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Taking Care of your Water Well

Many people depend on wells for their supply of clean, safe drinking water. Everyone who owns, constructs or uses a well can do their part to help protect groundwater quality and the health of the people who drink it every day. Once the well is constructed, it is the well owner’s responsibility to maintain it in a manner that will prevent the entry of surface water or other foreign materials that are likely to contaminate the well and the aquifer.

Well owners should be familiar with the regulations that govern the construction and maintenance of water wells. Ontario’s Wells Regulation (R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 903) sets rules for:

Taking Care of your Water Well
Water well upgrade Photo: CLOCA
  • who is qualified to construct wells and install pumps—the Ontario Ministry of the Environment issues licenses to qualified water well contractors
  • where a well can be located
  • how the well is to be constructed, and what materials can be used
  • well owner’s responsibilities
  • when a well must be properly plugged and sealed
  • who can construct or work on a well and construction standards for all new wells
Well Maintenance Tips
  • Be aware of where your well is located and extend the casing above grade if necessary.
  • Be aware of changes to the taste, odour and colour of the water.
  • Test for bacteria at least 3 times a year or every 3 to 4 months (more often if a problem is suspected or if the well is very shallow).
  • Test for other chemicals if you have concerns (e.g. fuel spills).
  • Test for nitrate-nitrogen every year. Note: test for sodium plus nitrate-nitrogen to verify contaminant source from septic system.
  • Inspect the inside of the well at least once a year. Early spring just after the snow has melted is a good time.
  • Inspect the cover or sanitary seal to ensure it has no cracks or holes.
  • Look for seepage through cracks or stains on the inside of the casing, look for signs of surface water seeping or running freely into the well and ensure all cracks are properly sealed.
  • Mound up the ground around the outside of the well or well pit with clean earth to direct surface water drainage away form the well.
  • Keep all potential contamination sources (e.g. septic systems, sheds, livestock areas) away form the well.
  • When a well is no longer in use plug and seal it properly.
Well Abandonment

If you have a well that is dry, not being used or properly maintained it must be plugged to protect the aquifer from surface contamination, prevent vertical movement of water between aquifers, or between an aquifer and the ground surface, and eliminate a safety hazard to humans, livestock, and wildlife. In most cases a licensed well contractor should be retained to decommission the well because there are a number of detailed requirements and standards in Regulation 903 that must be adhered to.

abandoned well
This is an unused well in very poor condition. Until it is properly plugged, it poses a threat to groundwater quality, and the safety of humans, livestock and wildlife.

abandoned well      abandoned well
Abandoned wells should never be used as disposal sites for household wastes, roof water, septic wastes or any other organic debris.

Well Upgrades

Drilled wells within pits can be problematic and lead to contamination if the well is not kept completely dry all year round. When the pit floods it can become a drain for water and debris that collect on the pit floor. Because of the potential health risks associated with this type of construction, well pits are no longer permitted for new wells. The top of the casing must be a minimum of 40 cm above the ground surface. If you have a drilled well in a pit and are concerned about your water quality it is a good idea to have the casing extended to a minimum of 40 cm above grade and have the pit sealed by a licensed well contractor.

Upgrade of a drilled well in a pit

well upgrades
well upgrades

Additonal Information

The Green Communities Association in partnership with the Ontario Ground Water Association

Ministry of Environment: Green Facts

Ministry of the Environment Wells Publications

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Ontario Federation of Agriculture


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