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Wells: Definition & Types

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  • 0:06 What Are wells?
  • 1:09 Types of Wells
  • 2:33 Artesian Wells
  • 3:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Wells are used all over the world and are an important source of water for many people. In this video lesson you will identify different types of wells, as well understand their underground source of water.

What Are Wells?

Have you ever tried to dig a hole at the beach, just to have it keep filling up with water? Or maybe you thought you could dig a hole to China through your backyard, again, just to find that at some point, your hole started filling with water? In both instances, you couldn't get too far because you had reached the water table. This is the level underground that is saturated with water. As we learned in another lesson, this water is called groundwater, and it makes up almost all of the liquid freshwater on Earth's surface - 98.5% of it!

Access to the water table has always provided an important source of drinking water, most often through wells. A well is a human-made hole in the ground specifically used for accessing groundwater. Wells come in different shapes and sizes, but their use is generally the same. In fact, for many people in both developed and developing countries, well water is still the main supply of water for home uses, irrigation and drinking water. Groundwater is even more important in areas that lack surface water, such as deserts.

Types of Wells

There are three main ways that wells are created. Originally, all wells were dug wells. These are wells that are created by digging it out by hand. Wells are rarely made this way anymore, because let's face it, who wants to spend all day digging a hole in the ground with a shovel? Dug wells are dug down below the water table and lined with a material, like stone or brick. This helps support the well and keep it from collapsing.

Driven wells are much more common in today's society than dug wells because they are wells that are created with a small pipe driven into the ground. The pipe has a filter over the bottom to keep out as much sediment as possible, and that pipe is driven down into the ground until it reaches the water table. Once the well is deep enough, all of the dirt is washed out of the inside of the pipe, and a pump is installed so that water can be removed from the well.

Finally, we have drilled wells. These are how most modern wells are created because these wells are created by digging a hole in the ground with machinery and can reach deeper into the ground than both dug and driven wells. A large bit drills into the ground, much like your drill creates a hole in your wall for hanging a picture. These wells can be drilled more than 1,000 feet deep. Pumps are used with drilled wells, too, since it would take a really long rope to reach a bucket down that far!

Artesian Wells

There is one more type of well, but this one is special. Groundwater is usually held underground in a reservoir called an aquifer. Normally, an aquifer gets filled with water when rainwater soaks into the ground and collects in these underground locations. This is called an unconfined aquifer because it is not confined, as it is open to receiving water through the soil above. All the wells you have learned about in this lesson are wells that tap into unconfined aquifers in the ground.

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