The falling levels of the Paso Robles groundwater basin have been in the news recently. When were the first wells drilled?
Hand-dug wells are as old as the shovel, but in the 1870s new technology came to California farm counties. One of the byproducts of gold mining was water development throughout the state. The Industrial Age was bringing new ways to tap aquifers, and uncultivated land was seen as wasteful.
This advertisement is from Sept. 29, 1877, and touts the Great Western Well Auger made in Bloomfield, Iowa. Operators could earn $25 to $50 per day, according to the headline. The motive force was 1 horsepower — a horse — and the equipment was guaranteed to bore at a rate of 10 to 15 feet per hour.
The following article was reprinted in the Tribune on May 15, 1875, from a Monterey County newspaper. Castroville is the last town on the Salinas River before it empties into the Pacific Ocean. It would be interesting to know what the water levels are now for fresh water.
ARTESIAN WELL.—Mr. Jas. McDonald bored lately an artesian well on his farm near the Salinas River, the depth reached being 166 feet. A two-inch pipe conducts a constant stream of the purest water to the surface, and the supply is estimated at a thousand gallons an hour. The entire cost of this successful experiment is placed at $185, trifling indeed compared with the benefit and convenience resulting. We hope other farmers who haul their water will follow this example — [Castroville Argus]