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The Importance Of
Water Well Logs

Water Log DocumentsA Water Well Log is a very important document. When purchasing or selling Real Estate in British Columbia or anywhere else it’s very 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, it’s a British Columbia Ministry of Environment document that must be completed by a water well drilling company upon the completion of drilling any water well in British Columbia. I believe that a water well log will likely be required through-out North America, it’s a pretty standard requirement.  I’m just more familiar with the province of British Columba but this article is likely relevant in most areas.

When contacted for advice the very 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 will call with an accepted offer to purchase but without the 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 and that can be a problem.

For example, a purchaser may inform me that he was informed that the well in question is 300′, producing 10 gallons per minute (GPM) and he’s interesting in knowing what my opinion is.  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 anything verbal when it comes to anything in a Real Estate deal, if you absolutely must and you’re really backed into a corner then at least have everything the vendor claims written into the offer to purchase or on an addendum so that the vendor can warrant everything that is claimed.  If the vendor squirms on this one, do further investigation, it’s simple and don’t bow to pressure from anyone.

Can you imagine assuming 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 near dry hole) barely able if able at all to supply your home with water during the hot summer months.

This might 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 just might be getting know him quite well, they generally have plenty of time to chat while they’re waiting for your water to be pumped off their trucks.  In case you are not aware water is not the expensive part of the water hauling  experience, it’s the storage tank, re-pressurized station system and trucking that costs lots of money!  If you need to run the reservoir through the winter then you’ll need to consider the cost of winterizing the system.

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. Based on this information, there should roughly 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.  In fact it would be pretty hard to make an assessment without this information… you would need to take more costly action to properly make an assessment.

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 had additional work performed on it several years after construction… get all the paperwork that you can.  Ask for the water pump installation and water well treatment system receipts,  you have no idea how handy this can be… we 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 big tip…. Ensure 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 then ask if they have they been legally abandoned?), perhaps there’s a great well with really poor water quality (sodium intrusion is not unusual in some areas) so the water well was never put into commission, but instead the abandoned water well’s 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 with just 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 the conveyancer’s office who will be completing your property purchase, you really do want to try and get the original document.

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 down the well.  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 get the water pump installed so that I could disinfect and flush the well prior to taking any water samples,  it’s a good idea to have water on-site while you’re under construction (fire protection).

 My buddy’s Water Well Log indicated a 55′ overburden well producing 15 GPM which made good sense to me being very familiar with the area, it’s all old river bed so most of the wells are not deep at all,  I didn’t have any reason to question the well log…  initially!  Still, even when everything looks good I like to double check water well logs when  possible, 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 and so was my friend!

In this situation there was 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 without a little investigation.  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 possible animal feces/E. coli contamination entering the well. This is what we call a surface seal leak, the driller should have sealed the surface water off completely…  it’s not at all uncommon to see a failed seal.

I’m not always 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 serious exploratory drilling…. he took the hole to 750′, he came up dry (didn’t want to completely disappoint the farmer, needed something to put on the log) so perhaps he pulled up the casing (just slightly) which allowed the surface water to enter, then called it a well!

But in this case the surface water that the genius allowed to enter back into the well was dairy farm run off… granted it was definitely a year-round source but it was potentially dangerous  and contaminated run off!  Of course no one ever expected this particular well to be put into domestic service or any use at all because it would have never in a million years been considered as an irrigation well… farmers like high flow and you’re not going to find that in 750 feet of shale!  But this story takes a bit of a twist, few years later the farmer decided to gift this acre of land (with this particular well) to his son in-law as he assumed the well was good enough for domestic purposes according to the water well log that he was provided years earlier.  Fortunately though 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 really an option, he ended up needing a very costly ozone generating water treatment / disinfection plant. To ensure safe water and to clean up the tannins along with outrageous iron levels I designed and constructed an ozone system in a separate building that he had constructed in his back yard… the well water quality was so poor and contaminated we simply had little choice.

The water pump system we installed down the well was very costly due to the excessive depth  of the well…  a long way from the initial 55 foot assumption.   Because this well was basically been recharged with surface water I knew that the well was going to load up with mud and organics… potentially turning the well into a 750′ vertical 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 approved  septic area.

I did consider repairing the well with an inside 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 a 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 definitely 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 $25,000 ( I was as gentle as I could be) but the added stress was terrible, I felt really sorry for the family.  They now have very good water quality (almost bottled water quality) as the  result of well-designed ozone system but even that is always an added concern for any homeowner as it definitely requires maintenance and attention.

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.  The lot was the size of a postage stamp so the well location was very important and 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).

The new property owners were basically told where the well was 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 but misrepresented  nonetheless!   I was called in by the well driller to locate the water before they drilled 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 16 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 drilled and we did get a decent well for the  property owner but what if we didn’t locate water?   We simply can’t create water where there isn’t any.  I do the best I 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. It’s a tough business and very costly.

As far as I know the young couple paid the bill for the new well but 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!  Yes people can always sue, I have seen it a dozen times or so in my near 20 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… after reading this article there’s no reason to get yourself into this kind of trouble.

Most Realtors if experienced in wells, septic and rural properties etc. will generally advise you to get a professional involved (at least a smart ones will) be sure that it’s someone that  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 ans most keep excellent records and can often help people.

Perhaps though 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 even partly caved in, this may be more common in some areas than others.  On Vancouver Island we do drill a lot of shale holes, sometimes they  cave in.  This isn’t extremely common but we see it happen in shale wells that did not have a well 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, (it’s just the cost of not having data).  Sometimes a  vendor will agree and sometimes they won’t.  I guess it depends on the real estate market and their motivation.

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 in both quality and quantity and leave enough time for this to all 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!  Realistically secure two weeks to get this work completed.  If you can get it done sooner and you’re satisfied then you can remove subjects and are but why go after a subject extension?

Well I didn’t mean to write a small book on this subject but it seems that I have,  if you have any questions just post them in  the comments and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.    Remember this information is not a substitute for legal advice,  I am not a lawyer and I’m not a realtor…  I am simply sharing some of my experience from nearly 20 years in the groundwater industry.   Much of my work has been advising on real estate with water well issues.  But always keep in mind that assumptions can be dangerous when it comes to real estate with water well issues, by doing your homework ahead of time there’s no reason to get yourself into a situation.






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