What are Boreholes & Wells?

There is often confusion when it comes to the difference between Boreholes and Wells. On this page we'll aim to explain exactly what the difference is...

How do we define Boreholes & Wells?

A water borehole is constructed using a drilling rig – either rotary or percussion. These rigs are capable of penetrating much further into the water table than excavating by hand.

The boreholes themselves are generally much narrower and deeper than a traditional well as a result of modern techniques. Due to the increased depth, a water borehole can provide a consistent and reliable source of water.

As part of the drilling process, steel or plastic casing is used to prevent the walls of the borehole collapsing, as well as stopping contaminants. In some instances where the ground is self-supporting, a liner is not required.

A maximum of 20,000 litres of water a day can be abstracted from a water borehole without a licence. For any borehole deeper than 15 metres, a borehole log must be submitted to the British Geological Survey.

Once constructed, a water borehole can finish above or below ground, typically decided by the client’s requirements. However, the Environment Agency and environmental health guidelines recommend that If the water is to be used as a drinking supply, the borehole head works (which prevent surface contamination of the water) should be finished above ground.

With modern drilling techniques, water boreholes have overtaken traditional water wells as a reliable source of clean water. Although installation costs can seem high, the water can be put to many uses and can therefore save money over time. A properly constructed borehole is a great way of accessing good quality water, and with suitable treatments the water can usually be made clean and safe for drinking.


Traditional wells were most commonly formed by hand and were an established method of sourcing water from underground by digging down into the ground until water was reached.To prevent the well from collapsing, bricks or rocks would be used to line the hole. Today, if constructing a new well, concrete rings would be used instead of bricks or rocks.

Traditional wells would use a pulley rope to lower a bucket to collect water. The shallow depth of some wells meant that they could become dry when water was used at a faster rate than replenishment, and there was also a higher risk of contamination from bacteria or pollutants.

Find a Member

Have some works you need carried out and need to find a well respected company? Browse our members to find the perfect company for your project.