The Artesian Wells of South Dakota.

The Artesian Wells of South Dakota.

(With Supplement.)

Many exaggerated accounts have been published from time to time in the daily papers of the pressure and flow of water developed in the various deep wells which have been sunk during the past few years in the great artesian basin of South Dakota. Wild, however, as some of these stories have been, the cold facts regarding these generous sources of water which are already doing so much, and may be expected to accomplish very much more, towards furthering the prosperity of the young State, are so wonderful as to be in some instances almost incredible.

Ranging in depth from thirty up to over 1550 feet and pouring out water from the great subterranean reservoir in volumes ranging upward to an approximate quantity estimated at 7000 gallons a minute, these wells are utilized for fire protection and domestic supplies of cities and towns, for furnishing power for running mills and other manufacturing purposes and lor the irrigation of wide areas of farming lands, the soil of which is good, out which suffer from unreliable and insufficient rainfall.

Not only has the supply of water underlying all of this region been (Uncovered to be vast in volume but generally clear and bright, and in nearly all cases pleasant to the taste and of great purity; in some exceptional cases it has been found more or less saline in character. The temperature in most of the wells is from 68 to 70 degrees, though in two instances it is higher, 90 and 91 degrees.

In a supplement to FtttK ANU WATKR this week we give illustrations of some typical South Dakota wells, which being reproduced by our artist from photographs can be relied upon a» representing those wonderful (pouters, before going into details concerning them, however, and in order to gain a full appreciation of the number of wells now in operation in the State, their location, size and capacity, it will be well to glance over the accompanying table carefully compiled by the editor of The Dakota Farmer, which, however, it may be noted is not entirely complete, a number of new flows having been struck since it was arranged, notably one in Melnette, Spink county, one in South Jerauld county and the one on Risdon’s farm near Huron. The information is, however, sufficiently full to indicate to what an extent the people of South Dakota have taken advantage already of the Iwiun’eous and easily obtainable supply of water with which their State is blessed, and ol the growth of the system of irrigation the results of which in that section have been so eminently satisfactory.

Of the typical wells in South Dakota, that in the centre of our group of illustrations, the Risdon Well, sometimes called the Valley stock farm well, near Huron, is acknowledged to be the most interesting, both on account of pressure and flow, in the State.

The following account of this great gusher appears in a recent issue of The Daily Huronite :

The artesian well on the Valley stock farm continues to attract great crowds of people. And well it may, for it is really the wonder of the age. Following the tests made of the pressure on Saturday and Sunday, the cap was removed and a nozzle attached Monday evening. Through this nozzle a attach stream ol water was shot up into the air a distance of 125 to 140 feet. The direct course of the stream was greatly interfered with by the cross beams and braces of the derrick ; with a clear way and no wind a Z^ inch stream would lie sent 160 feel into the air. So great is the pressure that pine boards six inches wide and one inch thick used as stays and braces on the derrick 50 feel above the mouth of the well were broken by the force ol the water. While this nozzle was on, the derrick, which is 75 feet high, was almost hidden from view by the spray and jetting* of the stream, presenting a sight as beautiful as it was wonderful.

Although the well is a mile from the city hundreds of people stood in their doorways and beheld the sight, w hile others drove out to the scene to get a belter idea of the great fountain.

l.ater in the evening, Mr. Weston, the gentlemanly manager of the well, and who has had charge of the drilling, removed the 2j4-inch nozzle and placed upon the pipe a 4-inch one. Immediately a stream four inches in diameter shot up nearly 70 feet, deluging everything in its descent. This was accompanied by a deep roaring sound, and frequently sharp reports, resembling the discharge of a rifle, were heard. This stream, as well as the smaller one, struck the walking beam and broke much of its force.

The amount of water that flows from the well is tremendous, being estimated at from 8000 to 10,000 gallons per minute. Even at the lower figure enough pours out of the well to furnish every man, woman and child in the State of South Dakota with at least four gallons of water every 24 hours.

As to the pressure, that has not yet been fully ascertained, but from tests already made it is known to be considerably more than 200 pounds to the square inch. With a fair test it is likely to reach 228 pounds. The pressure has steadily increased for the past three days, and may exceed the above figures.

The well is now 960 feet deep, and as soon as machinery now ordered arrives, the work of reaming the hole to eight inches in diameter, making it an 8-inch well from top to bottom, will be prosecuted.

The drilling has been done under the direct supervision of J. C. Weston, who, notwithstanding many obstacles and difficulties, has proven equal to the task, and rejoices with all our people over the success attained. He hopes to be able to go deeper when the work of reaming is done, believing that the flow and pressure will be greatly increased.

The water is soft, clear and pleasant to the taste. It is flooding the low places in the vicinity, and although great ditches have been dug to carry it into the Jim river, acres of water may be seen in every direction.

Without doubt this is the greatest artesian well in the world.zYnother well at Huron used for supplying the city’s waterworks and which was completed in 1886, is 800 feet deep and gives a pressure upon the mains ordinarily of about 70 pounds per square inch, although a pressure has been secured from it estimated at from 120 to 170 pounds. The efficiency of the pressure furnished by this well for fire service is shown in the view of an exhibition of fire streams from the hydrants, also taken from a photograph. The Huron water supply system includes nearly six miles of mains. The volume of water furnished by this well supplies the whole population of the city and 600 gallons a minute is allowed to flow to waste into the James river.


The pioneer well in Dakota was at Aberdeen, and was drilled by the C., M. & St. P. R. R. Co., to a depth of 960 feet, being cased with 5j^ wrought iron pipe to a depth of 881 feet. This was, when completed, the most wonderful well in the world, for up to that time no well of that size had been sunk which threw up such a great volume of water and had so great a pressure. The volume exceeded 2000 gallons per minute and the pressure was in excess, at times, of 200 pounds per square inch, and has for years maintained a pressure of over 150 pounds to the inch. The water was more soft than rain water and of about tepid temperature.

