We estimate there are thousands of abandoned wells in Washington state. If you find an abandoned well on your property, you are required to work with a licensed well driller to properly close it up, a process called "decommissioning."
Abandoned wells can be hazardous to people, animals, and our water supply. Landowners may be responsible for any injury or groundwater contamination caused by an abandoned well that was not properly decommissioned.
How to decommission a well
Property owners cannot legally decommission a well themselves. They must contact a licensed well driller to decommission it. The cost of decommissioning a well depends on its depth, diameter, and the geologic conditions in your area. Special equipment may be required.
To decommission a well on your property:
- Find a licensed well driller*
- Send us a notice of intent (NOI) to decommission a well
- Pay the well decommission fee
- When you complete the NOI online form, a link appears so you can pay online
- Decommissioning a water well is $50
*We do not guarantee or warranty any of the work provided by the licensees listed. This search is provided as a convenience and is not an endorsement of any listed licensees. You may contact our office to determine if an official complaint or enforcement action has been filed for any licensee.
How to identify an abandoned well
Wells are often located in the basements of houses, under porch steps, or near cisterns and windmills. Knowing the history of your property may help you find any abandoned wells. You can also look for the following signs:
- Pipes sticking out of the ground
- Old well houses
- Depressions in the ground or lawn
- Concrete vaults, pits, or tile
- Old plywood lying on the ground or over concrete tiles or vaults
Finding abandoned wells can be a dangerous activity. Only look for an abandoned well when accompanied by another responsible person. Keep your own safety in mind at all times.
Old wells that were dug, not drilled, are the most dangerous because they are often wider than modern wells. Many dug wells were originally used for crop irrigation but often become obscured by brush or vegetation. People or animals can easily fall into a dug well that has not been properly capped. Old well caps can weaken over time, creating a hazard. The law requires all wells to have a proper cap.
Laws and regulations
- WAC 173-160-261 requires all dug wells to have a proper cap to prevent injury and contamination.
- WAC 173-160-381 describes the standards for decommissioning a well.
- Chapter 18.104 RCW, the Washington Well Construction Act, requires decommissioning work to be done by licensed well drillers.