Well Location & Protection
Most of us take our drinking water for granted. Whether a private well serves one home or a public water system serves an entire neighborhood, it needs maintenance and testing to continue producing safe water. The way land near a well is used can also affect the quality of the water.
Here are some things that well owners can do to help protect their drinking water and public health:
Properly Locate New Wells
If you will be having a licensed well driller drill a new well on your property, properly locating the well can help protect your water supply. Topography, surface water drainage, and location of roads, buildings, drywells, and septic systems should be taken into consideration. The requirements of WAC 173-160-171, WAC 246-272A-0210, and local zoning and critical area setbacks must be met. A 100-foot radius free of any encumbrances is always recommended. In Clallam County the following minimum setbacks for residential wells are required:
- 50 to 100 feet from property lines depending on the size and shape of the parcel
- 50 feet from septic tanks and pump chambers
- 100 feet from drainfields and reserve areas (existing or proposed)
- 5 feet from foundations and eaves of buildings (drip line)
If the well is less than 100 feet from a property boundary, setbacks from septic tanks, drainfields, and reserve areas (existing or proposed) on adjacent properties must also be maintained. Parcels that have been subdivided may have additional requirements for well placement. See So You Want to Build Your Dream House (PDF) for visuals and more details.
Wells to be used for commercial purposes have additional requirements. Contact Environmental Health for information.
Know the Type & Location of Existing Wells
Your well may be in a different place than your pump or pressure tank. Once you have located it, determine if it is a dug well or a drilled well. Dug wells are shallow and may easily be contaminated by surface runoff. Drilled wells are deeper and better protected from surface contamination.
Inspect the Wellhead
Periodically examine the well cap, seal and the area around the casing for any leaks and make sure that the access port is plugged. If there is a well vent, it should be inverted and screened (see well component photos (PDF) for examples). The well casing should extend one to two feet above the ground surface (or flood level). The area around the casing should be mounded with clay to prevent surface water from collecting around it, if necessary. Check Simple Fixes for Wellhead Openings (PDF) for some easy repair tips. If it seems that more complex repairs are needed, call a licensed well driller.
Test Well Water Regularly
We recommend that individual wells be tested once a year for bacteria, and every three years for nitrate. See Coliform Bacteria and Nitrate Information for Private Well Users (PDF) for more information. Contact Environmental Health for specific testing requirements. The Clallam County Drinking Water Lab offers bacteria and nitrate testing. If your water tests are unsatisfactory you may want to troubleshoot problems with your well or water supply by following the Department of Health's Contamination Troubleshooting Checklist (PDF).
Keep records of the well installation, as well as any repairs, pump tests and water tests you have done on your well. A copy of your well log will be useful for future construction permits or property sales.
Keep Surface Water Runoff Away From the Wellhead
The well should be up-slope from potential contamination sources. If necessary, install a curtain drain to divert surface runoff.
Maintain a 'No-Pollution' Buffer
Public water supplies require a 100-foot protective radius around the well. For individual wells, it is recommended to maintain a buffer of 100 feet around the well if possible. Store garden and animal wastes, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other potential contaminants outside your "no-pollution" buffer. Do not store chemicals in your well house. Fence off animal access to your well. Shield animal waste from rain.
Protect the Soil From Contamination
Protect the soil from being contaminated by oil, gasoline and household chemicals. For suggestions for safer alternatives to products that can harm the drinking water supply, and how to dispose of hazardous chemicals safely, contact Environmental Health.
Garden & Landscape Carefully
Avoid using or mixing fertilizers and pesticides within 100 feet of the well. Use alternative methods for pest control, such as biodegradable products, physical barriers, beneficial insects and companion planting. If needed, apply chemicals sparingly and follow instructions carefully. Avoid over-watering.
Abandoned Wells Properly
Report abandoned wells to the Washington State Department of Ecology at 360-407-0281. It is the property owner's responsibility to have abandoned wells decommissioned.