Technical Guidance on Abandoned or Deteriorated Water Wells
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Abandoned and/or deteriorated wells serve as direct conduits to your groundwater or aquifer. The contamination can affect water wells in the area including those used for drinking water. An example of the dangers of abandoned wells can be seen below - a horse that fell into an uncovered, open, abandoned and deteriorated hand-dug water well. Luckily, the horse survived!
Abandoned and deteriorated wells are a hazard to human and animal life, as well as to the groundwater!
Identifying an Abandoned Well
Please see the Abandoned Well Determination Checklist (PDF) for a definitive guide to identifying an abandoned well.
Usually you will find plastic, steel, brick or concrete casing (pipe), extending above ground (pictures 1, 3 and 6) or a hole in the ground with no apparent bottom (pictures 2 and 5). Some abandoned wells have cement or brick casing extending above ground. Those wells are usually called large diameter or hand dug (picture 4) wells. Below are some examples of abandoned wells:
Reporting an Abandoned Well
If you have determined that an abandoned well exists, and you wish to add it to the official database of abandoned wells, please see the Abandoned Well Reporting webpage.
Plugging a Well
The landowner of record is responsible for plugging or bringing an abandoned or deteriorated well into compliance.
Who Can Plug a Well?
A landowner may hire a licensed driller or pump installer to plug the well.
Well Plugging Specifications
You can find the well plugging specifications by accessing the WWD/PI Section's Well Construction and Plugging Specifications or the Landowner's Guide to Plugging Abandoned Water Wells (PDF).
Large-diameter, as well as drilled wells must be non-deteriorated and capped with a covering capable of both preventing surface pollutants from entering the well and sustaining weight of at least four hundred (400) pounds. The covering must be constructed in such a way that it cannot be easily removed by hand.
You may not place a cover over a large diameter well.
State plugging specifications require that you remove all removable casing. You must attempt to pull the casing. Depending on the circumstances, if the casing cannot be pulled, it is required to cut the casing off as far below ground level as possible and plug the well from the bottom to the top.
Although the specifications require the well to be cemented to the surface, allowances are made to stop the cement plug up to 4 feet below ground level (plow depth).
Reporting Plugged Wells
You need to submit a plugging report within 30 days from the date the well was plugged.
You may submit the Plugging Report online. To submit the report online you must have the Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates. You must determine the latitude and longitude of the well. You can accomplish this by utilizing a hand-held GPS unit or by using a mapping website such as Maptech.com, Terraserver.com or Google Earth.
Alternatively, you can submit a report by mail by completing a Plugging Report Form (PDF) and sending it to:
Water Well Driller/Pump Installer Program
PO Box 12157
Austin, TX 78711
Also mail a copy to your local Groundwater Conservation District, if applicable. The Texas Water Development Board has a map of conservation districts (PDF) that you can check.
The Texas Natural Resource Information Services (TNRIS) maintains grid maps. The TNRIS phone number is (512) 463-8773.
Reporting Procedures for Landowners
Texas law allows landowners to drill or plug water wells on their own property. After successful user account creation and login to TWRSRS, select "Drillers List" from the left menu and click the “Associate Driller” button. On the next page, enter "License Number 10000" and the corresponding PIN (contact TDLR Water Well Drillers and Pump Installers Program to obtain PIN at 512-463-7880 or firstname.lastname@example.org). After the initial association, the user account automatically displays the corresponding reports for each individual landowner on every login.
Help and Support
For assistance with abandoned or deteriorated wells, contact TDLR Water Well Drillers and Pump Installers Program at email@example.com, or call 512-463-7880.