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What is the WDA?

The Well Drillers Association consists of companies and individuals engaged in well construction, test pumping, maintenance and rehabilitation. It is not open to manufacturers and materials suppliers but a number of our members act as distributors for well-related equipment including pumps. The Association mainly acts as a forum for members to discuss the industry, technical specifications, contract problems, training and the potential impact of legislation on the industry. It also maintains close contacts with the Environmental Agency (EA), the British Geological Survey (BGS) and the various Water Authorities and Water Companies.

Can I learn more about Groundwater

The UK Groundwater Forum (01491 838800) have issued a booklet called “Groundwater our hidden asset” which is a layman’s guide to groundwater.

I have a disused borehole/well on my site, how do I abandon it, do I have any legal responsibilities to follow or do I need to notify anyone?

If you find a borehole/well on your site that is clearly not in use, then it could be considered a liability and should be abandoned following guidelines.  A disused borehole/well could be a danger because of:

Safely, someone could fall into it, or an animal

Confined spaces are dangerous as there could be gas emissions

Surface contamination

Ground stability

It is important that a disused well/borehole is not just backfilled with rubbish, as the rubbish could contaminate the water course and it is advised that a bonafide well driller be approached to advise how this should be done and with what materials.

There are guidelines from regulatory bodies:

The EA booklet “Decommissioning Redundant Boreholes and Wells” gives guidance on the abandonment of boreholes. SEPA has a similar document and the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2005 (CAR) General Binding Rules 3 & 4, set conditions for backfilling and sealing boreholes.


How do I complain about the workmanship of a WDA member (and non members)

Detail the site location, the contractors name and contact and the nature of the problem. Ask whether the contractor has been advised of the complaint and what was his response. Advise the WDA Secretary of the details and the Secretary or the Chairman will respond.

Can both a mains and a borehole supply be connected to the property?

Current water supply regulations require that protection must be provided against backflow into a mains water system. This can be achieved by either a total permanent disconnection from the mains water supply or a complete separation of the mains from the borehole supply with no means of interconnection and with both supplies being clearly labelled or an air gap system complying with Section 6 of the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999.

Is treatment necessary

Water must be ‘potable’ ie it must be safe and of drinkable quality. Any new borehole supply should be tested by a local public health laboratory. In many cases the water will require no treatment. However, if there is any evidence of bacterial contamination, an ultraviolet (UV) sterilisation unit and pre-filter should be installed. This uses UV light to kill the bacteria, and make the water safe and does not taint the water. If the water is turbid—muddy or cloudy with suspended particles—in-line filters can be used to provide good clear water. If the general public is likely to drink water from the supply, it is recommended that a UV sterilisation unit is installed to demonstrate that all possible steps have been taken to eliminate possible risks.

Is the quality and quantity of water guaranteed

The key element to minimise the risk is to obtain as much information as possible prior to committing to a drilling programme, hence the recommendation that a borehole prognosis be obtained. Whilst this is not a guarantee of success, it can highlight risk at an early stage. There will always be an element of risk that no water will be found, and this needs to be fully understood by all parties.

What about borehole contamination

The main source of borehole contamination is from leaking septic and fuel tanks and from animals kept close to the borehole location. All borehole installations must be properly sealed below ground level either by grouting or concreting a steel casing into a clay type zone or into rock head or by sealing any Pvc casing or well screen to at least 5 metres below ground level. The WDA Guidance Notes for the Construction of Boreholes for Water Supply provides good general advice on contamination protection, including the recommended methods for manhole construction. The EA also has two related publications called “Water Supply Borehole Construction and Headworks – Guide to Good Practice” and “Groundwater Source Protection Zones”. SEPA has produced a document on “Water Supply Borehole Construction and Headworks – Guide to Good Practice.

What do I get in a BGS Prognosis

The BGS report will give an appraisal of the likely geology in the area based on known geological maps, memoirs and borehole records. It will also refer to known boreholes in the area with brief details of depth, water levels, yields and the aquifer penetrated. It will give a suggested borehole depth and diameter for your site and the likely flow rate. The Prognosis obviously contains caveats on the report recommendations.

How do I get a Hydrogeological Report on my site.

Most Members require sight of a hydrogeological report or prognosis before giving an estimate for the construction of the borehole. This can either be obtained by you (the Client) direct from the BGS at Wallingford, Oxfordshire or by the well drilling contractor from the BGS or other sources. For further information on BGS reports contact http://shop.bgs.ac.uk/GeoReports/ or enquiries@bgs.ac.uk. BGS will require a site map and the National Grid Reference of the site taken off an Ordnance Survey map or the full site address and post code, plus details of the amount of water required and the intended use. The cost of a BGS report is in the region £250-£600 + VAT, depending on who you instruct.

