The Importance of Water Well Logs

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Water Well Logs are extremely important documents. When buying or selling Real Estate in British Columbia it's important that this document is available if the property has a water well. A Well Log also known as a Water Well Record in British Columbia, is a British Columbia Ministry of Environment document that must be completed by the water well drilling company upon the completion of drilling any water well in British Columbia. I believe that a water well log would likely be required through-out North America, it's a pretty standard requirement.

When contacted for advice the first thing that I'll request is a copy of the Well Log. Water Well Logs are water well construction reports, basically the well log should describe the location of the well, original property owners name will be on the log, construction details and lithology of a completed water well. Often a purchaser calls with an accepted offer to purchase but without any water well details, generally I'll suggest that they go back to their Realtor and request a copy of the water well log. The listing Realtor should have a copy of the Water Well Log but sometimes they're not able to locate the report, that can be a problem.

For example, a purchaser may inform me that he was told that the well in question is 300', producing 10 gallons per minute (GPM) and he's interesting in knowing what I think. I know that verbal information can be correct but it can also be completely incorrect, that's the only position I will take until I know otherwise. I don't like to gamble with my own money and I feel exactly the same about my client's.... dealing in good faith can cost someone plenty of money and grief down the road.

Never accept verbal when it comes to anything in a Real Estate deal, if you absolutely must and you're absolutely back into a corner then at least have everything the vendor claims written into the offer to purchase or on an addendum then have the vendor warrant everything that is claimed. If the vendor squirms on this one, do further investigation, it's simple and don't bow to pressure.

Can you imagine believing that you've purchased a property with a 10 GPM well only to find out after you've taken possession that the well is a squeaker (my pet name for a nearly dry hole) barely able if able to supply the home during the hot summer months. This may mean that you'll be spending part of your summer at the laundromat or perhaps you'll be adding your local water hauling truck driver to your Christmas card list as you may be getting know him quite well, they generally have lot's of time to chat while they're waiting for your water to pump off their trucks. In case you not aware the water is cheap, it's the storage tank and trucking that costs lots of money these days!

The water well log should indicate the finished depth of the well, whether the well was constructed with a well screen, the total number of feet of steel casing that was used, and hopefully a reasonably legible description of the different material that was drilled through from the beginning to completion.

The Water Well Log may or may not indicate the static water level (SWL), which is the distance from the ground to the actual water level in the well. You may have a 500' water well with a 180 SWL, this would suggest that the well has approximately 320' of water storage within the well itself when it's completely recharged to the well's capacity. Roughly then, there should be at least 400 gallons of water stored, available for use in the well. This is an example of what a Static Water Level indicates as a water well's static can also vary quite a bit... perhaps it will adjust seasonally, it's really only an indicator but with significant meaning.

When trouble shooting a water well problem the Water Well Log needs to be available otherwise we may be doing a lot of guessing, the information will be most important when making an assessment on a well.

There should also be other general information on the water well log, the date that the well was drilled, the property address, legal description, perhaps a tag number, the names of the original owners, the drilling company and usually the driller's name and perhaps his assistant's name as well.... this hopefully gives you an idea of all the information that is provided on a Water Well Log in British Columbia.

We haven't discussed upgrades, sometimes a well has additional work performed on it several years after construction... get all the paperwork that you can. Ask for water pump installation and water well treatment system receipts, you have no idea how handy this can be... I can figure out all kinds of things with the correct data.

Water Well Logs are not registered on the Property Title in British Columbia, it's important that your offer to purchase requires the vendor to provide a true copy of the water well log for the well that is located and currently servicing the property that you are going to purchase.

Another tip.... Make sure that the well is actually on the property that you're purchasing I've seen a few situations where the well was mistakenly drilled on the neighbors property and that's a whole other can of worms! Please also remember that there can be more than one or several dry wells drilled on a property (if there are any dry wells have they been legally abandoned?), perhaps there's a great well with very poor water quality so it was never put into commission, but the well log is mistakenly given to the listing Realtor who likely would not be able to know any better in this situation.

Initially you may be provided a copy of the original Water Well Log but if the original is available please request that it's included with the documents that will go to your lawyer who will complete your property purchase, you really want to try and get the original document.

I've seen a few situations where a purchaser was not given the correct water well log and that can easily happen.

You Don't Know What You Don't Know!

A perfect example happened to a friend of mine; prior to my meeting him he purchased land with a water well already drilled on the property, basically it was raw land so the submersible water pump had not yet been installed. He was ready to build his home, he gave me a copy of the water well log and asked me to put a submersible water pump and pressure tank system package together for for him. I was eager to install the water pump so that I could disinfect the well and flush it prior to taking any water samples, plus it's a really good idea to have water on-site while you're under construction (fire protection). My friend's Water Well Log indicated a 55' overburden well producing 15 GPM which made good sense to me knowing that particular area of the Cowichan Valley, it's all old river bed. Still, even when everything looks good I like to double check water well logs when I can, it was a darn good thing that we did, the well ended up not being 55' as the well log had indicated but 750' @ 1 GPM (according to the correct well log that was eventually presented to us by the drilling company)- I was horrified!

We also had a lot of surface water that runs year-round through a nice healthy layer of peat (on a dairy farm none-the-less) which wasn't visible, this surface water was entering the well just below the casing, no one would have known. There wasn't a mention of the surface water on the well log, if this well had been properly constructed there would not have been surface water or perhaps in this case animal feces entering this well. This is what we call a surface seal leak, the driller should have sealed it off completely.

