time. On his second visit, he chose a spot that one of the others had chosen (two were off the property!) and that’s where we drilled.

The driller drilled a six-inch hole, hit a little water at 100 feet, more at 300 feet, and kept on going to 400 feet to make a reservoir of 100 feet of standing water in the hole. To complete the well, they drilled the original six-inch hole out to a ten-inch hole and then put down a six-inch casing, a perforated pvc pipe that is surrounded by gravel, allowing whatever water is flowing by to enter the pipe and fill the reservoir. They lowered a pump into the casing with sensors so that the pump shuts off when the water gets too low and comes back on when the water level goes up.

The day we hit water, we were getting seven gallons a minute which is plenty because it goes into a 5,000-gallon holding tank and later into a pressure tank to provide pressure for the house.  We think we may have hit a pocket of water that day because eventually our well ended up producing only about a half gallon per minute, which it turns out is barely enough for our household uses and to water a very few plants. We have almost no landscaping, relying on native vegetation to create the beautiful environment we live in.

With the well in place and our basic need for water having been met, we could turn our attention to planning the house.

 The drilling rig forces mud down through the stem to the drill bit which lubricates the bit and keeps it cool, and as it drills,  the mud is forced up and out of the hole carrying with it the cuttings. What you see here is the mud carrying the cuttings flowing up and out from the bottom of the hole.

The drilling rig forces mud down through the stem to the drill bit which lubricates the bit and keeps it cool, and as it drills,  the mud is forced up and out of the hole carrying with it the cuttings. What you see here is the mud carrying the cuttings flowing up and out from the bottom of the hole.

 We are moving the 5,000-gallon tank to a new location. By the time I took this picture, we'd had the tank a few months and I had gone Brice Marden on it!

We are moving the 5,000-gallon tank to a new location. By the time I took this picture, we'd had the tank a few months and I had gone Brice Marden on it!

 Bruce used his cherished Bobcat to dig a trench to lay the pipe to carry the water from the well to the 5,000-gallon holding tank.

Bruce used his cherished Bobcat to dig a trench to lay the pipe to carry the water from the well to the 5,000-gallon holding tank.

Overview

My husband, Bruce, and I built our adobe house with just us and a small crew, and this blog will cover most of the details for anyone interested and anyone who may be considering doing it themselves. This picture was taken after we were well into it...you can see the stacks of adobe blocks which we made on site, and the completed house foundation.

It all started when our friends came back from a four-day workshop in New Mexico, and we were inspired to take the same workshop. That was it! By the end of the workshop we felt ready to give it a try. At least my husband was. I kept wondering if we shouldn't just buy the adobe blocks which were readily available from a manufacturer in Modesto. But Bruce, being the spiritual guy that he is, was dedicated to the idea of making the house from the dirt hillside. Of course he was absolutely right, which he sometimes is.

We purchased ten acres of hillside in Juniper Hills on the north side of the San Gabriel Mountains overlooking the Mojave Desert, just above Littlerock and Pearblossom which are on Hwy 138. We had lived in Juniper Hills thirty years previously when our boys were growing up, and it's a perfect location for combining a wild area with access to a large metropolitan area - Los Angeles - necessary for me as an exhibiting artist. Being a rural area, Juniper Hills does not offer city services such as water and sewer, so first things first, we drilled for water. I will talk about that experience in the next blog.

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