Boreholes are large, vertical holes drilled into the ground to depths of one to thousands of metres. They enable access to a private water supply, which is often much more cost-efficient than using the mains supply.
Consider a borehole if you require a low-cost private water supply – they greatly reduce the cost of water and reliance on the mains supply.
Boreholes usually pay for themselves for farms, factories, or other commercial applications that utilise vast quantities of water.
This is a guide to drilling boreholes for private water supplies and the average cost of boreholes in the UK.
Costs of Drilling a Borehole in the UK
Boreholes involve both variable and fixed costs. By collecting quotes from 6 primary sources and 4 secondary sources, we discovered the following average cost of drilling a borehole.
Costs will vary based on location and availability of local drilling services and equipment.
Smaller 4-inch holes are generally sufficient for single properties or light commercial use. Larger 8-inch holes are capable of pumping considerably more water.
Costs are higher for deeper boreholes in drill-resistant rock.
|Size of Borehole||Cost|
Total Borehole Project Cost
Boreholes vary in cost depending on diameter, depth and numerous other factors. However, it’s unlikely that the entire project will come in at less than £10,000.
|Description of Work||Low Cost||High Cost|
|Shallow (20m) Borehole with Extras (Lining, Pump, Chamber and Pressure Vessel)||£10,000||£15,000|
|Deep (70m) Borehole with Extras (Lining, Pump, Chamber and Pressure Vessel)||£20,000||£25,000|
Specific Borehole Works Cost
These should be included within the total cost, but it’s good to be aware of how much specific work items are.
|Storage Tank (1000L Capacity)||£2,000|
|Storage Tank (10,000L Capacity)||£20,000|
|Hydrological Survey||£500 to £2,000|
|UV & Filtration Equipment||£1,500 to £3,000|
Factors Affecting The Cost of Drilling Borehole
Boreholes vary considerably depending on where they’re drilled, to what depth, and for what purpose. Factors affecting the cost of boreholes include:
The most obvious factor is depth. In most cases, expect to drill to depths of 50 to 60m to obtain a steady water supply. It may be necessary to drill to 70m or more in some areas.
Borehole drilling companies will only drill as far as they need to obtain water, which may be less than what’s indicated on a hydrogeological survey.
It’s essential to undertake a thorough geological survey of the area before drilling. A geologist will check local geological records, take soil samples, measurements, etc, to assess the suitability of the site.
A survey can cost anything from £500 to £2,000 or more.
Large boreholes accommodate greater water flow for larger pumps. Residential or light commercial uses generally accommodate smaller 4-inch holes, whereas industrial or commercial uses may require 8-inch holes.
8-diameter boreholes can cost double 4-inch diameter boreholes (around £60 vs £120).
Equipment and Pump Requirements
In addition to the pump, it may be necessary to fit a storage tank, digital monitoring tools and complex external plumbing.
Heavy-duty commercial applications are naturally much more complicated than creating a smaller-scale private water supply.
Why Should You Consider a Borehole?
Boreholes are essentially wells that businesses and residential users can use for their own private water supply. Once you dig below 10 to 15m or so, the water content of the rock starts to increase dramatically.
At 30m or so, it’s possible to find a steady water supply. At 50m or so, it’s possible to find a water supply capable of yielding thousands of gallons of water per day.
Boreholes are Cost-Effective
Farms, factories, and other commercial users often require thousands of gallons of water a day.
A cubic metre of water (1000 litres) can cost around £1.50 to £3.00, so a commercial business that uses 20 cubic metres (the max required without a licence) can pay some £40 to £60 per day on water alone.
Once you add standing charges, wastewater, etc, costs can soar to £100 per day in some situations. Farmers Weekly published an article on a farmer who typically spent £1,000 a month on water. A borehole installation saved him some £500 per month, and the farmer recovered the initial outlay in less than a year.
“It paid for itself within a year, my only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner,” – Mr Kimber tells Farmers Weekly.
Boreholes provide access to up to 20 cubic metres (4400 gallons) per day. Anything beyond that requires an abstraction licence. A borehole provides you access to ‘free’ water that is suitable for various uses with or without treatment.
Boreholes are Environmentally Friendly
Mains water requires much more energy to clean and process. Some 60% of mains water is recycled wastewater which is cleaned and processed for use.
Conversely, natural water from the ground has a low energy burden and only needs to be cleaned and processed as to requirements. For example, water used for horticulture requires less processing than water for livestock.
Boreholes Reduce Reliance On Third Parties
Once you have your own borehole, you’re free from ties to third parties. That means no hassle from price increases, downtime, etc. Boreholes support fully off-grid businesses and residential homes. Moreover, boreholes more or less eliminate the issue of leaky pipes and wastage.
Can Boreholes Be Installed Anywhere?
Groundwater is accessible in many parts of the UK, but the composition of some rock and soil lends itself naturally to borehole water supplies. For example, gritstone contains a high concentration of water, whereas clay soil can be more problematic.
Before digging a borehole, a geologist must undertake a thorough geological survey of the area. This will include making searches of existing boreholes and wells using the Borehole Record database, which contains over one million shaft, well and borehole records.
In addition, the water will need to be analysed for its mineral content, as this will govern what level of filtration and treatment is required.
For example, high iron content can be rectified with a potassium manganate filtration, whereas microbial contamination should be remedied with UV filters and other antimicrobial treatments.
Basic filtering is often recommended as standard, but depending on the water content, it might be necessary to add more complex filters.
What Permission Do You Need to Drill a Borehole?
UK property owners have some rights to the water beneath their freehold land. However, there are still regulations to comply with. The UK Government advises prospective water abstractors to contact the Environment Agency prior to drilling.
Currently, you don’t need a water abstraction licence unless you plan on abstracting more than 20 cubic metres a day, around 4,400 gallons.
Most borehole drilling companies will assist their customers in navigating local, regional and national regulation.
How Long Does it Take to Drill a Borehole?
Drilling a borehole isn’t overly complicated, but you have to factor in the geological survey, fitting of pump and other components, water testing, etc.
Many borehole drilling providers will help manage the process, recommending surveyors and equipment appropriate to the project’s specifications.
- The first step is to conduct a geological survey of the area. Surveys can typically be arranged in 14 days.
- This information is critical and will assist the drilling company in creating an estimate, including how deep they’ll need to drill, recommended hole diameter, pump and fitting requirements, etc.
- Permissions need to be applied for before drilling takes place. Where an abstraction licence is required (e.g. the customer intends on extracting more than 20 cubic metres of water per day), this will need to be organised in advance – and can be a long process.
- Once permission is granted, on-site work can begin. The site prep, drilling and clean-up take around 14-days or so. Installation of pumps and external components might take another week or two.
- The water is then sent to a lab for testing. Purification and filtration recommendations are made and installed if necessary.
- Overall, 6 weeks is a realistic minimum expected project length, longer if licences are required.
Get Prices on Boreholes Near You
We’ve done our best to give you a good idea of what you can expect to pay for a borehole.
However, our guides are not a substitute for a fixed quote specifically for you.
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