Now I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer... but to me it looked like the driller had plenty of time on his hands (quiet time of year perhaps?) The water well driller had a dairy farmer with plenty of money, so it appears that he decided to do some exploratory drilling.... he took it to 750', came up dry (didn't want to completely disappoint the farmer, needed something to put on the log) so he pulled up the casing (just slightly) which allowed the surface water to enter, then he called it a well! This water that the genius allowed back into the well was dairy farm run off... granted a year-round source but still dangerously contaminated run off! Of course no one ever expected the well to be put into domestic use or any use at all because it would have never been considered for an irrigation well, so a few years later the farmer decided to give an acre (with a well) to his son in-law as there was a well good enough for domestic purposes according to the water well log that he was provided years earlier. Fortunately no one ever had a chance to drink the raw water.

Basically my buddy (the son in-law) has a well from hell as re-drilling at that stage of the game was not an option, he ended up requiring a very costly ozone water treatment / disinfection plant. I had to design and construct an ozone water treatment system in a separate building in his back yard... the well water quality was so poor and contaminated we simply had little choice.

The pump system installed down the well was very expensive due to the excessive depth of this water well and if I did not install deep then I knew that this well was going to load up with mud and organics... just turning the well into a 750' deep septic system. We couldn't drill another well as his septic was already approved and the lot was too small to get away from the septic.

I considered doing a surface seal to stop the bright yellow surface water from entering and contaminating the well but after reading between the lines on the water well log and very careful assessment, I felt that my friend would very likely end up with a dry well so it wasn't worth taking the risk (he'd be hauling water for the rest of his life plus the resale value of a home with no water is a bit of an issue here in Canada), I had to treat the water that we had... that's all we could do, we were really out of options. This cost my friend an extra $20,000 or more with a lot of added stress, I felt really sorry for this family. But they now have very good water quality (almost bottled water quality) as a result of the ozone system but even that is always an added concern for any homeowner as it is added maintenance.

This past fall a well driller called on me to locate water on a small building lot for a young couple. They'd purchased the lot with a well already drilled years ago at the time of subdivision, they were given a copy of the Well Log at the time of purchase. The well log had a small drawing indicating that the well was on the front south corner of the property, located in Nanaimo. The lot was terribly small so the well location was very important in this case as the septic would be installed on the other end of their lot just barely keeping their well 100' from theirs and all neighboring septic systems.... this can be really tricky on small lots (generally old subdivisions).

They were basically told where the well as it was indicated on the drawing, but they didn't actually see the well... they thought it was sitting under on old wheel that was laying in the area. They never did find the well... it seems that it was never drilled. These folks were misrepresented... whether it was fraudulent or innocent misrepresentation, I don't know. I was called in by a well driller to locate water as it was quite clear that this young couple really did not need to drill a dry hole (I have worked as a Professional Water Dowser) on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands for the past 10 years). This particular situation was really tight as I found indication of water in only one area that could work for the new owners.

The well driller went ahead and he did get a decent well for them but what if we couldn't have found the water?? I do the best you can for people but there's always a risk involved with drilling a well. A good water diviner is just that... nothing more, it may make a massive difference in the outcome of drilling a well but nothing is ever 100% in this business.

As far as I know the young couple paid the bill for the new well and were never offered any compensation by the vendor or the Realtor, believe me no one is going to come running with their cheque books open if you get yourself into a situation like this... I have seen it time and time again. I could dedicate an entire website just to the stories that I can tell you! Yes people can always sue, I have seen it a dozen times or so in my 12 years in this business, generally it's not been the highest and best use of time or money, it's very frustrating and stressful for people. It's really best that you just don't get yourself into a mess, remember it's buyer beware...

Most Realtors if experienced in wells, septic and rural properties etc. will generally advise you to get a professional involved, be sure that it's someone that really knows what they're doing... ask questions! As a vendor you need to be able to provide a Water Well Log, usually without exception, if you don't have one then before you list your property start by calling your local well drilling companies. Our local drillers are really good most keep excellent records and can often help people.

Perhaps the Water Well Log cannot be found for whatever reason, many states and provinces provide an online Well Search Database. You may be able to locate a well log by doing a database search but again the information may or may not be registered or correct. If a well has been drilled and capped and some have been for years you could find that the well has partly caved in. This isn't uncommon in shale wells that do not have a liner installed at the time the well was drilled but you'll quickly discover this when you go to install your pump. You should have the well checked out, see that it has not collapsed.

It'll cost a purchaser a little money but a well should be pump-tested if questionable, if the vendor is selling a property with a well without any data at all then you may suggest that he pay for part or all of a pump test,(that may be the cost of not having data). Sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t.

If you're going to have the well pump-tested, please get written permission from the vendor, you can even put it into your offer to purchase so that you don't need to make this request at a later date... I never do a pump test without written permission. You may add a "subject to" to the offer stating that the well must meet your satisfaction and leave enough time for this to happen. People call me all the time, they're very anxious because they may only have 3 days to get this work done... you can barely get a bacteria test out of the lab in three days!

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The intention of this site is not to offer legal advice but general information based on my 12 years of experience working in the field. If you have any questions please feel free to Email Colleen

Well Protection

Groundwater Protection Regulation

Colleen's Dehydration Tip:

Respiratory Problems - A large amount of water is lost during breathing. Dehydration results in restricted airways in an attempt to reduce water loss

Dr. Dave Carpenter

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