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How to Find Water for Your Development

Whether you are involved in a traditional urbanization, or are planning a sustainable community, finding water before spending money on other infrastructure is essential. Lately, we have heard of too many developments that either have left this important detail for last, or have hired local hydro geologists who may not have the best equipment for guaranteeing proper water source location. The following is from Ferdinand Metz whose company, The Water Prospector, represents the best to be found in Costa Rica. Not only will his company find the water source, they will pinpoint the exact depth, saving time and money spent on errant drilling. Remember, many drilling companies will not encourage such accuracy, as it behooves them to say, “Let’s try another 25 meters,” padding their bill.

By Ferdinand Metz

Water is a critical necessity for any development project anywhere in the world. Whether you are supporting one house or one thousand homes, you still need to have a source of fresh potable water that will meet the projects needs. Many projects in Costa Rica are in areas not supported by AYA (the Costa Rican Municipal Water Agency). Even if you are in an area that AYA covers, your project may not be supported by AYA. They are already running at maximum capacity in much of the country. Therefore, you have to find your own supply of fresh water, which will have to be a water well.

Even with Costa Rica’s abundant rainfall, ground water is difficult to find. Costa Rica is mostly a hard rock volcanic region. Therefore, the only place to find sufficient ground water is in aquifers also known as water bearing fracture zones. These zones are impossible to site from the surface. Many drillers and local geologists will try to access the surface topography and make an educated guess of were to drill. This method requires a lot of luck. The other option is a well witcher also known as a dowser or diviner. This is also a very risky method and statistically proven to be less than 15% accurate. The Water Prospector (WP) conducts geophysical surveys using state-of-the-art technology. We have been refining our methods for years in the toughest regions of the world. We are based in southern California and have been conducting successful surveys in the deserts of California for many years. Ron Barto, a WP partner, has been a licensed geologist for over 30 years, working primarily in the western United States. Prior to becoming a geologist, 10 years ago I was an electronics engineer; this has been a very useful tool in working with and refining our technology.

Our primary service is referred to as a Low Frequency Fracture Survey. We conduct a survey across a property in several different locations. By taking progressive readings on each scan line, our system creates a visual image of the sub-surface conditions. Our readings are based on identifying the density of the sub-surface materials. This allows us to see the rock formations, soils and, most importantly, the water-bearing fracture zones. We have the ability to not only detect the location of these fractures, but also to pinpoint the best target area for the driller, resulting in the maximum yield for our clients. Many fractures will have a deep end and a shallow end. However, finding the fracture zone is not enough. We pinpoint the deep end of the fracture or the area that has the most porosity. Either way these points will have the greatest volume of water flowing through them. At times, even a few feet can make the difference between a successful well and a low-producing well. We have found that on any given property in Costa Rica, less than 8% of the property can produce water. That means you have a 92% chance of drilling a dry hole. Property location also requires a bit of luck. If you have a smaller lot (1 hectare, for example), you may have water-bearing fractures in your area, but you have to be sure that one of them travels through your property. Since fracture zones are often sporadic, your property could be a victim of bad luck, which is another critical reason to conduct a survey during your due diligence period if possible. When we conduct a survey, our clients receive a detailed report. This report shows all of the targets that were identified during the survey. We rate them from the strongest to the weakest in order to give the clients as much information about each target’s potential. All of the targets that are in the report have the potential to become a successful water well. We also take the client’s needs into consideration during our evaluation process. We will focus on the targets with the greatest potential if we know the client is building 200+ homes, for example.

Our system is susceptible to interference. Electrical interference is the biggest problem. The best time to survey a property is when there is the least amount of interference present. If the land is undeveloped, and there are no electrical power lines present, that is the best time to survey. We can still perform our surveys when there are electrical lines in the area, but it may affect how much of the property can be surveyed. We also ask our clients to remove any old barbed wire cattle fences if possible, as these can also cause unnecessary problems. The best time to conduct our survey is when you are in the buying process. We can survey the land before you buy it. This will give you vital information of the property’s water potential before you commit to purchasing the property. If the survey results are not what you are looking for, then you should keep shopping. If you already own land, then the survey should be done before you start development. Many people make the mistake of developing roads, adding utilities, and grading—then they start to look for water. One problem is the interference that is created; the other is that we may find the best targets in areas that are already designated for other purposes due to their plans. Find the water first, and then design your development. If you have already started development we can still help, but it will be more difficult and we may be more limited on what we can provide.

We cannot guarantee the amount of water in our targeted results. Anyone who claims they can is not being honest. The technology used to detect the amount of water present in a target does not exist yet. We have an 80% success rate in the deserts of California, and an even higher rate in areas with greater rainfall such as Costa Rica. Our reports are designed to inform both the property owner and the driller. They can be reviewed by a Costa Rican geologist to help inform him or her of what conditions are present. We are the only company in Costa Rica which offers and specializes in geophysical ground water surveys. We are also the only company that offers this type of service and technology on an affordable, cost-effective level. In the United States, our main focus is on individual homebuilders. There are plenty of large geological firms that only offer this type of technology to big developers, or municipal jobs. Although we are well equipped to handle large development jobs as well, we have always targeted our services to individuals, as the prices these larger firms charge are cost prohibitive to them; and they still need to find the best water possible.

Above all: avoid a dry hole. Dry holes are very expensive—usually half the cost of a successful hole. Our survey rates start at $800.00, which is based on a 1-hectare survey in the central valley. We cover the entire country and any surveys that are outside the central valley we charge an additional fee for necessary travel and lodging. Currently, well drilling is $150 dollars per meter; and wells can easily reach depths of 100 meters or more. Our surveys are a fraction of that. If you are going to invest into a well, or a development that depends on water, you should do everything in your power to increase your odds of success.