EPA states that over 13 million households rely on private wells to obtain water for daily use. While wells are not regulated federally, some states do have some regulations regarding water quality and well construction. In this article, we will discuss water well regulations in Virginia, Texas, California, Massachusetts, and Georgia.
Private Well Regulations in Virginia
Virginia is one of the many states where at least 2/3 of residents use private wells. Out of the total 95 counties, the majority of households in 60 states rely on private wells. In 52 counties, more homes are now using private wells as compared to the city water system. 92% of the 1 million households in Virginia using water well also use a septic system. If you plan to build a well or move into a property with a water well, you may need to ensure that everything is regulated and according to the guidelines laid out by your state’s health office. The following are the regulations in Virginia.
The most basic regulation in Virginia is the requirement of disinfection, and bacteriological testing after the well is installed. Once the well is installed and initial testing has been performed, it becomes the well owner’s responsibility to ensure that the water quality and well health is maintained. Well owners don’t pay for the water they use, and hence they are responsible for maintaining the water quality.
- To read Regulations Governing Application Fees for Construction Permits for Onsite Sewage Disposal Systems and Private Wells, click here.
- To find out detail about Private Well Regulations, read here.
Since you have to manage the total water system, including the sewage system at your property, you may be interested in the following.
- Sanitary Regulations for Marinas and Boat Moorings.
- Sewage Handling and Disposal Regulations.
- Regulations for Alternative Onsite Sewage Systems.
- Alternative Discharging Sewage Treatment Regulations for Individual Single Family Dwellings.
- Schedule of Civil Penalties.
State of Virginia has developed the “It’s YOUR Health” program to help well owners make sure that their drinking water is safe and healthy. It deals with your concerns about water testing and helps in interpreting the test results. It also includes information on risk management, how to protect your well after an emergency, and ask for any other concern you can’t find on the website. You can access all this information here.
Guidelines by Government of Virginia to Manage the Risks
- Well owners must get their water tested once a year and get the well inspected as well.
- Homes with a public supply and a private well must never connect to both systems.
- Water conditioning equipment such as softeners and filters must be kept in good condition and maintained regularly.
- Dig your well at least 50-feet away from industries, agricultural areas, disposal sites, animal feedlots, trash cans, and gasoline storage sites.
- Don’t dispose of hazardous materials and chemicals near your wells, and make sure they are treated before throwing them away.
- All Virginians must play their part in maintaining safe water quality.
Private Well Regulation in Texas
There are more than 1 million water wells in Texas. Apart from domestic use, water wells are also used for:
- Industrial purposes
- Rig supply, and
- Hydraulic fracturing
Texas law does not authorize any state agency to regulate the use or production of groundwater. Its use and production are managed by local or regional groundwater conservation districts (GCDs). Areas that are not with GCD are under the rule of capture which states that groundwater, once it has been captured by a well and produced to the surface, belongs to the landowner. The limitations to the rule of capture are:
- Capture and use of groundwater cannot be done maliciously to harm a neighbor or amount to a willful waste of the resource.
- A landowner is liable for damages if his negligent pumping of groundwater results in the subsidence of neighboring land (that is, lowering in elevation of the land surface caused by the withdrawal of groundwater).
The Texan government puts a strong emphasis on maintaining well water quality so that people of Texas drink safe and healthy water. It has put complete guidelines on its official website for private wells.
- A complete guideline for drinking water from underground wells safely is mentioned here.
- For water testing, protection of well water, and guides for homeowners, information is available.
- If you are planning to buy a property with a well, the Texan government’s official website has mentioned this page to gather all the information. It will tell you all the things you need to look for in a pre-constructed well.
- Texas Government has gone a step further to help its residents. It has introduced a Texas Well Owner Network, which keeps the residents informed about various techniques to keep well water pure and offers various awareness programs about well water.
- A private well class offers free training for well water users.
- You can read more about private well water management in Texas here.
Regulations Regarding Well Drillers and Pump Installers
If you are hiring a team of professional drillers in Texas, you can find all the administrative rules related to them here. These rules will help you strike a fair deal with the drillers and ensure that they fulfill all the legal requirements of the Texan law.
Water Well Regulations in California
You would be surprised to know that California’s water consumption is highest among all the states. It uses around 11 billion gallons of water in one day. California Department of Water Resources states that there are around 2 million water wells in the state of California, and this number is increasing every year and some 7500-15000 wells are dug every year.
- All well-related jobs, such as construction, modification, and destruction, must be approved by local environmental health agencies or local water districts.
