Dry Wells: A Brief History
The history of dry wells goes back to ancient times. People have used them for centuries to store water, but they were not widely adopted until the 19th century when it became apparent that the supply from surface sources was becoming less reliable due to pollution and other factors.
Dry wells were developed as a way around these problems because they could be dug deeper than surface water supplies and still provide enough water for human needs. They were usually located near springs or other bodies of fresh water and were designed so that the water would not evaporate during the winter months. However, there are some drawbacks to using a dry well. First off, it takes time to dig one down into the earth and fill it with water. Second, digging one requires labor and equipment which can become expensive over time if they are not free or cheap. Finally, the cost of maintaining a dry well can be prohibitively high.
A few years ago, there was a major drought in California. Water levels dropped dramatically and many areas had no access to clean drinking water at all.
There were several attempts made to drill new wells, but most of them failed due to lack of funds or poor planning. One community had it worse than most. There was a small town with a population of several hundred that was located far from any major city and the wells they dug dried up completely. They had no choice but to try and drill deeper in hopes of reaching water, but they were unsuccessful. They tried everything, but kept hitting dry rock. The cost of continuing to dig was becoming too high and the city was not willing to pay for it anymore. They needed a cheaper solution and quick.
Many of the local residents remembered that their grandparents had spoken about an old dry well that was located on the edge of town. It was mostly just used as a garbage dump now, but some people thought that it might be worth looking into again.
After all, dry wells don’t require any water to maintain, so even if they couldn’t get water out of it, it would still make an excellent waste disposal site.
A small team was sent out to check it out. After some minor digging, water began to seep out of the ground.
They had found their well! Over the next few weeks, they built a platform around it, installed lights, and finished building a small shack over it for shade and cover. They then built a water tank on wheels so that they could easily transport the water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning into the town where it was most needed. They made a small amount of money by selling the rest to people with their own wells, but the tank only held enough water for a couple days so they didn’t make much.
Over the next few years, this community came together and managed to get their town on the map. They built a school, a medical clinic, and businesses.
They were thriving. In fact, they thrived so well that the local government decided to shut them down. They claimed that the lack of government assistance was a sign of the community’s strength and they no longer needed to provide any form of aid. This left the townspeople with no free education, no free medical care, and no protection whatsoever. They had to find jobs, which many of them were already doing. They had to pay for their own children to go to school. They had to pay for their own medical care. They had to face the dangers of living in a dangerous world all on their own.
Many people left and tried to find easier places to live, but many stayed as well. They were used to hardship, they were used to struggle, and they were proud of what they had built even if others didn’t see its worth.
By working together, they had survived.
They still had their problems, of course. The mayor had somehow swindled a few people out of their homes using loopholes in the law and verbal agreements that he later claimed he didn’t make.
Some of the businesses weren’t treating their employees fairly and the local cops had been known to take bribes or just turn a blind eye to certain things.
Still, people were making an effort to make things better. The town’s newspaper owner even started a new series called “Bright Sided” that uncovered corruption, told humorous anecdotes, and published letters to the editor making suggestions on how to improve the community.
The mayor was not pleased and made sure the newspaper owner knew it, but it gave people hope that things could change for the better.
The town had become stronger than ever. They had fought against the odds and managed to thrive in the desert.
They would not be stopped now.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Assessing the effectiveness of drywells as tools for stormwater management and aquifer recharge and their groundwater contamination potential (EC Edwards, T Harter, GE Fogg, B Washburn… – Journal of …, 2016 – Elsevier)
- Evaluating drywells for stormwater management and enhanced aquifer recharge (S Sasidharan, SA Bradford, J Šimůnek… – Advances in water …, 2018 – Elsevier)
- Potential effects of roadside dry wells on groundwater quality on the Island of Hawai’i-Assessment using numerical groundwater models (SK Izuka – 2011 – pubs.usgs.gov)