The Department of Ecology estimates that there are thousands of abandoned wells in Washington State. These wells pose a potential hazard to wildlife, people, and the water supply when they are not properly decommissioned and sealed. Many parcels of land have a rich history of ownership and use—which often includes the construction of a well at some point. If you think your property once utilized well water, the next question is, how do you locate a well that is no longer in use? In this article, we unpack all the best ways to find old or abandoned wells on your property.
Locate a Well Using Historical Records
If you think a well once existed on your property but can find no physical evidence, start by exploring old property records. Many wells were documented either by the state or the original landowner. These are just a few examples of records to search.
- Water utility history: Check with your local utility service provider to see if there is a record of the property’s water source prior to utility water.
- Washington State Well Report Viewer: This viewer allows you to search for well locations that were properly reported to the state. You can search by county and city to locate water wells, resource protection wells, and even decommissioned wells.
- Property documents: Search for property titles, old maps, and plans for information on previously constructed wells.
- Speak with neighbors: Chances are your neighbors have a similar property history (or your parcels of land may have been the same property at one time). Ask neighbors if they know how the land was previously used.
Historical records are a great place to start when trying to locate a well on your property. However, some wells predate the State’s record-keeping practices. If that is the case, there are other ways to locate a well.
Get to Know Your Property
When historical records fail, sometimes the easiest way to locate a well on your property is by looking for common clues.
According to the Department of Ecology, older wells were often located near windmills or cisterns, in basements, and under porch steps. If you have an older property or home, those are great places to begin your search. Other ways to identify a well on your property include looking for:
- Pipes sticking out of the ground
- Depressions in the ground or lawn
- Concrete pits
- Old well houses
- Old plywood covering a hole or pit
If any of these apply to your property, chances are you’ve located an old well! The next step is to properly decommission the well.
Why is it Important to Locate a Well on Your Property?
Old wells pose a potential hazard to people, animals, and even the water supply in your area. Hand-dug wells, for example, are often much wider than professionally drilled wells. These wide openings are dangerous, especially when they go unnoticed. They create a fall hazard for people and animals and even pose a threat to heavy equipment. If you plan to cultivate or landscape your property, the 3 to 5 foot opening of a hand-dug well is a huge safety hazard.
Other dangers of old wells include rusting and decaying pipes that seep into the water supply. These wells also create liability issues. When a well goes unnoticed, developers may build over the top of it by mistake. This creates the potential for contaminates to not only impact your water supply but also the water supply of neighboring properties.
Locating old and abandoned wells protects you, your water supply, and others on your property. It is an important step in the process of well ownership and one to consider when purchasing a parcel of land that has a rich history.
Decommissioning Your Abandoned Well
There are many ways to discover abandoned wells. Once you do locate a well on your property, however, Washington State requires a professional drilling company to decommission and seal the well. This ensures the safety of people and property (and water supply!). If you locate an old, unused, or abandoned well on your property, contact us to schedule your decommissioning. As licensed drillers, we’re certified by the State of Washington to properly decommission your well and keep your property safe.