- All jobs related to well construction, modification, and destruction must be performed only by a licensed C-57 Water Well Contractor. They must meet applicable local and state well standards. The contractor, person, or agency must possess a valid C-57, C-61, or Class A contractor’s license.
- You may need to consult a licensed California geologist or hydro-geologist for well sitting, design and construction. This consultation depends on on-site conditions.
- California’s well regulations stress that it is important to maintain a safe distance between the private well and sources of contamination such as animal feedlot, manure storage, and use of fertilizers.
- If possible, the wells must be located at elevated places to avoid contamination from floodwater and stagnant rainwater.
- Either you are constructing a dug well, drilled well, or a driven well, you must make sure that all the basic well components must be installed properly and kept in mint condition. You should take special care of well casing, well pump, well screen, filter pack, and wellhead.
Regulations Regarding Well Protection
- The well should be located away from septic systems and other pollutant systems.
- The annular space must be sealed with materials that meet statewide minimum well standards and local well ordinance requirements.
- You must not store or mix pesticides, fertilizers, lawn-care products, paints, hazardous materials, gasoline, and automotive wastes near the well.
- Maintain protection zones around your well and schedule yearly inspection for water and well structure.
Regulations for Abandoned Wells
- The Californian government also gives you guidelines about dealing with abandoned wells as they can be a source for pollutants and contaminants to enter groundwater. It is the responsibility of the well owner to destroy the abandoned wells as per the Public Health and Safety Code, Part 9.5, Section 115700.
- Natural Resources Conservation Service of California has uploaded a video showing the ways to deal with an actual abandoned well.
- To read more, you can check out this document. It contains all the information regarding well water and maintaining its quality. This document will not only come in handy for Californians but for all the Americans worried about their wells.
- For the residents of Los Angeles, this handbook will prove to be very fruitful.
- California Water Board has published a report to elaborate on all the concerns of private well owners.
Private Well Regulations in Massachusetts
More than 500,000 people in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts obtain drinking water from private wells. The government of Massachusetts defines a private well as a water source having less than 15 service connections and serves less than 25 individuals or serves an average of 25 or more people daily for less than 60 days in a year.
Local Boards of Health regulate private wells in Massachusetts under Massachusetts General Law (MGL Ch.111 s.122). The BOHs have the authority to adopt a private well regulation that establishes the criteria for well sitting, construction, water quality, and quantity. In Massachusetts, only Massachusetts Registered Well Drillers are allowed to install wells. You can find a list of Massachusetts certified well drillers here.
Once the drilling is complete, your well driller is required to submit the copies of a well completion report to the local BOH and the MassDEP Well Driller Program. Once everything is verified, you will be given a well completion certificate containing information about well construction and geological descriptions.
Massachusetts General Laws for Private Wells
The private well laws in Massachusetts have 4 main dimensions. They are mentioned below
- Setback distances
- Well construction, alteration, and maintenance standards
- Well decommissioning standards
- Periodic water quality testing
Let’s look at each one of them briefly
These distances are used to finalize the location for a potable well. They have been put in place to ensure that the quality of drinking water is maintained and is not impacted by the well’s surroundings. Your well must be 10 feet away from a property line, 25 feet away from a public/private roadway, and 15 feet away from the right of way. It should not fall under 50 feet of a septic tank or a sewer line. The well must be 100 feet away from the leaching field or a dry well, stable barnyard, manure storage, above ground fuel storage, or a pesticide tank. If you have underground petrol storage, make sure your well falls 250 feet away from it. Drinking well must be located at least 25 feet away from surface water and wetlands.
Well Construction, Alteration, and Maintenance Standards
These standards are very well detailed and can be read here. However, the following standards are for paramount importance and must never be ignored as they are linked with your well safety and quality of drinking water.
- The materials used for permanent construction are durable in the specific hydro-geologic environment at the well site.
- No unsealed openings will be left around the well that could conduct surface water or contaminated groundwater vertically to the intake portion of the well or transfer water from one formation to another.
Well Decommissioning Standards
When you seal a well, it is called a decommissioned well. A licensed driller must carry the decommissioning work. The criteria for abandoning a private well is explained in detail here. It is the well owner’s responsibility that all abandoned wells, test holes, and borings are properly sealed, and they don’t become a source of groundwater contamination. A decommissioning report must be submitted within 30 days after the sealing work has been completed.
Periodic Water Quality Testing
The government of Massachusetts recommends the following test regime for private wells.
