Water Well Articles
Completing the Well System
View all LAND BUYING articles
If a building site has access to a municipal water system, you will need to pay a connection fee or “tap fee” of a few hundred to several thousand dollars to tie in. Otherwise, you will need to provide you own drinking water. The lot you are considering may already have a well drilled, may have a shared well with one or more neighboring lots, or no proven water source at all.
WATER WELL BASICS
Wells can vary a great deal in depth required, flow rate, and water quality. Before buying a lot with a well in place, you should get the reported flow rate in writing and an up-to-date water quality report, readily available from most municipal health departments. Ask the local health inspector about their water testing procedures, which are usually inexpensive and well worth the cost and effort. If problems are detected with the water quality, these need to be identified and resolved before proceeding read more
COMPLETING THE WELL SYSTEM
A modern drilled well is more than just a hole in the ground. It must be properly lined and sealed to prevent contaminated surface water from entering, and must have special screens at the end in loose soils to maintain a good flow and filter out silt that could clog the well. Finally, a pump must be installed along with underground plumbing to a pressurized storage tank in the house read more
Once your well is completed, disinfected, and flushed, you will want to test the water quality whether or not it is required by local code. Annual testing is also a good idea as water quality can change over time, or even seasonally.Many local health departments provide an inexpensive testing service for drinking water. The typical test looks for nitrates, coliform bacteria, and pH, as well as additional substances depending on common problems in your area read more
WHOLE-HOUSE WATER TREATMENT
In most cases, the deep well water is perfectly safe to drink, but may have nuisance problems such as mineral tastes, hardness, or acidity. Most of these issues can be solved economically. Contaminants that pose an immediate or long-term health hazard are more difficult and expensive to remove read more
Minimum Lot Size for Water Well?
What’s the minimum lot size required to drill a water well in Ontario Canada?
In general, the minimum lot size for a water well is determined by well clearances. The well must be a minimum distance from buildings and from septic tanks, leach fields, and other sources of pollution.
In addition, some jurisdictions require that you maintain a contaminant-free “wellhead protection area” for a radius of 50 to 100 feet or more around the well. The protection area must on your own property or be controlled by you under an easement. Other jurisdictions have property line setbacks of as little as 10 ft. so you really need to consult your local regulations.
To get a definitive answer, you should contact your local health department or whoever oversees well drilling permits in your area.
Read more on Well Clearances
Well clearances are typically governed by state and municipal law, which varies a bit from state to state and town to town. Your local health department or building department can provide you with details.
The minimum distance from a driven or drilled well to a residential structure is typically 5 to 10 feet measured to the farthest building projection. This is usually the roof overhang.
Since water wells are replenished from surface water that seeps through the ground into the aquifer, the main concern is contamination from surface runoff, septic systems, farming, and other activities. It’s best to locate the well uphill and as far as possible from sources of pollution.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) makes these recommendations for minimum clearances to a water well:
50 feet: Septic Tanks
50 feet: Livestock yards, Silos, Septic Leach Fields
100 feet: Petroleum Tanks, Liquid-Tight Manure Storage and Fertilizer Storage and Handling
250 feet: Manure stacks
Wells should also be a safe distance from sewer and septic lines, culverts and drainage ditches, swimming pools, salt storage areas, landfills, and any other sources of contamination.
Should Driller Pay for Water Treatment?
We are building a new home and our well water did not pass water test. We now need water cleaning/filtration system. Who is responsible for that cost? The contractor or the owner? In our contract it says that contractor is responsible to provide a successful water test. We feel that they should pay for this with the money from our construction loan to provide the successful water test. They feel the owner is responsible for this cost since they cannot guarantee the quality of the water from the well when they set up the well system. Do you have any insight on this?
Who should pay depends on the specific wording of your contract. If it clearly states that the contractor agreed to provide potable water (that passed the test) for a fixed price, then he should be responsible for the cost.
If the contract wording is ambiguous about who is responsible for the cost of water filtration, then it becomes a matter of negotiation.
In a traditional well contract, nothing is guaranteed. Well drilling is a risky business and the owners assume all the risk. They pay for the depth of well needed or even a second well if the first is dry, plus any special treatment including filtration or treatment.
Some drillers do provide a turn-key option that provides a guaranteed well yield for a fixed price and assumes the risk of all drilling costs. They may also include guaranteed water quality. From your description, this sounds like the deal you made. However, it also sounds like there is a difference of opinion about the terms of your agreement.
If you cannot reach an agreement over who should pay for water treatment, you might suggest a compromise of splitting the extra cost with the driller. If you still cannot reach an agreement then you may need to seek other types of dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration.
Should I Add Well-Drilling Contingency to Offer?
