what is a dry well used for

What Is a Dry Well Used For?

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Are you tired of dealing with standing water and flood damage on your property? A dry well may be the solution you’ve been looking for. But what exactly is a dry well, and how does it work? 

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of these simple yet effective structures, including their purpose, how they function, and their numerous benefits. 

Did you know that dry wells can help to prevent erosion, water pollution, and even mosquito breeding? Keep reading to find out more about this cost-effective drainage solution and how it can protect your property from water-related damage.

What Is a Dry Well?

Dry wells for drainage are simple structures used in landscaping and yard management. They consist of a hole, typically lined with gravel or another porous material, that is designed to allow excess water to drain into the ground rather than pooling on the surface. 

Dry wells for drainage can be used in a variety of applications and are a useful tool for managing excess water and protecting against water-related damage.

Dry wells are often used in areas where traditional drainage systems, such as gutters and underground pipes, are not practical or possible. They can also be used to supplement existing drainage systems, helping to redirect excess water away from foundations, sidewalks, and other structures.

One of the main benefits of dry wells is their ability to naturally filter and clean the water as it drains into the ground. This can help prevent erosion and water pollution and protect against standing water and mosquito breeding. 

Dry wells are also relatively easy to install and maintain, making them a popular choice for homeowners and landscapers looking for a cost-effective drainage solution.

Uses for Dry Wells

Stormwater Runoff and Reducing Erosion

One of the primary uses for dry wells is managing stormwater runoff. When it rains, water flows over the surface of the ground and can cause erosion, sedimentation, and flooding. 

By using a dry well to channel excess water, the water is allowed to drain into the ground rather than running off the property. This can help to prevent erosion and sedimentation, as well as protect against standing water and mosquito breeding. 

Recharging Groundwater

In addition to managing stormwater runoff, dry wells can also help to recharge groundwater

When water drains into the ground, it can replenish aquifers and underground water sources. 

This is particularly important in areas where there’s a high demand for water, such as in drought-prone regions or during times of water scarcity. 

By using dry wells to capture and redirect excess water, it’s possible to increase the amount of water available for everyone. 

Types of Dry Wells

Passive Dry Wells

Passive dry wells are a type of dry well that relies on natural processes to manage excess water. These structures don’t require any external energy or mechanical components to function. This makes them a simple and low-maintenance drainage solution

Passive dry wells are also typically used in for small-scale applications such as managing stormwater runoff in gardens and yards in a residential area. 

There are two types of passive dry wells:

  • Gravel-filled
  • Permeable

Gravel-filled dry wells are the most basic type. These dry wells are filled with gravel or some other porous material that allows water to drain into the ground and helps prevent erosion and sedimentation. 

Permeable dry wells, on the other hand, use porous pavement, such as grass or permeable pavers, that allows water to drain into the ground. 

These types of wells are often used in areas where traditional drainage systems aren’t feasible or where it’s desirable to minimize the amount of impervious surface. 

Active Dry Wells

An active dry well uses mechanical or electrical components to manage excess water. These structures are typically used in large-scale applications, such as the management of stormwater runoff from parking lots, roads, and other impervious surfaces. 

Active dry wells can be more expensive to install and maintain than passive alternatives, but they’re also generally more effective at managing larger volumes of water. 

Two types of active dry wells include:

  • Pump-and-treat systems
  • Vortex systems

Pump-and-treat systems use pumps to remove water from the dry well and treat it before releasing it back into the environment. Vortex systems, on the other hand, use a spinning motion to separate sediment and other debris before allowing it to drain into the ground.

Hybrid Dry Wells

Hybrid dry wells are dry wells that combine passive and active elements to manage excess water. These systems are typically found used in large-scale applications. 

And similar to active dry wells, hybrid versions can be much more expensive to install and maintain than passive dry wells. 

Hybrid dry wells can provide the benefits of both passive and active dry wells, depending on the system’s design. For example, a hybrid dry well that uses permeable pavement and a pump-and-treat system may be able to filter and treat more effectively than a passive dry well while still being relatively low-maintenance and energy-efficient. 

Design and Installation Considerations

When installing a dry well, there are several design and installation considerations to keep in mind. 


Sizing is one of the most important considerations when designing a dry well. The size of the dry well should be based on the amount of water that needs to be managed and the site’s soil conditions. 

If the dry well is too small, it may not be able to handle the volume of water, resulting in overflow. On the other hand, if it’s too large, it may be unnecessarily expensive to install and maintain. 


The capacity of a dry well is another important factor. This refers to the amount of water that the dry well can hold at one time. The capacity should be based on the expected volume during a storm event. 


The location of a dry well is also important. It should be sited away from structures, like foundations and sidewalks, to prevent potential water damage. It should also be located in an area with decent drainage, as the dry well will rely on the ground to absorb the collected water. 


The dry well should be constructed using durable materials that are resistant to corrosion and deterioration. The construction methods should be appropriate for the site and the specific type of dry well that’s installed. 

Maintenance and Upkeep

Regular inspection and cleaning of a dry well are important to ensure that it’s functioning properly. The dry well should be inspected regularly, and any necessary repairs should be made promptly. Cleaning may be required if it becomes clogged with debris or sediment. 

Some complications that can arise with dry wells include:

  • Overflow
  • Erosion
  • Water pollution

To avoid these problems, it’s important to regularly inspect, maintain, and address any issues that arise in a timely manner. By taking good care of your dry well, you can ensure that it continues to effectively manage excess water and protect your property from water-related damage. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out to our specialists here at Alpha Environmental Services for any dry well installation, repair, or maintenance needs in the Portland, OR, area. 

Contact us to learn more about how we can help protect your property from water-related damage with a dry well today. 

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