Newly Built Wells – A raw water sample to identify all the contaminants as this sample will tell you what treatment options are needed for your water.
Existing Wells – For all the existing wells, a yearly testing routine must be followed. The yearly testing, preferably in the spring season, must be conducted for microorganisms, especially total coliform bacteria and nitrate/nitrite. 10-year testing must be done to check arsenic, lead, manganese, copper, fluoride, sodium, gross alpha, radon, uranium, volatile organic compounds, chloride, water hardness, iron, and pH of the water.
A summary of all the above information is published by the city of Westfield. You can check it out here.
To read about well water testing, click here.
You would need the following permits to construct a well at your property
- Private well construction permit
- Plumbing permit (for new potable sources only)
- A private well alteration permit
- Permit for decommissioning (sealing) abandoned wells, test holes, and dry or inadequate borings
Well Completion Report
The state of Massachusetts requires that once you have completed your well construction, a well completion report must be submitted to the Drinking Water Program and the local BOH. This form will contain all the details and be used as a reference point for future alterations in the well and during the sale/purchase of the property. Massachusetts offers the most detailed well completion report to its residents.
The government of Massachusetts stresses upon the owner to maintain the well according to the following standards.
- Maintaining the well in a sanitary condition.
- Maintaining the well in a manner that prevents surface water or contaminants from entering the well.
- Maintaining the well in a manner that conserves groundwater resources.
- Maintaining the well so that it is accessible for rehabilitation and repairs.
- Ensuring that an abandoned well is properly plugged
Private Well Regulations in Wisconsin
There are over 800,000 private wells in Wisconsin. Around one-quarter of the total population uses these wells to meet their daily water needs. Wisconsin’s government has laid out information regarding water well in the following domains.
- For private well owners
- Testing of private well
- Information for well drillers and pump installers
- Well records search
- Buying or selling a property with a private well
- High capacity wells
- Well filling and sealing
- Diagnosing the problems with well water
Wisconsin is recognized as the national leader when it comes to well water regulation. It has had laws since 1936. The official website of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources defines private well as wells that are not part of a public water supply and have fewer than 15 connections, and serve fewer than 25 people.
Statutes and Codes Governing Private Wells in Wisconsin
The following statues and codes have been put in place to deal with all matters regarding private wells.
- 280 – Pure Drinking Water
- NR 123 – Well Compensation Program
- NR 140 – Groundwater Quality
- NR 146 – Well Driller and Pump Installer Registration
- NR 812 – Well Construction and Pump Installation
- NR 845 – County Administration of Ch. NR 812, Private Well Code
Let’s look at the salient features of the Wisconsin Private Well Regulations.
- You need a DNR notification number before you can start construction. It can be obtained online, or you can find an office here.
- You can drill only a point driven well yourself in Wisconsin on your own or leased property. For all other types of wells, only DNR certified drillers will construct, destruct, or modify a well. Similarly, well pumps will only be installed by the DNR certified contractors. You can find a list of certified drillers and pump installers here.
- A well driller will test the pump, flush the well, disinfect the well, and submit the water sample within 10 days to a certified laboratory for water testing and provide the test result report to the well owner.
- Well drillers will provide the well owner and the department a copy of the well completion report within 30 days after completing the drilling work.
Private Well Location Requirements
The location requirements issues by the Wisconsin government are very detailed and ensure that your water is not contaminated. Let’s look at the location requirements
- 8 feet from an approved gravity building sewer pipe
- 8 feet from a swimming pool, trench, or ditch.
- 25 feet from a septic or holding tank
- 25 feet from the high-water mark of a lake, pond, or stream
- 25 feet from surface fuel oil, gasoline, or another liquid product tank =<1500 gallons
- 100 feet from any pit, buried petroleum tank or surface tank, >1500 gallons including any piping.
- 50 feet from a non-watertight privy, Private Onsite Wastewater Treatment System or POWTS (dispersed component, soil absorption unit) (drain field), or mound system;
- 25 feet from a municipal collector sewer.
- 50 from an animal yard, animal shelter, or animal barn
- 250 feet from a salvage yard or a salt storage area.
- 25 feet from a watertight vault privy
- 1,200 feet from any existing, proposed, or abandoned landfill site.
The Wisconsin Government prohibits well owners from doing the following.
- Install a well in the basement or crawl space of your home.
- Construct a well, pump, pressure tank pit.
- Install an unprotected buried suction line between a well and a pump or pressure tank in a basement.
- Use a well for disposal or drainage of solid wastes, sewage, surface water, or wastewater.