When making an offer on raw land, would you make it contingent on being able to drill down to water and have an adequate draw rate? To drill in my area, it will cost about $47/foot, and I have a property under consideration that the depth may be from 120-280 feet! Do you think it’s reasonable to ask the seller to cover the bill for the well drilling feasibility and if it passes testing, the buyer will reimburse at closing? I don’t want to pay $10,000 for nothing.
Making your offer contingent on the seller drilling a satisfactory well would be great if he agrees to your terms. In any case, it’s definitely a good idea to add some type of water well contingency to your offer. However, drilling a separate test well prior to the water well is usually done only for municipal or high-yield agricultural wells.
If you plan to drill a well prior to purchasing, then the contingency could state something like “Driller is to find well water at a depth, flow rate, and quality satisfactory to the buyer.” Or you could add specific numbers, such as a minimum flow rate of 5 gpm of potable water at less than 300 feet.
The well contractor would then drill to a suitable depth and perform a “drawdown” test to establish the flow rate. The water quality can usually be tested through the local health department for a small fee.
If you don’t want to incur the cost of drilling a well ahead of time, you can hire an engineer to evaluate the prospects of drilling a satisfactory well based on the local geology, aquifer conditions, and performance of surrounding wells. In some states, well data are public records, and there are additional groundwater data available from the US Geological Survey, state geology departments, and local universities. Licensed well drillers in the area can also be an excellent source of information on the depth, yield, and water quality of surrounding wells.
While no one can establish with 100% certainty what your drilling results will be, the performance of surrounding wells and geological data can provide a high level of confidence in most cases. Your contingency might read something like: “Engineer shall establish the feasibility of an adequate private water supply to the satisfaction of the owner. Owner reserves the right to enter the property to drill a test well to establish that the well depth, yield, and water quality are to the owner’s satisfaction.” Once you have established the likelihood of a suitable well, then the $10,000 cost may be easier to justify.
For 100% certainty, you’ll need to spend the $10,000. You can certainly ask the owner to pay for some or all of the drilling costs. Maybe he will share the cost with you 50/50. It all depends on the market, the seller’s motivation, and the attractiveness of your offer. Some land owners choose to drill a well and conduct a perc test prior to listing the lot – it certainly improves its marketability.
Whether it is worth risking $10,000 to avoid a $100,000 mistake, or whatever the lot costs, is a tough decision. If the seller won’t cooperate, and you have serious doubts about the water, then you may have to walk away.
Whichever approach you take, it’s always a good idea to have a lawyer review your offer to make sure that you are not putting your earnest money at risk and have an iron-clad option to back out of the deal if your land inspection is not satisfactory.
Best of luck with your land search!
Read more about Making An Offer On Land.
Can I Drill A Well in Winter?
How easy is to drill a well during winter? It is advisable to wait?
In general, it is fine to drill a well in the winter. Well drillers typically have equipment that can drill through gravel and rock, so drilling through a few feet of frozen soil is not a problem. Also with frozen soil at the surface, the drilling process is often a lot less muddy and messy than drilling in spring when the site may be soggy and there may be other construction work under way.
As as long as you have sited your house and septic system, then there is no problem with drilling ahead of time. Best of luck with your building project!
Margaret Bertling says
Why Does Well Pump Shut Off and Not Fill Tank?
The house I rent has a water well on it. The pump will fill up the pressure tank and then it will shut itself off. But the pump doesn’t fill the tank again when it should. The owners just bought a new tank. They had a plumber install the new tank and he raised the pressure, but it still won’t pump like it should. Any ideas? Thank you.
TICA - DIY Builder says
Best Time To Drill Well?
I have purchased raw land, I am planning to have the land excavated and graded. Public utilities are not available at this site. At what point should I have the well put in place?
You can have your well drilled at any time, as long as the septic system is located and the house location is staked out. In most cases, you will want the land to be cleared for easy access and rough-graded so the well cap ends up at the right height. If the site is too muddy, you may have to wait until the soil dries out a bit.
You need to know the locations of the house and septic system in order to maintain the required clearances to the well. Ideally the well is located above the septic system on a sloped site, but this is not always possible. Also, to prevent ponding around the wellhead, the ground immediately around the well should slope away in all directions.
You can wait to drill your well until after the foundation is in (or the house is complete), but I recommend drilling before starting construction. It’s best to make sure you have a good water supply before committing to building a house. After the house is completed, the well contractor will come back to complete the well system, trench to the house, and add the pressure tank – or you can hire a plumber to connect from the well to the home. If you need water during the construction process, the well contractor can install the pump and a temporary set-up to obtain water.
Best of luck with your new home!
Daniel J. Friedman says
Steve’s reply is complete. I can think to add only that during construction it’s smart to keep heavy equipment away from a building foundation as well as to avoid having that equipment drive over the area where a septic system is planned or already in place – compressing soils and smashed pipes are what we’re avoiding.