Water Well Driller
Water Well Driller
Education and Training: High school plus training
Salary: Median—$33,570 per year
Employment Outlook: Fair
Definition and Nature of the Work
Water well drillers sink wells into the earth to tap natural water supplies. They drill agricultural wells for irrigation, commercial or industrial wells, and wells for homes that are not served by municipal water systems. They keep records of wells drilled and, in many states, report their work to government officials.
Usually drillers hire a crew consisting of well driller helpers, pump service rig operators, and pump service rig helpers. They set up a truck-mounted derrick or rig with the drill and other required equipment. Once the drilling rig is set up and working, the drillers continue to monitor the operation.
As the well shaft goes into the ground, the drillers line the shaft with steel or plastic pipe to prevent the ground from caving in and to keep out water that may be polluted. The drillers fill the shaft with fluid to keep the bit cool. They may adjust the pressure or impact of the drilling rig and change the bit as it penetrates different layers of the earth. The well drillers or their helpers may splice worn or broken cable and use welding and cutting equipment to do repairs. Sometimes they use special fishing or retrieval tools to recover broken or lost drill bits and pieces of pipe.
When they drill the well, they install a pump designed for the depth, diameter, and capacity of the well. They sterilize the entire system to prevent the growth of bacteria. Finally, they start the pump to bring water up through the system.
Water well drillers do not always work on new wells. They may set up a rig to repair or restore wells that have stopped producing. They may also plug or cap deteriorated wells to prevent contamination of the groundwater.
Education and Training Requirements
A high school diploma or its equivalent is required. High school courses such as geology, chemistry, and physics will explain rock formations, minerals, and the properties of water. Shop classes will provide a background in running and maintaining machines and small tools. Algebra, trigonometry, and English are also important.
After high school, an apprenticeship with a certified water well driller is recommended. Apprenticeships include classroom study and on-the-job training and last from two to four years, depending on the state. After completing an apprenticeship, a trainee becomes eligible to take a state certification test.
Several two-year colleges offer well drilling technology programs with courses in geology, mathematics, and inorganic chemistry. Techniques for finding good-quality water, methods of drilling, and equipment operation are explained. Other classes cover equipment maintenance and repair, setting specifications, inspection and quality control, and record keeping and accounting.
Getting the Job
In many states, water well drillers have to be certified by passing a written exam. Many states also require that a water well driller serve an apprenticeship before being certified. In addition, a voluntary certification program is sponsored by the National Ground Water Association. That certification can be helpful in getting a job.
Prospective apprentices will find employers listed in the Yellow Pages under "Water Well Drilling and Service" and "Drilling and Boring Contractors." Other sources of job information are drilling-rig manufacturers, geological consulting firms, newspaper classified ads, Internet job banks, and state and local employment offices. Technical school graduates can check with the placement offices of their schools.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Water well drillers are already at the top of their craft. Most work for drilling contractors, and others may work as consultants, sales representatives, or service technicians for equipment manufacturers. They may also work for state or federal agencies concerned with the use and control of water resources. After some years of experience, they may set up their own drilling businesses.
Employment for water well drillers is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all jobs through 2014. As with most jobs in construction, employment mainly depends on general economic conditions. However, there will always be a demand for drillers because an increasing population always needs more water. Groundwater supplies must also be found to replace surface water supplies that are often polluted and too expensive to clean up.
Water well drillers perform hard physical labor in all kinds of weather. They stoop, squat, and crawl to do their work. They often work on narrow, slippery surfaces. They lift heavy equipment. They may suffer muscle strains, bruises, and cuts from handling the material and equipment associated with the job. Noise and vibration may require the use of ear plugs and other safety devices.
The number of working hours in a week depends on the completion dates. Usually water well drillers work about fifty hours per week. The hours may be irregular because of emergencies.
Where to Go for More Information
National Ground Water Association
601 Dempsey Rd.
Westerville, OH 43081-8978
Groundwater Management Districts Association
P.O. Box 905
Colby, KS 67701
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Society
John W. Powell Federal Bldg.
12201 Sunrise Valley Dr.
Reston, VA 20192
Water Systems Council
1101 Thirtieth St. NW, Ste. 500
Washington, DC 20007
Earnings and Benefits
The median income of water well drillers in 2004 was $33,570 per year. Benefits may include health plans, pensions, and paid vacations.