Think for a second about the earliest technology you remember. Then think about today.

I’m solidly generation X. I remember begging for a handheld video game as a kid. What I don’t remember was exactly how old I was, but definitely under 10. This game was about the size of a deck of cards, but the screen measured maybe 2 inches square. It had two colors, like the old green-screen terminals from the 1970s. Think of a maze game with all the complexity of pong.

That basic game occupied hours of my young life and I burned through dozens of AA batteries. Now the “phone” in my pocket has more computing power and storage than the first computer I owned.

Lots of National Driller readers are older than I am. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. But the technology contrast for someone in their 50s or 60s is even starker. A contractor who is 60 — born in 1955 — might have felt the same way about a Spirograph as I did about that little maze game. If you were wowed by a Spirograph as a kid, the latest mobile phone looks like something out of Buck Rogers.

Many older drillers have worked on cable rigs. Heck, some still might. But to someone running a cable rig 60, 70 years ago, a sonic drill smacks of science fiction. Technology changes, and with it how we live our lives, connect with family and coworkers, and do our jobs.

We have a story in this month’s issue that illustrates this well (page 18). Associate editor Valerie King looked into a joint project to map the Big Sioux Aquifer. As aquifers go, it’s a fairly modest 36 square miles. But, like everywhere else, an ever-growing number of people put a higher and higher demand on water resources. Knowing just how big the resource is and what it can do helps people make educated choices about how to manage it.

The city of Sioux Falls, S.D., the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and geoscience company CGG are working together to map the Big Sioux. The process involves towing a huge, cylindrical sensor by helicopter over the area. Data from that sensor will provide a 3-D map of the aquifer. Talk about space age.

Drillers can punch test wells and analyze logs to find the best location for, say, an irrigation well. There’s a lot of confidence in this traditional approach, but it’s ultimately two-dimensional. Now, think about the value of having a complete map of the subsurface. You know the porous areas start at 63 feet at your current GPS coordinates, and you start hitting quartzite at 104 feet. You know the likely gpm. You know all of this without even setting up the mast. That’s water well drilling in three dimensions, and it’s light-years ahead of your grandfather’s cable rig.

Jeff Dunn, the city’s water principal engineer, breaks down for drillers and their customers what to expect from the near and very real future.

“The model will tell us, of course, where the most porous soils are, the model will tell us how the water moves in and around the aquifer, the model will tell us how the aquifer works during droughts and periods of heavy rain.”

Who knows how today’s technology will look in a few decades? But one thing is certain: The future looks bright.

What do you think? How has technology changed in your time on the jobsite? Share your story with me at

Stay safe out there, drillers.


Groundwater Expo

If you’re holding this magazine and happen to be at Groundwater Expo in Las Vegas, stop by booth 1419 and say hello to the National Driller crew. We’re right next to the nice folks at Laibe Corp./Versa-Drill.




October’s Parting Shot feature showed both a drilling rig and a pickup truck. Several astute readers pointed out the 1955 date for the image supplied by the source had to be incorrect, given that the pickup shown was an early ’70s Ford. National Driller regrets the error.