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New USGS Shallow Well Design Resists Drought

The U.S. Geological Survey has developed a new well design that may be cost-effective and resistant to the effects of drought. Originally for areas where arsenic can be a problem in ground water, the new shallow design could be a boon for small-scale farming too.

The design is somewhat like a back-filled building foundation with crushed stone and collection pipes at the bottom and a geotextile cover. The large side-wall area increases flow through shallow glacial till into the well and the large volume increases storage.  Both of these are important improvements over conventional shallow wells. The geotextile cover prevents backfill materials above from mixing with the stone below. The shallow depth would also reduce pumping costs.

Arsenic in drinking water is a growing concern in the United States, especially in northern New England.  There, many people use private domestic groundwater wells, and high concentrations of naturally-occurring arsenic are common. Arsenic is a known human carcinogen and is linked to other adverse health outcomes.

This new shallow well design could eliminate many of the concerns associated with the use of shallow, low-permeability aquifers. It can provide safe drinking water to a large fraction of the New England population that would otherwise rely on arsenic-contaminated bedrock wells. Further, this well design has potential advantages in storage and recharge that could make it very valuable on the farm.

For more information, contact Joe Ayotte at the USGS.