WorldWide Drilling Resource

7 MAY 2022 WorldWide Drilling Resource® A Crucial Decade for Irrigation Drilling and Pumping Technology Adapted from Information by Wessels Living History Farm By 1940, geologists and farmers in the U.S. recognized the existence of a huge underground “sponge” called the Ogallala Aquifer containing trillions of gallons of water below much of the plains. The problem was difficulty and expense in getting this water to the surface in large quantities. From the earliest settlement days, farmers had dug wells by hand or used windmills to power small pumps to water livestock or gardens. In dry years, some farmers made higher profits from two acres of a garden than hundreds of acres of dry crops. Early pumping technology could produce only a few gallons of water per minute, not the thousands of gallons needed to irrigate an entire farm. What they needed was well digging equipment to drill holes anywhere from 50 to 500 feet deep. They also needed a pump capable of sucking water out of the underground gravel layer and pushing it hundreds of feet to the surface; and they needed an efficient power plant for the pump with a cheap source of fuel. All three technologies finally came together in the 1940s. During and after World War II, groundwater irrigation technology began to change. In addition to the war, farmers on the plains had been through the Great Depression and the worst drought of the century. They were realizing that periodic droughts and unpredictable rains were the reality of the area. Many surface streams and rivers were already dammed and diverted, so farmers increasingly turned their sights underground for irrigation water. In states like Nebraska, government organizations began drilling exploratory wells to test where and to what depth water could be found. Drilling professionals increased their knowledge of the geology of soil, rock, and sand layers where they were drilling. Well drilling rigs made huge technological leaps in this decade with new machines using updated understandings of hydraulics and engine innovations to provide power for operations. Pump technology saw great advances around this time as well. Irrigators began adapting deep well turbine pumps from the oil industry for use on the farm. New centrifugal pumps used impellers powered by the latest engine technology. While earlier systems used large rubber belts to transfer energy from the engine to the pump gearbox, irrigation systems in the 1940s shifted to using a direct-drive, mechanical linkage between the power supply and gearbox. Drilling and pumping advancements created exponential growth in the number of irrigated acres in the U.S. During the early part of the 20th century, growth had been relatively flat. However, between 1940 and 1950, there was a 143% increase in acres under irrigation - from 18 million acres in 1940 to 25.8 million acres in 1950. For farmers in the mid-1900s, especially in the plains region, irrigation and pump technology meant a way of life and sustenance could continue despite periods of drought. In an interview with, Gordon Schmidt, a drilling contractor from central Nebraska, recalled being there to witness the miracle of modern irrigation. He remembered seeing irrigated fields for the first time in this semi-arid place. “I saw water running in the corn rows! I’ll never - I’ll never forget that,” Schmidt said with emotion. “That was a wonderful sight.” Many years, and thousands of wells later, pump and irrigation technology advancements from the 1940s have been refined to set the stage for state-of-the-art irrigation practices used by farmers across the nation today. Pump service rig from the 1930s. Courtesy of McCarthy Well Company. WTR Time for a Little Fun! April Puzzle Solution: BAILOUT CYCLONE SUNSPOT VARIANT UNLEASH Take one letter from each word and place in the corresponding number to reveal an HDD-related word on the right. Win a prize! Send completed puzzle to: WWDR PO Box 660 Bonifay, FL 32425 fax: 850-547-0329 or e-mail: michele@ 1. FAR 2. RUN 3. DIG 4. LOG 5. END ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ 1 2 3 4 5