I recently bought a house in the western most Finger lakes, in between Hemlock, Honeoye and Canadice lakes. The house needs a new well.

I've gotten one quote so far -- $10,000 for the well and all the associated labor and supplies. It is for a 6 inch well at 140 feet. Another well driller I talked to said, because the area is mostly shale rock, I am going to need an 8 inch well. Is that true?

How does shale rock affect the diameter of a well I need? I have read online that shale can offer poor yields, which is what the other driller also suggested -- is that true as well? What kind of well do you think I should go for given my area is mostly shale?


  • Your neighbours should have better advice, they live near you compared to someone with different shale. Why do you need a new well? What is the problem with the old well, is there an old well? – crip659 May 13 at 15:41
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    @crip659 The property has been abandoned for years -- the well cap is broken, it doesn't give enough flow nor does it refill within a day, it holds only half capacity at maximum due to accumulations, and we want to move it to the otherside of the house for food production reasons. I got a quote for cleaning and hydrofraking it, which might solve the problem, but would be about half the cost of drilling a new well. At this point, given that we could move it, we would rather bite the bullet and dig another one. – The Dude May 13 at 15:45
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    Does it matter what size the pipe is if the driller guarantees flow anyway? Opinions vary, so there probably isn't a conclusive answer here. – isherwood May 13 at 15:59
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    @isherwood I don't think any driller would guarantee flow. In fact, they all tell me they can't even guarantee they will find water....at least not legally. – The Dude May 13 at 16:05
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    If low production is the main issue and more storage is the main reason for 8" .vs. 6" there's nothing to say that you have to store the water in the well bore - plenty of low production wells pump to cisterns at the rate they can support, and then the house is fed from a pump in the cistern (or other suitable storage tank, of the size needed to buffer production .vs. use.) I occurs to me that my shale well is, in fact a 6" bore, but it's several hundred miles from yours (100 feet of steel casing, additional 220 feet of hole-in-the-rock.) It works. I'd frack if I wanted more flow. – Ecnerwal May 13 at 16:40

WOW, a lot to digest here between the OP and comments. Here goes: I have to agree with Ecnerwal, there is no reason to go with an 8" casing, it would be a LOT more expensive than 6".

Drilling wells is often a crap-shoot. To minimize the risk, in my area (Western Washington State), our Dept of Ecology maintains drilling well logs for every well drilled. These logs contain what material was removed and at what depth and the depth when water was found. You could look into it if your area maintains logs like that.

On my property I have 2 wells, about 100' apart, one is a fantastic producer, at least 40 GPM! Not that I need nearly that much, but just got lucky. The other well only produces about 4 GPM.

I believe that attempting to refurbish the existing well might be your best bet. Like Ecnerwal said, a low producing well can slowly feed a large water holding tank that would be pumped from into a pressure tank or even a constant pressure pump that would pump from the holding tank into the distribution system. Constant Pressure pumps vary their speed based on demand and don't require a large pressure tank.

If I were you, I'd base my decision on any available well drilling logs in your area. Drilling a new well has no guarantees. Look at it this way: If the refurbishment of the existing well wasn't satisfactory, but still somewhat functional and you drilled a new well, at least you'd have a backup well in case of problems with the new one.

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    100' and its that much different? That is pretty remarkable. – The Dude May 13 at 17:11
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    ...that's well-drilling. It's always a crapshoot. My static level is 100 feet down. Well ~500 feet uphill from me runs out the top of the casing if not plugged. ~1000 feet sideways they have plenty of water at 28 feet. – Ecnerwal May 13 at 17:22
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    @Ecnerwal Yep, it seems like almost every well has it's own "personality". A lot of it depends upon whether you're in an area that has aquifers vs. underground rivers. In my area it's all underground rivers. I personally chose the location for the well that produced 40 GPM. I'm a pretty scientific person and have a hard time explaining this, but I "witched" the location with 2 copper rods, I got such a strong reaction, over and over as I passed over that spot, I wish there was a scientific explanation for water witching, but it sure worked for me. – George Anderson May 13 at 17:56

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