To drill or not to drill? That is the question!

During these uncertain times, it’s no wonder that people are looking for ways to cut back on costs. One of these ways is to have a borehole installed on your property. In a coordinated effort to reduce the pressure on our municipal water supplies, the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality (COJ) are actively promoting boreholes as an alternative means of water supply. Having your own groundwater source puts you in a better position, financially speaking, because not only will a properly constructed borehole save you money in the long run, but it will also last for many years to come.

What is a borehole?

A borehole is a man-made, narrow, vertical or horizontal shaft drilled down into the ground mainly to source water. In the environmental engineering field, however, boreholes can also be drilled as part of a geotechnical investigation or environmental site assessment whereby holes are drilled to locate and collect soil, water, or rock samples, to advance in-situ sampling equipment or to install monitoring devices. Samples taken are then meticulously assessed for levels of constituents or contaminants. Groundwater is a better water resource since it’s protected by rock and/or soil and, therefore, isn’t easily contaminated.

The difference between a borehole and a well is the size of the cavity and the equipment used. A borehole is constructed using machinery and is relatively small in diameter, while a well is normally sunk by hand and is usually quite large in diameter.

What does it cost to install a borehole?

Depending on what you need the borehole for, a borehole installation can cost anywhere between R30,000 and R100,000. The cost will, however, depend on varying factors such as how deep you need to drill, to the type of rock you will be drilling through, as well as the equipment and machinery needed to complete the borehole installation.

What are the legal requirements around a borehole installation?

To be on the safe side, it’s recommended that you give notice to your municipality that you’re planning to drill a borehole. Section 41 of the COJ’s Public Health Bylaws provide that persons in Johannesburg need to give the municipality 14 days’ written notice of their intention to sink a borehole.

What does the borehole drilling process entail?

A considerable amount of research and planning has to be done before a borehole installation can take place. As every borehole is unique, varying factors and processes should be considered and followed. The process is generally as follows:

  1. Siting the borehole location – finding the right location to drill the borehole where water is likely to be available underground.
  2. Drilling and construction – once an adequate path has been located and been prepared to reach the borehole site, and provided the correct processes and procedures have been followed, a borehole may then be installed.
  3. Reinforcement – as soon as the borehole has been drilled, any unstable lengths of the borehole are then steel-cased to reinforce the tube of the borehole.
  4. Determining the yield – performing an aquifer test to accurately gauge the yield of a domestic water borehole and assessing the test’s impact on the water level in the borehole.
  5. Quality testing – testing the quality of water to determine the suitability for intended uses.
  6. Platform and pump – the borehole will need a platform and a pump to be installed so that it can be used. Depending on the type of borehole, either a hand pump or electrical pump will be required.

Remember, when attempting a borehole installation, it’s very important to have experienced professionals conducting the geology research of the site correctly, as well as to conduct and manage the borehole installation. For more information, or to make an appointment to get your borehole installation process started, please contact:

Letsolo Water and Environmental Services:

Further reading and sources: