For many folks across the United States, this summer has been bone dry. Much of the West and parts of the East have endured severe droughts, prompting strict water conservation measures in some communities. However, despite a lack of water, farmers still need to grow crops, country clubs want to keep their fairways lush, and homeowners hope to save their lawns and gardens from burning to a crisp. That's when they turn to the irrigation driller for help.

Back in late June, we spoke with several busy individuals who do irrigation drilling in very diverse parts of the country. While prevalent throughout the United States, irrigation practices and applications can vary greatly from region to region, so we thought we'd give you a sampling of what drillers are doing in some very different parts of the country to keep the land fertile.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

While many people -- especially your customers -- equate irrigation solely with farming, that's not the case for Skillings and Sons in Hollis, N.H., which is approximately an hour northwest of Boston. According to Jeff Quinn, the company's Massachusetts' well sales supervisor, "It's not a gigantic farming community up here. Most of the big farms are on rivers, and they draw water from the rivers. All of the irrigation work we do is commercial and residential for houses and businesses."

As far as the commercial irrigation work goes, Skillings drills a lot of wells for management companies and golf courses, but Quinn says his main clients are homeowners. He notes that he sells irrigation wells to people living in both upscale houses and those in less expensive residences. "People, no matter who they are," he explains, "place quite an emphasis on their yards and gardens and really like to keep them green."

Six-inch wells remain the norm for residential irrigation projects, but Skillings has "increased the amount of the 8-inch wells we've done because of the demand and the size of the water that the people were looking for in the commercial applications," Quinn says. The company exclusively uses REICHdrills for all of its work.

Quinn says that Skillings and Sons has seen its irrigation work double in the past year -- while irrigation used to be about 20 percent of the company's total business, it now comprises 40 percent. Quinn explains the marked increase by saying, "The drought brought on more irrigation work. That's the trend I saw. It shed a little light on some people's eyes -- they started to focus on how much money they were actually spending with city water and explored the options of putting in a well. I've had quite a few people say to me, 'We never even thought about doing that,' and I hadn't heard that much before."

Skillings has used this sentiment to its advantage and has done some marketing toward homeowners who are sick of water restrictions in their towns. For example, on its Web site (, Skillings educates homeowners that city water isn't their only option: "Your own well can be used as a supplement to a town or city water supply, just used for irrigation or replace the town water supply totally. Every situation is different, so don't wait until the grass turns brown and the hot weather rolls in. Call Skillings and Sons now to determine if a well is the answer to your irrigation and water ban needs."

However, Quinn isn't sure how long the trend will last in his region. "There are a lot more towns looking to put restrictions on and trying to make it much harder for permitting processes and seeing how they may be able to regulate us on the installations of the well. We've already seen it in some towns where they've successfully stopped us -- they will not even issue permits now."

Drilling for Vino

In Shingle Springs, Calif., Robert Dawson Drilling and Pumps fills out most of its irrigation work in the vineyards that dot the region. Nick Rumsey Sr. owns the third-generation well drilling business with his son, and their company currently has 11 employees and two rigs, although they are looking to grow soon.

Rumsey estimates that about 20 percent of their work is irrigation related. "We did more last year," he says, "This year it seems like it's dropped off a little bit, as far as the irrigation part goes."

Most of that 20 percent, he says, is irrigation work for area's many vineyards. "Basically what we do is provide water to the point of use. In other words, we go in and we drill the well -- 90 percent of the time it's a storage system -- so we do the storage tank system, we run the line from the well to the storage tank system and get it to where they can take the water from the storage tank to their vineyard. Basically, we're supplying them water for their vineyards," he explains.

Rumsey says he hasn't seen too many product advancements for the type of irrigation jobs he does that he's keen to employ, so he's going to stick with what works for his business. "We have a technique that we do that's pretty much the standard -- drill a well, put a pump in it, go to storage and then pressure system off of that -- pretty much cut and dry," he remarks.

Robert Dawson Drilling and Pumps just hopes that the market picks up so its irrigation work can get back to par. "On the irrigation side of it, I can see it kind of slowing down because of the vineyards and the price of grapes going down," Rumsey notes. "The residential is going full blast, though. We have plenty of work."

In the next installment of this series, we'll look at what two irrigation drillers are doing in the Midwest to keep farmers' crops alive.