‘It’s the water’: Artesian wells an important part of Olympia’s past and present

OLYMPIA, Wash. --- “It’s the water.”

That’s the old Olympia Beer slogan still whispered around the Olympia area.

More than 100 artesian wells still flow around the city, and some are open to the public, with people lining up to fill up their bottles, jugs, or tanks.

Lots of people take advantage of this public artesian well in downtown Olympia. But private businesses are also finding ways to utilize artesian water.

“From brewing to kegging to drinking it, it’s just excellent water,” said Paul Pearson, the head brewer at Well 80, a new restaurant and brewery in the downtown area.

Owner Chris Knudson loved the space when he first toured it, not knowing about the hidden well.

“On the way out, I hear running water in the back,” Knudson said. “I’m like, 'What the heck.?' I’ve looked in enough buildings to know running water is not a good thing.”

But in this case, it turned out to be a great thing. The artesian well has become a centerpiece for a slew of beers, while tapping into the rich history of the artesian waters used for decades to create Olympia Beer.

“We have an artesian aquifer that underlies virtually the entirety of downtown Olympia,” said Rich Hoey, the public works director for the city.

At one time 100 different wells flowed around the city and were the primary source of water.

The water flows down from the Cascades between sloping layers of bedrock, collecting various minerals while going through a natural filtering process.

“People really love the fact that you are tapping into naturally emerging water right out of the ground, so it has a bit of a magical quality in that sense,” said Hoey.

And that’s why people continue to make the trek, empty bottles in hand, to the public well, and why some are now tapping into the artesian waters to make new creations.

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