Last Updated on December 14, 2022 by Mattias
Water is needed to carry out our day-to-day activities, and one of the effective ways of constantly having your own water supply in your home is well water.
However, before drilling a hole in your ground in search of water, you should first ask whether it is legal to drill your own well.
In the article, I will be telling you if drilling your own water well is legal and the steps you should take first before drilling your own well.
Is It Legal To Drill Your Own Well?
Yes, it is legal to drill your own well for domestic use. However, not in all locations.
In some states, you need to go through the process of getting a permit, license, or water rights first before drilling a well.
I will explain the meaning of these terms and why obtaining them is essential.
There are also five common groundwater law doctrines that different states act by, which we will discuss in the next chapter.
Read also: How Fast Does Well Water Replenish? An Easy Explanation
Steps You Must Follow Before Drilling A Well
Find Out The Groundwater Law Doctrine That Your State Follows And Act By It
There are five common groundwater law doctrines which are:
• Doctrine Of Reasonable Use
• Doctrine Of Absolute Dominion
• Doctrine Of Correlative Rights
• Doctrine Of Prior Appropriation
• Doctrine Of Restatement of Torts
Doctrine Of Reasonable Use
The Doctrine of Reasonable Use gives property owners full access to all the groundwater in their property but cautions them to use the water reasonably so as not to affect others using the same aquifer.
This doctrine, also called the American Rule, prevents you from wasting water excessively so that your neighbors who use the same water source can use it also.
This doctrine is used the most in the United States, and more states are adopting it to make water available to the ever-rising population in the country.
Another positive aspect of this doctrine is that following it keeps you in compliance with other groundwater laws.
Doctrine Of Absolute Dominion
This doctrine allows you as a property owner to pump as much water present on your property as you want without caring about the effect it will have on your neighbors and others who share the same water source with you.
Also called the English Rule, this doctrine is the least restrictive, and it mostly favors you if you are a well owner with a powerful pumping system.
Many states who used this doctrine in the past have moved away from it because homes and industries with robust pumping systems draw a large amount of water while ignoring the water level.
Presently, only 11 out of the 50 States in the United States follow this doctrine.
Doctrine Of Correlative Rights
The court determines this doctrine, and those who own lands directly over the water source and those who want to redirect the groundwater is given the same access.
This doctrine is mainly followed in states without enough groundwater that needs to be appropriately shared.
Doctrine Of Prior Appropriation
This doctrine has been used since the 19th century, states that whoever uses the groundwater source first is the person who holds the rights to it.
This doctrine, also called the “First Come, First Serve” doctrine, has been dropped by many states who used it in the past, with many adopting the Reasonable Use doctrine.
Doctrine Of Restatement of Torts
This doctrine states that if you, as the land owner, use the water for beneficial use and only use a reasonable amount of it, you are right and shouldn’t be questioned.
This doctrine used by three states in the United States is regarded as a combination of the Reasonable Use and Absolute Dominion Doctrines.
Read also: 5 Ways To Reset A Well Pump Pressure Switch Without A Lever
Obtain A Permit, Water Right, or License
A Permit, in this context, is an authorization given to you by the agency in your state or country for you to dig a well.
A permit comes with specific guidelines and is required before you even start digging a well.
However, in some states, there are other permits that you must obtain along with the state permit before you can dig your well.
A permit fee is required to obtain a permit; information, such as well depth, well type, and what the water will be used for, is also expected.
To get a permit, send an application to the department of environmental quality or the division of water resources in your state, or any other state agency in charge of these regulations.
States who act by Prior Appropriation and Absolute Dominion Doctrines demand that you obtain the required water rights before you dig a well.
So, if you are in a state that follows any of these doctrines, ensure that you obtain these water rights before digging a well.
A license is a warrant given to well contractors by your state’s agency after they have undergone specific training and education.
This training teaches them how to handle groundwater conditions professionally and drill deep wells, which unlicensed individuals can’t.
So if your state requires a license for a well to be dug, you should employ the service of a licensed well driller.
Look For A Good Location For Your Well
After getting a construction permit and finding out the legal doctrine of your state, the next step is to look for an excellent location to dig your well and septic system.
While searching for a good well location, you must ensure that there is no groundwater contamination in the area you want to dig your well.
Dig Your Own Well
There are two types of water wells: shallow water wells and deep water wells.
Shallow wells can be dug with simple equipment. The water table of these wells is usually 25 to 30 feet deep or less.
On the other hand, deep wells go as deep as 300 feet and beyond. Which makes them secure from running dry.
