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Well Drilling Guide

Around 130,000 homes in Ireland have water supplied from a private water supply often a borehole well. Thousands more borehole water wells are drilled year to year in Ireland for private household water supplies. Well drilling in Ireland is ...

Competitively priced

Unregulated by the state

Often adhering to no technical specifications

Often unsupervised by engineers, council, or hydrogeologists


Most private water wells either regularly or at some time in their working lifespans are polluted to some degree with either long term or immediate risk to human health because of ...

Well construction is not built to prevent or minimise the chance of external pollution

Wells are drilled close to sources of pollution such as sceptic tanks, farmyards, and fields

Older concrete sceptic tanks may develop cracks and leak out high levels of pollution

Turbulent surface water from heavy rainfall can put stress on well water and treatment systems


In 2015 Ireland still has no statutory regulations or comprehensive guidelines regarding water well drilling. So there are no consistent standards of construction of borehole. Other countries around the world require prior permission for well water drilling, with specific standards of well construction and licensing of well drillers.

The EPA's report, "Ireland's Environment" April 2004 noted that over a quarter of groundwater samples given to bacteria testing proved positive for the presence of faecal coliforms, indicating contamination from sewage or animal wastes. A high level of faecal coliform pollution in samples from private water supply schemes was recorded. These findings have serious implications for the people using these drinking waters.

The poor quality of rural groundwater supplies in Ireland show the need for regulations to standardise the drilling, construction, testing and sealing of water wells. The EU Water Framework Directive (December 2000) requires member states to manage and protect their groundwater resources in a comprehensive manner.

The main objectives include preventing the deterioration of groundwater, restoring groundwater bodies and ensuring a balance between abstraction and recharge of groundwater. The Framework Directive provides for measures to be established, including "measures ... to safeguard water quality in order to reduce the level of purification required for the production of drinking water" (Article 11.3(d), also see Article 7.3).

In light of the above the Institute of Geologists of Ireland (IGI) set up a working group to look at the drafting of guidelines for borehole construction / testing / commissioning. Hopefully providing guidance to private well owners, well drillers, group scheme organisers, consultants, public authorities and other interested parties.

The documents are presented for discussion as a guide to good practice, with a view to being adopted as a national standard in order to safeguard the country's groundwater resources and supplies.



Potential owners of wells should be confident that wells are constructed according to accepted standards related to the following ...

Equipment, materials and techniques used in the construction of the well

Verticality and straightness of the well

Sanitary security and disinfection of the well

Sustainable yield from the well and documented reporting

Documentation of the well construction, its yield and its water quality


The adoption of guidelines such as these should protect the environment and public health by reducing groundwater contamination via poor well construction, abandoned boreholes and cross-contamination between aquifers.  Also to reduce the need to replace contaminated wells and prevent wells being located in unsuitable locations. Overall to improve upon standards of well drilling, leading to longer lasting and more efficient wells.



The documents below are concerned with the construction, testing and decommissioning of water wells.  They draw on standards and guidance notes from other countries.

Explaining Groundwater and Water Wells

Providing a non-technical description of groundwater, its occurence, the way it moves underground and the basic principles behind constructing and operating a borehole as a sustainable source of high quality water. It is written mainly for private householders who have a water well or who wish to have a water well drilled. Its aim is to demystify groundwater and boreholes and give the private householder enough information to understand the principles needed to site, construct and pump a borehole.

Water Well Construction Guidelines

Deals with the location, construction, testing, sampling and sealing of wells.  It is written for well owners, well drillers, engineers, planners, architects, and anyone else concerned as a practitioner or customer.  It provides information for the siting of wells, construction of wells, wellhead capping, water well pumping tests and analysis of water samples.


Minimum Methodologies 

1   Water wells should be drilled in locations limited by the chance of pollution by sceptic tanks, farmyard runoff or slurry spreading .. to avoid pollution and protect human health.

2   Wellheads should be constructed so as to ensure that surface water and shallow groundwater, which are likely to be polluted, cannot enter the well .. to avoid pollution and protect human health.

3   Wells to be cased and grouted to an adequate depth. The casing and grout to meet certain min. standards also placing of casing and grout to meet specification .. to avoid pollution and protect human health.

4   Water well drillers and their equipment and methods should meet certain minimum standards. Drilling should not introduce any polluting matter into the ground .. to avoid pollution and protect human health.

5   Water wells should be cleaned and disinfected before being brought into use.  The methods and materials should meet certain minimum standards .. to protect human health.

6   Water wells should be tested for yield and quality.  A mandatory list of tested chemicals and bacteriological parameters should be specified .. to protect human health.


Legislative Proposals

A   Water wells no longer required for ongoing use should be decommissioned to specified national standards .. to prevent pollution of aquifiers.

B   The drilling of water wells should be governed by the building regulations, like sceptic tanks, for example .. to ensure standards can be enforced in order to protect human health.

C   Water well drillers could form a self-regulatory organisation to certify the competence of drilling companies and individual drillers .. to ensure well standards are met and to uphold consumer confidence.


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