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35 Years of Coastal Shallow Well Developement


Jim McClain, President
McClain's Shallow Wells

          Jim McClain arrived in Savannah in1978 after graduating from University of Washington with a degree in Zoology. His career began at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography where he worked as a Research Coordinator in a marine research lab. Some of his research was a cooperative program with the Instituto de Oceanographia in Spain, developing a scientific research project, studying bivalve aquaculture with partners from Woods Hole, Scripps, and The University of Georgia.  His respect for the environment and protection of our natural resources led Jim into his field and allowed him to expand his awareness beyond just regional issues.  Exposure to different cultures and societal groups while conducting his studies convinced him that most people want to work to protect natural resources while allowing for economic prosperity and pursuit of happiness. While working at the research lab, he also began working in partnership with Paul Clawson, geologist, who had begun drilling wells in Savannah initially to determine phosphate mining potential on the barrier islands. While conducting these studies, he discovered a largely undeveloped surficial aquifer.  This aquifer had usually been limited to wells producing  5-10 gallons per minute at a depth pf 10-20’.  Mr. Clawson was able to access shallow water aquifers at depths of 45-80’, with volumes reaching 100gpm. The Landings development was rapidly growing at this time and was in need of alternative irrigation water sources due to pressure from the EPD to decrease it’s non-potable demand on the Floridan Aquifer.  Mr. Clawson and Jim were able to work with the Landings Association to allow shallow wells for residential irrigation usage.

          Since then, over 2,200 wells have been installed on Skidaway Island, protecting the Florida Aquifer from literally billions of gallons of irrigation water consumption.  Jim recognized the opportunity to develop a business that was ecologically friendly, and would allow him the freedoms and opportunity of an independent contractor.  He left the science research field at this time and worked full-time with Mr. Clawson’s company, Geothermics Inc.  They worked together until 1992, when Jim started his own water well drilling company, McClain’s Shallow Wells, Inc.  Jim is now the 3rd generation of water well drillers, following Mr. Clawson’s father-in-law, Charlie Wertz, and has depended on his two sons, Matthew and Christopher, to follow in his footsteps.  Jim is also heavily involved in the water well industry as an advocate for the education of water issues, development of the industry and alternative water sources, and protection of water well rights.  He is the Vice-President of the Georgia Association of Groundwater Professionals, serves as one of two Georgia board members on the South Atlantic Water Well Jubilee, has served as a member of the Chatham County Water Guardians, and represents the water well industry at forums throughout the State of Georgia such as the Water Well Advisory Council and Industry Expositions. 

          In addition, Jim serves his community as a frequent contributor to the Chatham County Savannah Public School System, the National Education Alliance through the Savannah Morning News, and volunteers at the Isle of Hope Volunteer Fire Department where he is a Captain. 

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