What to do with an Old Water Well?

More than 43 million households in the U.S use water from 9 million water wells across the country. NGWA estimates that around 500,000 water wells are constructed annually.

The likelihood that you’ll have an old well on your property or you may decide to build a new well is high. Hence, the question arises, what to do with old water well?

What to do with an Old Water Well?

What to do with an Old Water Well?

Well water experts recommend not leaving a well unused. Unused and old water wells may dry, or the water may get contaminated over time.

There are two ways to deal with an old water well:

  • Seal the Well
  • Revive the Well

Let’s check how each works

Sealing an Old Water Well

Old wells pose a physical threat to children and small animals. In some cases, old wells may have a damaged well casing and well cap, which can act as a contamination channel for groundwater via rainwater and fertilizer run-off.

Tea branches, leaves, sand, and dirt can also enter old wells and contaminate nearby wells. Moreover, old wells have stagnant water that can bubble up through well pipe and casing causing water damage to your property.

How to Seal an Old Well?

Homeowners must hire a certified state professional if they discover or have an old well at their property. State laws require homeowners to hire professionals to seal or decommission an old or abandoned well.

There are many reasons behind this restriction. First, any carelessness or mistake can result in groundwater contamination that can contaminate your neighbors’ wells and your well if you are building a new one.

Moreover, state laws determine which materials are to be used for well abandonment based on the type of well. Local laws also require the contractor to submit a work report on well abandonment, approve it, and return it to the well owner.

The contractor will remove pumps/pipes or well equipment inside the well, fill it with approved materials, and seal it. The backfilling and sealing procedure and materials vary from one state to another.

The paperwork and official requirements can get technical, and it is better if they are handled by a professional.

Reviving the Well

So you just bought a property and discovered that it has an old well that hasn’t been plugged. Most homeowners will wonder if they can revive it. Yes, you can revive it unless there is no restriction put in place by the local government.

You can check this by visiting relevant authorities with the required paperwork. You can get this paperwork from the previous owner. Many states have websites that store well log information. You can access this information by typing your address. Knowing the previous owner’s name or the year your house was built can help you narrow down the search.

How to Revive an Old Well?

Reviving an old well must be done by certified well contractors as per state laws. Some states restrict reviving old wells after being unused for a certain time. This time varies from one state to another.

The contractor will check the aquifer, inspect the well casing for damages with a camera, and check the well pump, pressure tank, and well pipes. They will also get the paperwork done for you.

You may be able to revive an old well if the damage is repairable. For example, if the well casing has minor cracks, the well pump is broken (it can be replaced), or the water quality is treatable. You may need to install an advanced filtration system or chlorinate the well accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs of an old well?

What are the signs of an old well?

  • Well water system components like a water pump, pressure tank, or electrical wiring.
  • A circular stone or a metal plate located in the basement or outbuilding
  • A pit in the yard
  • An unused water line in an outbuilding or basement
  • Most of the neighbors use well water, but your house is on city water

What are the potential problems caused by old water wells?

  • It acts as a passage for contamination of groundwater.
  • New owners or land developers may build a new structure over an old well leading to hazardous land use.
  • Waste management sites near old wells can pose a severe contamination threat.

How much does it cost to abandon an old well?

It depends on factors like well depth, well diameter, and ease of removing the well pump and accessing the well location. Well contractors usually charge by the foot. The national average for well abandonment is $700-$1600.   

How long can a well sit unused?

It depends on the construction, surrounding area, and overall water quality. A water well that hasn’t been used for over a year must be inspected by a professional; water tested, and treated as per the water quality report.

How to revive a well that is in use but doesn’t produce enough water?

A high water pressure stream is pumped down the well to flush out existing fractures, and water can come out unrestricted. How much water you will get depends on the water volume in the aquifer and the fractures.

Final Words

The best way to deal with an old water well is to consult the local government. Sometimes old wells can be revived if they haven’t been used for a year or two. Wells abandoned for more than a couple of years are better off if they are sealed.

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