Dealing with Unnecessary Water Wells on Your Property

Unneeded, unwanted, and abandoned water wells exist across the state of Iowa, in both rural and urban settings.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) defines an abandoned well as “a water well which is no longer in use, or which is in such a state of disrepair that continued use for the purpose of accessing groundwater is unsafe or impracticable.”

Abandoned wells are a serious physical hazard for people and livestock and can present a significant threat to human health and the quality of the state’s groundwater resources.   Plugging of abandoned wells is one of the key commitments of Iowa’s Groundwater Protection Act of 1987 as a means to help prevent further contamination.

There are many benefits to property owners to having their abandoned water wells or cisterns plugged properly.

  • Reduce your liability. Property owners are responsible to ensure that the wells and cisterns are properly protected, maintained, and/or plugged. Improperly maintained wells can create a conduit for contamination from the surface to the groundwater. Once groundwater is contaminated, the cleanup process can be lengthy and expensive. By properly plugging all abandoned wells and cisterns you remove a potential pathway for groundwater contamination.
  • Avoid delays when you sell or transfer ownership of property. Having a well or cistern could delay the transfer of a property. Closing dates or loan approval can be extended as owners and buyers negotiate what to do with the well or cistern. If you purchase a property with a well or cistern all of the liability is transferred with the property ownership; even if the buyer is unaware of its existence.
  • Cost share assistance may be available for plugging wells. The Grants-to-Counties Program is a program funded by the Groundwater Protection Act and administered by the Iowa Department of Public Health. This grant program may provide funding to reimburse a portion of the cost associated with plugging your abandoned wells or cisterns. All qualifying services funded by the Grants-to-Counties cost share program must be approved by the county before any services are initiated and the plugging work must be performed by an Iowa DNR Certified Well Contractor. You can contact your local county environmental health office for additional information

DNR regulations require all wells less than 18 inches in diameter or greater than 100 feet deep to be plugged by a registered well driller. Due to a wide variety of conditions existing in abandoned water wells, we highly recommend seeking consultation from a licensed contractor, and avoiding the do-it-yourself approach. Evora Consulting has an experienced team of certified well pluggers and well drillers that can perform these services and complete the required documentation. 

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