This category covers special trade contractors primarily engaged in water well drilling. Establishments primarily engaged in drilling oil or gas field water intake wells on a contract or fee basis are classified in SIC 1381: Drilling Oil and Gas Wells.
Water Well Drilling Contractors
The U.S. water well drilling industry includes more than 8,000 establishments operating roughly 19,000 drilling rigs in the early 2000s. These establishments had total employment of 25,539 in 2002, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Average hourly wages for water well drillers totaled $12.77 in 2002.
Establishments engaged in water well drilling in the United States tend to be small, independent contractors. Even the industry leaders tend to be small, seldom generating more than $20 million in annual revenues. Some of the largest companies have diversified into other areas of construction or other types of drilling projects, such as oil, natural gas, and geothermal wells.
The nation's water supply comes from surface sources such as lakes, rivers, and streams, in addition to vast underground aquifers. Groundwater has often been preferred over surface water for use in homes and industry because it is relatively inexpensive to develop and treat, it contains no sediment, its chemical quality remains constant, and facilities to develop it can be situated on small plots of ground. Of the 408 trillion gallons of water consumed daily in the United States in the early 2000s, nearly 20 percent was ground water.
Contractors who drill wells to tap into underground water are largely dependent on new construction. In fact, community water mains and wells for single-family houses account for the vast majority of all business done by this industry. More than 15 million water wells provide 79.4 billion gallons of ground water daily to U.S. residents for community and single-family use, irrigation, livestock, and other agricultural, commercial, and industrial purposes. Irrigation accounted for the largest portion (60 billion gallons) of ground water usage.
Housing starts in the early 2003 remained strong, despite a weakening economy. In fact, housing starts rose to more than 1.8 million in 2003, reaching their highest point since the 1970s. The water well drilling industry was mature and somewhat overserved from both a manufacturing and distribution standpoint. Manufacturers had excess...