It is impossible to dig this well with a small piece of equipment, so heavy equipment is used instead.
The digging of this well requires professionalism, so you should hire the service of trained and licensed well drillers to construct it for you instead of trying to do it by yourself.
The time required to drill a well depends on the soil type and how fast the drill bit can go through it.
While digging your well, ensure it is not too far from your septic tanks.
Also, before drilling your well, use duct tape to guard the air hose to your PVC pipe to prevent it from getting entangled.
Get A Well Driller That Is Licensed
Some states require that well drilling must be done by a licensed well driller or contractor.
You are not permitted to drill a well on your property in these states.
This is because licensed well drillers know the standards for constructing wells and how to build a well to match these standards.
Licensed well drillers also know the plugging requirements, drilling requirements, and installation equipment required to construct an adequate well.
You can also get assistance plugging abandoned wells with licensed water well drillers.
So, if you are in a region that prevents you from drilling your well by yourself, ensure you get a licensed driller to do it for you.
In South Dakota, for example, after drilling of new wells and the pump installation by the pump installer/well driller, the water sample from that well must be submitted by the well driller to an approved lab for analysis before you can know if it is great for drinking or not. If you notice any strange smell, it may be a warning sign.
All You Need To Know About Digging Your Own Well In The 50 States In the USA
|State||License Required||Permit Required||Water Rights Required||Primary Doctrine|
|Alabama||Yes, a well-driller’s license is required.||No||No||Reasonable Use|
|Arizona||Yes, a license is required for no-exempt wells.||No, a notice of intent is required instead||No||Reasonable Use|
|Arkansas||Yes, a contractor’s license is required.||No, a certificate of registration is required instead.||No||Reasonable Use and Correlative Rights|
|Florida||Yes, but only if your well is above two inches in diameter||Yes||No||Reasonable Use|
|Georgia||Yes, a license from public health is required||Yes, a permit from the Environmental Protection Division is required||No||Absolute Dominion|
|Illinois||Yes, except if you are a homeowner who is constructing a well on your own property.||The county agency might require a permit.||No||Reasonable Use|
|Minnesota||Yes, but not for a drive-point well.||Yes, but not for a drive-point well.||No||Absolute Dominion|
|Missouri||No||Yes, except if you own private property.||No||Reasonable Use|
|Nebraska||Yes, except if you are digging a well on your own property.||No||No||Reasonable Use|
|New Hampshire||Yes||No||No||Reasonable Use|
|New Jersey||Yes||No||No||Correlative Rights|
|New Mexico||Yes||Yes||No||Prior Appropriation|
|New York||Yes||No||No||Reasonable Use|
|North Carolina||No||Yes||No||Reasonable Use|
|North Dakota||No||Yes, except for private wells||No||Prior Appropriation|
|Ohio||No||Yes||No||Restatement Of Torts|
|Pennsylvania||Yes, except if you own the property.||No||No||Reasonable Use|
|Rhode Island||Yes, except if you own a private well.||No||No||Absolute Dominion|
|South Carolina||Yes, except if you are drilling on your own property.||Yes||No||Reasonable Use|
|South Dakota||No||Yes except if you are using it for domestic purposes||No||Prior Appropriation|
|Texas||Yes, except if you are building on your own property.||No||No||Absolute Dominion|
|Utah||Yes, except for private wells.||No||Yes||Prior Appropriation|
|Washington||Yes, except if you own your own property||No||No||Reasonable Use|
|West Virginia||Yes||Yes||No||Reasonable Use|
|Wisconsin||A license is required for pump installation but not for drilling||No||No||Restatement Of Torts|
|Wyoming||Yes, except you are drilling on your own property.||Yes||No||Prior Appropriation|
Is It Legal To Drill Your Own Well Summary
It is legal to drill a well once you obtain the required license, permit, and water rights, and also act in accordance with the groundwater doctrine that your state follows.
However, if you find the regulations, and procedures involved in drilling your own well too much to follow, you can go for another water supply option such as rural water or city water, which you can use for your domestic purposes.
With rural or municipal water, you can also enjoy clean water, treated water with high water quality, a great water service and you can also prevent many legal requirements.
Also, with rural water, you won’t be worried about maintenance issues and you do not require a permit, or license despite your water use.
Meet Mattias Jonsson, the head of content at RainSaucers. Passionate about gardening and water-related topics, he’s dedicated to providing expert information and resources to help improve your home, health, and wallet. Learn from his research and experience.