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Water Wells







A water well is a hole drilled into an aquifer with a pipe, screen, and pump to pull water out of the ground. There are many different types and uses of wells. Public wells supply drinking water to municipalities. Private or domestic wells can be used for a variety purposes, such as irrigation, drinking water and industrial uses.


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Well Basics

The Groundwater Foundation's Wells and How they Work has more information on well construction.

Wellowner.org provides information regarding Water Well Basics and offers free online Well Owner Lessons.


Down-hole Camera View of ACC Well ACC Edwards Aquifer Monitoring Wellhouse; photo courtesy of Kathy McCormack (TCEQ)

The inside of a water well can be fascinating, as seen in a 40-second video taken with a camera lowered down Austin Community College's Edwards Aquifer monitoring well. To watch the video, click on the image to the left of the Northridge Campus building which houses this well. The numbers in the center of the video indicate the depth in feet below the land surface. There may be a few pauses as the video loads for the first time. Video provided by GeoCam, Inc. for Austin Community College.


Statewide Water Well Databases

Five searchable, online water well databases provide a wealth of data on the water wells that exist in Texas:

  • The joint Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) and Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) Texas Well Report Submission and Retrieval System includes over 270,000 reports submitted by water well drillers since 2001.
  • For wells drilled as early as 1820, the TWDB Water Information, Integration, and Dissemination (WIID) System includes approximately 136,000 water well reports in the TWDB Groundwater Database. Data from these wells can be viewed in an interactive map application, and wells in the joint TWDB/TDLR System can also be accessed by selecting Submitted Driller's Reports and zooming in until the 2.5' State Grid layer is visible and active.
  • The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Water Well Report Viewer allows users to geographically locate and view copies of at least one million scanned water well reports submitted by drillers since 1960.
  • For public drinking water sources, the TCEQ Source Water Assessment Viewer displays not only water wells and surface water intakes, but also provides information such as well depth and drilling date.
  • The TCEQ Texas Drinking Water Watch displays detailed information on public water systems, including their drinking water sources, and users can obtain information such as drilling date and pumping rate for the public drinking water wells.

Groundwater Conservation Districts (GCDs) also maintain records and registrations for water wells specific to their jurisdictions - contact your local GCD for assistance in obtaining up-to-date information on water levels, pump levels, and any recent changes made to your water well. Most GCDs are members of the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts you can click on "Membership/Current Members/District" to get specific GCD contact information. A local licensed water well driller may also be familiar with nearby water wells.

In addition, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Information System has historical records from water wells across the country and this online database can be searched for detailed location, depth, aquifer, water level, and water quality information for selected water wells in Texas.

For more information, see the TGPC's What are the Statewide Water Well Databases ? FAQ.

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A public water supply wellhead in San Antonio, TX; photo courtesy of Alan Cherepon (TCEQ) A public water supply wellhead in San Antonio, TX; photo courtesy of Alan Cherepon (TCEQ)

Public Wells

Public wells serve public water supply systems and are regulated by the Public Drinking Water Section of the TCEQ. These public water supply systems must have at least 15 service connections or serve at least 25 individuals at least 60 days out of the year.


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Private Wells

Private wells do not serve public water supply systems and are largely unregulated. For domestic water well owners there are no federal or state requirements for monitoring drinking water quality as there are for public water supply systems.  Likewise, there are no “right to know” reports informing well owners of the quality of their drinking water and no requirements for treatment. Proper well practices are crucial to protecting water quality and well longevity.


John W. Smith (AgriLife Extension), Private Water Well Screening Event, Granbury, Texas, June 2009; photo courtesy of Marty Vahlenkamp (AgriLife Extension) John W. Smith (AgriLife Extension), Private Water Well Screening Event, Granbury, Texas, June 2009; photo courtesy of Marty Vahlenkamp (AgriLife Extension)

Well Maintenance


Testing Private Wells


The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service on-line Bookstore offers a number of publications on drinking water contamination (e.g., lead, arsenic, copper, nitrates, radionuclides, etc.), as well as introductory fact sheets such as "Solving Water Quality Problems in the Home" (L-5450) and "What's In My Water?" (E-176). Free electronic downloads of these publications (add an "e" in front of the publication number) are also available after setting up an account.


Industrial Wells

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Well Contamination

There are several ways a well can become contaminated. Toxic material spilled or dumped near a well can leach into the aquifer and contaminate the groundwater drawn from a well. Polluted water can leak through the walls of poorly maintained or shoddily constructed wells. Wells can get contaminated from septic tanks placed too close or abandoned wells in the area. Flood events can also impact the quality of well water.

Well owners can protect themselves from contamination in several ways, such as preventing pollution in the aquifer and maintaining proper well practices. The first step in preventing well contamination is education. We hope these links help.

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Abandoned water well; photo courtesy of David Gunn (TDLR) Abandoned water well; photo courtesy of David Gunn (TDLR)

Abandoned Wells

Abandoned wells are a threat to well water and public safety. Abandoned wells provide a direct channel for contaminants to pollute the aquifer below. Contaminants that enter a well are introduced directly into the aquifer with no opportunity for natural filtration by soils or geologic materials.

Abandoned wells also present the possibility that a humans or animals can fall into the unplugged wells and suffer injury or death. Texas law makes the landowner responsible for plugging abandoned wells and liable for any water contamination or injury.

Abandoned Water Well Plugging Demonstration coordinated with Clearwater UWCD (Bell County), June 2009 (left to right) Justin Mechell (AgriLife Extension), Ryan Gerlich (AgriLife Extension), and Dirk Aaron (Clearwater UWCD); photo courtesy of Dirk Aaron (Clearwater UWCD) Abandoned Water Well Plugging Demonstration coordinated with Clearwater UWCD (Bell County), June 2009 (left to right) Justin Mechell (AgriLife Extension), Ryan Gerlich (AgriLife Extension), and Dirk Aaron (Clearwater UWCD); photo courtesy of Dirk Aaron (Clearwater UWCD)

Possible Funding Resources

  • Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts
  • Map of Groundwater Conservation Districts (GCDs) with Abandoned Water Well Cost Share Plugging Programs – click on Details and Legend for information about the map; click on a brightly colored GCD for its program summary and contact information.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service can provide cost-share assistance through its "Environmental Quality Incentives Program"

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Groundwater Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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