How much space is needed for the construction of a borehole

Except for the most shallow boreholes the minimum working area required is generally 20 metres by 15 metres with access to the borehole location being suitable for a large lorry mounted drilling rig. Wet drilling slurry must either be disposed of on site or taken away in a skip or by tanker.

How big a borehole do I need

A normal domestic borehole usually has a maximum finished diameter of 150mm although boreholes with a finished diameter of 100 or 125mm can be used with certain ground conditions to accommodate a 100mm outside diameter pump and cable. The average depth of a domestic borehole is between 40 and 70 metres depending on the hydrogeological conditions encountered

I’m thinking of having a borehole, what should I expect to see in a quotation or contract between myself and the driller?

The WDA Guidance Notes for the Construction of Boreholes for Water Supply contains information about what is required in a borehole. 

Any drilling company should produce a written quotation, if this is an estimate or fixed will depend on their own terms and conditions, and these should accompany any quotation and it is advisable to read these thoroughly.  Ideally a BGS report should be carried out and from that the depth can be worked out and then details such as drilling diameter, casing, if steel is required or PVC with the appropriate screen.  The method of sealing the borehole against surface contamination and the pump proposed to achieve the flow rate required, and headwork details such as underground or in a cabinet or barn including the electrical cable and how the pump will be suspended in the borehole should be covered.  Access requirements and disposing of soil and how the area will be left after drilling should also be included so there are no surprises at the end of the works.  Water well construction is not straightforward but it is advisable to use a reputable driller, one who is happy for you to speak with other customers and one that is prepared to take the time to explain and document the process of the proposed drill.  Will there be a water test, chemical and bacterial, and what UV and Filtration is necessary should also be covered.   On going costs such as annual maintenance and who is responsible for this might also be detailed, that way you know what the costs are per year which can be factored in to any decision making.

Can you put me in contact with my local well driller

The WDA web site contains a list of well drilling organisations who are members with details of addresses, telephone, facsimile and e mail references as well as contact names. Most WDA members operate nationally so their office address and the distance to your site is not always relevant. As a trade association the WDA cannot give preference to one Member over another.

Do I need a Licence to drill a water well

In England and Wales under the Water Act 2003 any borehole or well yielding less than 20 cu metres per day (4400 gallons per day) does not currently require a consent to drill and test pump or to extract water up to that limit. For intended yields in excess of 20 cu metres per day then a Clause 32 Consent is required from the local EA to drill and test pump any borehole and an extraction licence is required to pump the borehole after the test pumping is completed.

In Scotland, under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2005 (CAR), application to SEPA for authorisation is not required for drilling and abstraction from any borehole intended for the abstraction of less than 10m3/d, intended for the purpose of dewatering or intended for the abstraction of < 150m3/yr where this is for the purpose of test pumping or sampling as this is covered by a general binding rule.

Records of any drilling deeper than 15 metres and the test pump records are required to be send to the BGS at Wallingford. The records should also be retained with any property deeds.

What does a borehole cost

The cost of a borehole is dependent on the geological sequence, the nature of the water bearing stratum or aquifer and the depth to standing water in the borehole. It is also dependent on the yield required and the access to the borehole location. Some boreholes require a well screen and a gravel pack to restrict the amount of fine materials pumped through the borehole. Individual members should be approached initially for a guide price and then for a written estimate. Remember to include the cost of the pump, rising main, electrics and discharge in any estimate.

Does the WDA publish a Specification for water well drilling

The WDA web site contains Guidance Notes for the Construction of Boreholes for Water Supply which provides guidance for well drillers and clients on what is good practice from contractual arrangements, technical considerations, related specifications and water resources legislation. The Guidance Notes are not currently binding on WDA members due to the varied nature of site and geological conditions but they are expected to follow them wherever possible.

How do I join the WDA

All Applicants must have a proven record of experience in well drilling and pump installation over a number of years and be sponsored by an existing WDA Member. The application form sets out the criteria for election. After successfully completing the application form which is circulated to existing members the application together with any member’s responses and the Secretary’s report on the Applicant and any visits to their offices is discussed and voted on at the next Quarterly Meeting. If a majority of those Members at the meeting are in favour then the Applicant will be deemed elected.