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Drilling your Water Well in Veraguas, Panama.

Drilling for a water well in Veraguas, Panama.
Drilling Machine

So, you're thinking about your dream home in a remote part of Panama. In order for that dream to become a reality there are many considerations that are key for your checklist. Water should always be near the top of the list.

Now, as I'm writing this blog, we are nearing the end of the dry season. Many small towns in the area of Lago Bay have a shortage of water. Having a water well may not be enough to have a continual source of water. The wells have to be maintained and not abused. When humans get together in social experiments, there can many times be problems...especially with water. I could get into a political discussion of socialism or talk about negative externalities regarding human communal efforts ...but that is beyond the scope of this blog. Let's get back to your dream home and finding a water source.


First you need a good idea of where to find your water before you start drilling. Many companies give a discount if they drill at a site that they can't find water...but there aren't any companies, that I know of, that will guarantee water. The risk is with the owner.

Options for good 'guesses' are limited. The most expensive is using a hydrologist that can incorporate magnetic resonance imaging. If you're in that category, stop reading now and go hire a consultant. Money shouldn't be a concern.

Water: As Above, so Below

Most other well drillers here incorporate the other two methods. The first is very logical: walking and observing the terrain and the plant life. Water underground naturally helps form the terrain above ground. Where drainage flows above, usually underground water also flows. Cross flows (where drainage intersects) is even much better. The plant life, above ground, is a good indication as well. Where there is plenty of underground water, more aquatic plants are usually found above, so below.

Dowsing rods are the other method.

Do Dowsing Rods actually work?

Dowsing has been around since ancient times before being declared as satanic by the Catholic Church in the 16th century. The water-well drilling companies in Veraguas still incorporate the method. My experience is...if something has been around for hundreds of years and still usually has validity.

Today, according to Google, using dowsing rods is a pseudoscience that is no better than random chance. I beg to differ. The problem, like many intangible phenomenon in life, is that the scientific method can't apply regarding dowsing. That is primarily because the rods and the current are always relative to the person doing the dowsing. The dowser uses his/her body as part of the process...and that ability will change dramatically from person to person. A good dowser will find water.

For more tips from the Lago Bay blog page, click here.

Drilling Methods

So now that you know where you want to drill, let's get into the drilling.

There are two types of machines that exist in Veraguas. They both come in the form of a large truck that uses rods/tubes that are drilled into the after the other, until you have achieved a reasonable depth for filtration and you have found a good source of water.

The old school method is a hammer machine that literally has a iron bit that continually hammers the rods into the ground. This method takes more time and is slowing being phased out but some still use it because the argument is that it better preserves the shape and form of the underground caverns.

The other method is a rotating drill that drills the rods into the ground. This is probably the method that you'll encounter in Veraguas. The two recommended companies (below) both use this method.

For good filtration, most experts will advise an minimum of 100 feet for your well in the best circumstance. The water table in Veraguas is usually not that generous, however and many times you'll need to drill up to 300 feet to find a good source. With a little luck and skill, most wells are located around 150 feet below ground.

The sensation when companies are drilling is something similar to going to a casino. The machine set up is like going to the table and buying your chips. All of the activity of clanking and pounding and scratching is a continual investment. The counting of feet and the indications of the dirt and rocks that come out of the ground can be a nail biter. You have to make the call at all times whether to put another 20-foot rod on the machine or give up and take a loss. The well diggers can give advise...but you have to give the 'go'.

If you come up empty with just dry's a 'crap out'. The moment that you hit water is the 'jackpot' sensation....especially if the much anticipated moment is a geyser. My first well was 'beginner's luck'. We hit water after very few feet and drilled to 100 simply to make sure that the filtration was adequate. I've also 'crapped out' on more than one occasion. I can tell you from some small budget experiences that the whole process can be extremely stressful.

So...What's a good water well?

 You can consider yourself lucky with 10 gallons per minute or more. Although for a single household, you'll need far less water than 10 gallons per minute, a good continual source will usually have that capacity. When you measure gallons per minute, you need to do so under certain conditions. First, it needs to be the driest part of the year. That's the time of the year when you should also be drilling anyway. In order to find potable water you'll need these dry conditions to not get sidetracked with fluvial water.

The other condition for measuring gallons per minute is that you'll want to let the water flow for a reasonable period to ensure that the water can continually recharge for that gallon-per-minute rate. A good time frame is two or three hours.

Water Test.  Gallons per minute

The bucket method is how I measure gallons per minute. Simply put, I grab a 5 gallon bucket and put a stop watch to the well filling it. Do the simple math for a few tests and that's how many gallons your well produces a minute. If the flow has been consistent and it's the driest time of the year, you can then do the math to see how many gallons per day your well can produce. A well at a true 10 gallons per minute will produce 14,400 gallons per day. Like I had said...more than enough!!

Price for Rotary Well Drilling

Price is based on per foot. Depending on where, the price varies from $25-$35 per foot.

Once you have your bore hole in place for your well, the other price considerations are the submersible pump, pvc pipes to get your water to a reserve tank, your tank... then a booster to pressurize your system from the tank to the tap. Filters are also a consideration. This blog's focus is more on the sourcing of water instead of water systems...but, in a nutshell, a budget for your water system and well should run somewhere between $7,000 and $12,000 for your remote dream home.

I hope my water well experience has been helpful. My two recommendations for water well companies in Veraguas are:

Carlos Niños- cell phone/ WhatsApp 6221-8526 Veraguas, Panama

Radames- cell phone/ WhatsApp 6675-8850 Veraguas, Panama.

Hope this blog has been helpful.

Good luck! and Saludos from Lago Bay!


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