The cost of municipal and industrial ground water (or, more specifically, large supplies of ground water) at the wellhead in the North Atlantic Region in 1970 generally ranged from 1.5 to 5 cents per thousand gallons. Water from crystalline rocks and shale is relatively expensive. Water from sandstone is less so. Costs of water from sands and gravels in glaciated areas and from Coastal Plain sediments range from moderate to very low. In carbonate rocks costs range from low to fairly high.
The cost of ground water at the wellhead is low in areas of productive aquifers, but owing to the cost of connecting pipe, costs increase significantly in multiple-well fields. In the North Atlantic Region, development of small to moderate supplies of ground water may offer favorable cost alternatives to planners, but large supplies of ground water for delivery to one point cannot generally be developed inexpensively. Well fields in the less productive aquifers may be limited by costs to 1 or 2 million gallons a day, but in the more favorable aquifers development of several tens of millions of gallons a day may be practicable and inexpensive.
Cost evaluations presented cannot be applied to any one specific well or specific site because yields of wells in any one place will depend on the local geologic and hydrologic conditions; however, with such cost adjustments as may be necessary, the methodology presented should have wide applicability. Data given show the cost of water at the wellhead based on the average yield of several wells. The cost of water delivered by a well field includes costs of connecting pipe and of wells that have the yields and spacings specified. Cost of transport of water from the well field to point of consumption and possible cost of treatment are not evaluated.
In the methodology employed, costs of drilling and testing, pumping equipment, engineering for the well field, amortization at 5% percent interest, maintenance, and cost of power are considered.
The report includes an analysis of test drilling costs leading to a production well field. The discussion shows that test drilling is a relatively low cost item and that more than a minimum of test holes in a previously unexplored area is, above all, simple insurance in keeping down costs and may easily result in final lower costs for the system.
Use of the jet drill for testing is considered short sighted and may result in higher total costs and possibly failure to discover good aquifers.
Economic development of ground water supplies will depend on obtaining qualified hydrologic and engineering advice, on carrying out adequate test drilling, and on utilizing high-quality (at times, more costly) material.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Cost analysis of ground-water supplies in the North Atlantic region, 1970