Contractors digging deep as demand for wells soars

An average well would cost €2,500 for the borehole and €1,600 for the pump
An average well would cost €2,500 for the borehole and €1,600 for the pump

Siobhán English

Contractors are digging as deep as 300ft and 400ft to source water for farmers as the demand for second wells escalates in some of the bigger farms around Ireland.

"Farmers with a lot of stock now realise that some of the older 150ft wells are just not deep enough during times like this and many have already started to run out.

"For those who have decided to get in a second well, we have to go much deeper to avoid this happening again in the future," commented Tom Fogarty, who runs a well-established drilling business in Gowran, Co Kilkenny.

Since mid-May Mr Fogarty has been dealing with an alarming number of calls from dairy farmers throughout the Tipperary and Kilkenny region.

"They are all calling looking for advice. We often see them running low later in the year, but this is unprecedented in July.

"We are advising them that instead of putting in a storage tank, they should invest in a second well which will be far better in the long run. For instance, a borehole 80 metres deep is capable of delivering three cubic metres of water per hour.

"At the moment we can offer a four or five-hour turnaround service to deal with emergency issues. For new clients, we get their details and check to see what the water supply is like in the area. We will also use a water diviner if required."

In extreme heat, a dairy cow could consume anything up to 100 litres of water a day, so a farmer with a herd of 500 would need anything up to 50,000 litres a day at his disposal.

Also Read

"Another option is a ring main distribution which a lot of the progressive farmers are opting for. These can pump out 14 gallons a minute."

A ring main distribution is an artery system flowing through the farm.

"We are surprised at the amount of farmers still on a mains supply," commented Carlow contractor Harry Ellis, who covers a large area in the east of the country.

He too is dealing with a record number of calls from farmers, many of whom are also opting for a second well.

"Some of those who are on the mains are now also thinking of switching over as they realise they can save money in the long run. Others are having a second well installed in case the first one runs out, or if something goes wrong with it."

Approximately 130,000 households in Ireland depend on their own private water supply, usually a borehole.

Yet Ireland currently has no statutory regulations concerning water well drilling and groundwater abstraction, provided the quantity that will be pumped is less than five million litres per day. The total cost of sinking a well very much depends on the volume of water you need to get out of it, but an average well would set you back €2,500 for the borehole itself, then a further €1,600 for a pump.

The cost of using 2,500 gallons of water per day if on the mains system works out at around €15 per day at current commercial rates.

Septic tanks

The dairy farmer obviously won't use this much water every day of the year, but even if he used the maximum demand for 200 days of the year, that equates to a total water charge of €3,000 per annum, making it an attractive option where usage is high.

It is important that water wells are only drilled in locations which minimize the likelihood that the well will be polluted by, for example, septic tanks, farmyard run-off or slurry spreading. Some of the key specifications include the fact that wellheads should be constructed so as to ensure surface water and shallow groundwater, which are likely to be polluted, cannot enter the well.

Guidelines on water well construction are available from the Institute of Geologists of Ireland (

Indo Farming