- Develop a spring as a drinking water source without obtaining advance approval from DNR.
To read more about the rules and regulations explained above, you can click here.
DNR recommends that all well owners get their water tested annually for bacteria and other microorganisms or any time they feel a difference in the taste, smell, or appearance of the water. Everything related to private water well testing can be found on this link. It is an easy to use interface with a list of certified laboratories for water testing, sample collection, interpretation of the test results, details of all the contaminants found in water, and diagnosing the problem with your well water. You can find all the possible contaminants in Wisconsin wells here. If your well is affected by floodwater, all the information you need to deal with this situation can be obtained from this link.
Well Records Search
If you are buying a property will a well or lost your well construction report, you don’t need to worry. Wisconsin government offers help in this regard. You can access the information using the official website link. The well constructors and drillers can get Well Filling & Sealing Reports here.
Buying or Selling a Property with a Private Well
The Wisconsin government gives all the details you need to inspect the well on a property you intend to buy on this link.
Well Grants Programs
Wisconsin government offers grants to eligible well owners to replace, reconstruct, or treat contaminated private water supplies for domestic purposes such as residence and livestock. The basic requirement is a family income below $65,000 for the prior calendar year. All the other details on eligibility, applying process, follow-up, laws, and contact details are given here. The details for grants on well abandonment are explained on this page. For water and wastewater funding sources, visit this page.
Detailed information about all the things mentioned above is available here.
Private Well Regulations in Georgia
There are around 648,000 private water wells in Georgia. Just like Texas and Wisconsin, Georgia also offers all the information regarding private wells online. Let’s look at a summary of the private well regulations in Georgia.
- A well must be constructed by licensed drillers only. Licensed well drillers are aware of the drilling standards and can drill according to the right process. A list of licensed water well contractors, certified pump installers, and bonded drilling contractors is available on the official website of the Environmental Protection Division of the government of Georgia. Make sure you ask for a copy of the contractor’s current license. Another state’s license is invalid in Georgia.
- Before beginning the drilling process, permits are needed. You can consult with your local county health department to obtain the permit.
- Your contractor must only use new approved materials for constructing wells.
- The contractor must not cut holes or slots by hand and must grout your well. It means that the open spaces between the well casing and the borehole must be closed with cement, neat-cement, or bentonite. A 10 feet deep grouting from the surface is required for all individual wells used for drinking water.
- It is the responsibility of the driller to disinfect the well after completion. He will also give you a well completion report within 30 days.
- The Georgian Water Well Laws require the well owner to place at least a 4-inches thick concrete pad around the well. It should extend 2 feet from the well casing in all directions and must be sloped away from the well. The well casing must extend 8 inches above the pad and have a sanitary cover. If you live in a flood-prone area, you must install the casing at least 2 inches higher than the highest level of flood recorded. For example, the highest level of a flood is 10 inches; your casing must extend 12 inches above the surface. It will help in keeping the floodwater away from your well.
Location Parameters: A private drinking water well must be located according to the guidelines set by the Georgia Government. The following horizontal distances are required by the DNR’s Water Well Standards Act.
- Not less than 10 feet from a sewer line
- Not less than 50 feet from a septic tank
- Not less than 100 feet from a septic tank absorption field
- Not less than 150 feet from a cesspool or seepage pit
- Not less than 100 feet from an animal or fowl enclosure
Well Head Protection Measures: To protect the wellhead, the Georgia Department of Public Health emphasizes the following protection Measures
- Maintain the area around the well to be clean and accessible.
- Do not store any chemicals, gasoline, or fertilizer within 50 feet of the well.
- Divert surface water away from the well. Install a watertight curbing, sloping away from the casing that is sufficient to prevent contamination.
- Protect the upper terminal of the well with a sanitary seal or cover to prevent the entrance of pollutants to the well.
Water Testing Recommendations
Just like the other states, Georgia recommends the private well owners to do a yearly bacterial test and a chemical screening every 3 years. These tests help in installing the correct treatment options with your well to get pure drinking water. More detail is available on this link. To read about water well standards in Georgia, click here.
Proper Abandonment of Well
The Georgian government has defined abandoned wells as follows.
- Temporarily Abandoned: Not used for a minimum of 365 days.
- Permanently Abandoned: Not used for a minimum of 3 years.
A licensed contractor will do the plugging. The casing will be removed (if possible) and then fill the hole with grout. Proper abandoning is needed to protect the groundwater from contamination.
A detail of the above laws is available on the following sites.