When the well runs dry


Last updated 2/9/2022 at Noon

Sue Stafford

Braxton Holly ended up spending about $70,000 getting a new well installed when his original well ran dry.

Braxton Holly has lived on his 10-acre parcel of land off Holmes Road over 25 years. When he moved from the valley to Sisters, it was 10 acres of scrub, trees, rocks, and no surface water.

The surrounding properties are all five- and 10-acre parcels, each requiring a well to provide running water. Back behind his property there is an old dry lakebed, indicating that at some point in time, the area contained a surface water source, but no more.

One of the challenging geological features of that area is underground lava tubes and caverns which create voids that a drill will encounter when drilling for water. If the voids are left open while drilling, when the drill hits water, it can run out into those voids. Filling them with concrete can reduce the chance of that happening, but it doesn’t always work, as was the case for Holly.

Another challenge is presented by the rock beneath the soil. Holly faced both those challenges when he drilled his original well — and the new one he drilled last summer. The initial well was at a depth of 550 feet. After about 15 years, the pump died and the well-drillers declared the well dead. Not one to give up so easily, Holly asked them to drill a foot deeper and lower the new pump to the bottom of the well. The result: water for 12 more years — until this past summer when the well really did go dry.

An entirely new well had to be drilled, going down 764 feet. At 660 feet, they found water that provided about four gallons/minute, so they went deeper until it ran at eight gallons/minute, which Holly said is adequate for a single person.

The new well is a pitless system, which means that the waterline running 30 feet from the well to the well house runs three feet underground to help keep the pipe from freezing. The pump discharge pipe is installed below the surface using a pitless adaptor, which ensures that a sanitary and frost-proof seal is maintained. Holly elected to install the pitless system because the well head used to freeze.

Well-drillers and all the other service providers required to put in a new well have been busy of late due to a number of wells in the area needing to be made deeper, or new ones drilled.

Holly said that when the drillers say it will cost $40,000 to drill a new well, that just gets the hole drilled. He shared the total cost of his new well: $40,000, hole drilled; $2,500-$3,000, plumber; $4,500, electrician; $10,000, excavation of three-foot deep trench from well to tank (rock had to be chipped out); and $10,000, concrete to fill voids.

Holly said that after six truckloads of concrete didn’t fill the voids, the driller brought in a combination drill/casing rig to finish the job. If that rig had been in place from the start, the concrete wouldn’t have been necessary.

The cost of the well necessitated a mortgage through NeighborImpact on Holly’s property that will be payable when he leaves the property.

Holly had a reminder for other well owners: If your well runs dry, be sure to turn off your water heater.

For people who

have moved to Sisters

Country from metropolitan areas, where all they needed to do to get their water was turn on a faucet, a basic understanding of where your Central Oregon water comes from is



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