Since then (1881) a second well has been drilled by the city of Aberdeen, and is used for water supply purposes, Several miles of water mains are now laid and the water pressure in them is sufficient to throw four streams from any one hydrant over the two or three story buildings, while at the same time supplying a large domestic demand in hotels, laundries and residences, giving power to water motors, and feeding watering troughs and flush tanks.

The character of this well is substantially the same as that of the railroad well, the pipe being of 5 j£-inch bore.

In 1888 a third well was put down in order to supply power to run the pumps of the sewerage system; the sewage of the city is conveyed to a reservoir 30 feet under ground, and from there it is pumped up and discharged at a higher level. The lift will average 23 feet, and is accomplished by two Worthington pumps, the power to run which is the pressure of the water of the artesian well, which is admitted to cylinders on the same plan as steam in an ordinary steam engine.

By actual test, the two pumps were run together with a capacity of raising 2,500,000 gallons of sewage per day, a distance of 23 feet, and with only enough water turned on at the well to indicate a pressure of 90 pounds per inch.

The well at Springfield, which is illustrated, is 392 feet deep, the diameter being 8 inches. The pressure is 60 pounds with the pipe closed, and with full 8-inch stream turned on it is 8 pounds at the elbow, 10 feet from the mouth of the pipe. With a 2-inch opening the flow was 708 gallons a minute with 50 pounds pressure. The full 8-inch stream rises i2’/i feet above the mouth of the pipe, while from a 2-inch pipe a stream 88 feet high has been thrown. The water is used lo run a flour mill of 60 barrels capacity, the horse power obtained being estimated at 41.

The famous well at Woonsocket is 700 feet deep and throws a 4-inch stream to a height of 71 feet.

At Yankton there are 7 wells ranging from 375 to 600 feet in depth. The 6-inch well which we illustrate, flows 3000 gallons a minute, with a pressure equal to 35 horse-power. In the remaining cut is shown a 4-inch well used for irrigation on the Harrison & Day farm at Huron. It flows at the rate of 1500 gallons a minute. As to the extent of the volume of underground water in the Dakotas and the probabilities as to the permanency of the supply, we will quote in conclusion the following, written by Col. E. S. Nettleton of the department of agriculture. He says :

“ Investigation shows the existence of an artesian basin in the Dakotas, known as the James River Valley Basin, which is tapped by about 140 wells scattered over a terri ory 400 miles in length from north to south, and from 40 to 50 miles in width. In this area the present flowing wells in North and South Dakota are confined. Failures to find flowing water by rock-bored wells have occurred along the eastern line of this valley. This line, or the dividing line between the James river and the Red River of the North, probably marks the eastern boundary of this great basin. West of this line, in the Dakotas, borings for artesian waters have been successful when made deep enough to penetrate the water bearing stratum—the Dakota sand rock. This sand rock, which underlies the James river valley, is composed of a very soft, porous, whitish sand of unknown thickness. It has been penetrated 80 feet with a drill without reaching its lower bed. It is so soft that the drill penetrates it in many localities by its own weight. It lies from 600 to 1800 feet below the surface of the country. The records of the wells show that this water bearing rock dips to the north. On a line from Yankton, in the extreme southern part of South Dakota, to Devil’s Lake, in the northern part of North Dakota—which is 15 degrees west from north—the dip is 830 feet, being about 2 3-TO feet per mile, while the surface dips in a contrary direction on an average of 8-10 feet per mile. The pressure at the top of the wells ranges from 20 to 167 pounds per square inch. The area of greatest pressure in this basin, as has been determined from existing wells, lies in the central portion of South Dakota. The greatest pressure in the water bearing stratum is near Jamestown, in Stuttsman county. One of the problems to be solved in connection with this artesian basin is to determine, if possible, the location and true origin of its supply as well as the nature of the underground water course from its source to the valley of the James river. Surface indications and outcroppings suggest that the supply comes from the west. There is no gathering ground of sufficient extent orelevatioi in any other direction to produce the conditions that exist in this basin. The fact that the flow and pressure of the wells, that have been in constant activity for nearly five years, have not diminished, leads us to predict that a great many more wells can be put down in this basin without any serious reduction of pressure or flow.

“ I think that I am safe in saying that the Dakota artesian basin is the largest and strongest yet discovered in the United States, or even in the whole world. There are some wells of very large diameter that discharge more water than some of the Dakota wells, but when the size of the bore is taken into account the Dakota wells not only yield a greater amount, but maintain a flow very nearly that which is due to the hydrostatic pressure dess the resistance caused by the friction of the water through the pipe. Some artesian wells will show considerable pressure when they are closed, but discharge comparatively small quantities of water when allowed to flow freely. This indipates that the supply is not fully maintained, or, in other words, the water bearing stratum is of such a character as to impede the passage of the water freely through the rock. Nearly all of the Dakota welis throw out large quantities of sand with the water when allowed to discharge freely. Some of them have thrown out thousands of cubic yards of sand. This fact indicates what some of the drillers claim, that the water bearing stratum is simply a loose sand. Another fact is shown that the water has quite a free movement through the sand and that when the wells have been discharging their full volume for days the pressure reaches its maximum almost the instant they arc shut off.

“ Taking into account that from two to five years no diminution of the pressure has been noticed, that one well does not interfere with the flow of another, and that the supply seems to come almost as readily to the bottom of the wells as if they penetrated a body of nothing hut water, I am led to believe this basin to be one that will furnish a very large amount of water without any serious diminution of pressure or flow.”

No posts to display