A guide to water wells

a consumer guide to water wells

What You Need To Know

More than 300,000 private wells are constructed every year. A properly constructed water well, built by a professional well driller who uses the latest technology, is the only water source that gives you the ability to make your own choices about the water you drink. With a little care and maintenance you well system will last a long time.

The following provides the information needed to help you make an informed decision about well ownership and maintenance.

A Well History

A well history is an important tool for well owners. It can help you anticipate future costs and keep your well healthy.

  • A previously owned well

    When buying a home with a well, be sure to learn all you can about the well.

  • The Seller

    Ask for documentation on the original construction, repairs and testing

  • Previous Owners

    Locate and interview previous owners. Ask about water quality and maintenance problems.

  • The Driller

    The company that installed the well should have the records you need. If you cannot identify the drilling company, a local regulatory agency may have the records indicating who drilled the well. They may also have other useful information. If those sources don’t work, consider hiring a driller to inspect the well, determine its depth and water capacity, and to test the water.

develop your own well history

Perhaps you have just had a new well installed? Or maybe you have gathered a lot of information on the previous owner but are not sure what to do with all of it. Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • What is the well’s diameter? What casing material was used? How deep is the casing?
  • How old is the well? How deep? What repairs and maintenance have been done? How often? Who did them?
  • What is the well’s storage capacity? What is the household water pressure like?
  • Is there a treatment system? Why? Where is it? What kind? Hold old?
  • When was the well last tested? What were the test results?**

** Properly constructed wells seldom show any bacterial contamination. If a first test shows signs of bacteria, have the well disinfected and retested. A second test with bacteria may indicate a construction problem and the need for rehabilitation work.

defining responsibilities


  • Obtains whatever permits are necessary.
  • Pays necessary fees from the county.


  • Provides the names of the agencies to contact and the fees to be paid.
  • Coordinates construction activities and site visits by insepctors

  • Provides information on regulations governing location of the wells.
  • Provides information on the health officials/regulators that must be present during the location process.

  • Estimates the water requirements based on the number of bathrooms, number of people per household and anticipated water use for “extras” such as irrigation of lawns and gardens, spas, whirlpool baths or pools.


  • Ask what options are available if the water needs some form of treatment.
  • Makes a responsible judgement, based on experience and other wells drilled in your area, about the depth of the well and the quality of the water.*

  • Obtains a copy of the construction record from the driller.
  • Files documentation on equipment purchases.
  • Obtains copies of records filed with regulatory agencies.
  • Saves repair bills.


  • Makes a construction record (well log).
  • Keeps an inspection log – if required by state law.
  • Submits records to regulatory agencies – if required.


Estimating Costs

  • State & County Regulations

    Most states require specific construction practices designed to protect health and the groundwater. Some states prohibit use of certain construction materials. Ask the driller how state construction requirements may affect cost.

  • Labor

    Labor is usually figured into the charge-per-foot for drilling a well. However, there may be labor costs for installing the pump and tank or for performing repairs on an existing well. Experienced drillers anticipate problems. However, nature is full of surprises, some that even the most experienced driller cannot anticipate.

  • Long Term Costs

    Over the long term, the cost of water from your well will be pennies per day. Even when factoring in construction and routine maintenance, a private well is cost effective when compared to rates charged by public water systems.

Financing a Well

  • The Drilling Company

    Some drillers have financing programs and can take credit cards.

  • Federal Subsidies

    Some federal grants and loans are available to the elderly and to low-income families.

constructing a well

Building a new home
  • Always ask your builder to include you in the selection of a driller
  • The driller you choose should meet the criteria in the sections above entitled:
    • “Hiring a Well Driller” and
    • “Defining Responsibilities.”
buying a property where a well will be used

Include language in the purchase offer such as, “Purchase based on the ability to develop a water well yielding water sufficient to buyer’s (your) needs.”

when hiring a well contractor

ask for references and recommendations
  • How long has the company worked in your area?
  • Are previous customers satisfied with their well?
Ask about professional qualifications

Companies should be certified, licensed or registered with the state.

Ask about financing options
  • Banks – Include well construction in your mortgage.
  • Drilling Company Programs.
  • Government Programs for low income buyers
Ask for Proof of Insurance and bonding
(if required)
Ask about maintenance programs

A full service company can make well care easier.

* The quality and quantity of water from your well depends on the geology and hydrology of the area. Well water comes from underground aquifers that exist throughout the ground at different depths. These “storage spaces” contain different amounts of water.

** Trying to save money by buying and installing an inexpensive pump system can jeopardize the operation of the well and the well’s safety.

*** Locations of well and septic are usually governed by strict regulations. The approved location may require adjustments to your chosen home site.