Open wells in the city

Open well to be dug? Recharge well? Desilting for your well?
Call Muniraju at 9620008709.

Muniraju and his team of well-diggers in Bangalore
Muniraju and his team of well-diggers, March 2022

In my earlier post Woes of suction pumps on BWSSB water lines I wrote about how humans can create water shortage problems for other humans, through selfishness and greed. We have experienced living in the city with uncertainty about water. We have encountered situations of no water, even if we are willing to pay the sky for it.

Currently we are fortunate to be getting a good supply of corporation water (from the Cauvery River), but often reminded about the stories of how cities can go dry in the foreseeable future.

When we moved to the current place of residence in Richmond Town in the late 1970s, my dad had got a well dug at the back of the plot. This 3-foot wide, 15-foot deep well served us well and it always used to have water. With a large garden with lots of trees and plants, this was the water for them, and in times of need, we used this water for household purposes as well. I recall, after Ulsoor Lake started getting too crowded, we used to immerse our Ganesha at home in the well.

With time, the water table fell. The well was usually dry in summer, the time when we most seek other sources of water to augment BWSSB supply. This despite a large catchment area at the back of our house that has only soil allowing water to seep through.

We decided that we should get the well desilted and deepened so that we move towards water independence, in a way.

We spoke to a couple of traditional well-diggers, who are all on the look out for work after the Covid lull. There is a long list of them (see here) and we randomly contacted a few. I also spoke to Mr Vishwanath of Biome and he mentioned that most of them were fine. Two groups turned up to inspect the place. Both felt that to dig deeper they would have to remove the current rings and they recommended making it a 4-foot diameter well. “Renovating” the current well was turning out to be more expensive than digging a new one. With ample space in the compound, we decided to dig a new well. It was clear that we would have to go deeper than 15 feet which was the depth of the current well. And we could use the current well as a recharge well.

No mechanised tools. Only metal diggers. They skillfully carved out an almost perfect cylindrical hollow to go deeper and deeper. Muniraju and his team dug till about 24 feet before they hit water and then they dug a further 6 feet to ensure 6 feet of water in peak summer.

Starting the digging of an open well
Starting the digging
Cement rings
Cement rings
Escavating mud from well
Excavating
Lifting out the mud
The first signs of water at about 24 feet
Digging deeper
Putting the rings
Setting the first ring
Jelly to line the sides
Jelly to line the gap between the ring and the wall
Filling in the jelly
Nearing completion
Open Well
Done!
Pulley fixed to draw water
Drawing water from open well
Drawing water
Pu
Puja

Muniraju and his team work whole-heartedly and are keen to do a good job. Quite likely that it is the same with most of the other well-diggers as well.

Some points to note:

  • Videos I found online indicate that the rates of digging a well are in the Rs.1500 per ring range, The rates they quote these days could range from Rs.3500-4500 per ring, inclusive of all materials and disposing off the excavated mud. The ring sizes (height of each ring) can vary so it better to negotiate the rate based on the depth of the well.
  • Dig the well in summer so you will be able to reach the optimum depth to ensure water in summer. Also, there will be no need for a pump to pull out the water as they dig, reducing effort and cost.
  • Even if the edges of the well are lined with jelly, it is better to have the well holes cemented inside to prevent the entry of mud.
  • Mark the depth on the rings inside the well starting from the bottom, so that you will get an idea of the water level as it rises.

With the rains in Bangalore, the water level has risen to 22 feet. That’s about 8000 litres of water that gets recharged every day!

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