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Skip Navigation LinksDNREC : Division of Water : Information : FAQs : Water Supply FAQs


Water Supply Section Frequently Asked Questions

Question:  How do I get a well permit?


Answer: Your well drilling contractor will obtain the well permit for you. Your contractor will submit the application and you, as the property owner, also have to sign the application. You must use a Delaware-licensed contractor.  A complete list of contractors can be found here. Please call the Water Supply Section at (302) 739-9944 for any questions about permits or wells.

Q. When will my well permit be ready?


A.  As soon as the application is received, processing begins. A permit is usually issued within three business days. Permits can no longer be issued on a "walk-in" basis while the contractor waits so that permits may be issued in the order they were received. We appreciate your understanding. Please note that if your well fails suddenly the contractor can install a replacement on an emergency basis without waiting for a permit. This allows your water to be restored in the quickest possible time, and the paperwork is taken care of afterward. Sometimes it may take several days to issue a permit if there is problem to solve with location of the well. We will notify you if a delay is expected.

Q. Can I get a copy of my existing well permit?


A. Call the Water Supply Section at (302) 739-9944 for a copy of your well permit and the completion report. The completion report shows how your well was actually built, which can vary from what was proposed on the application. It helps to have the well ID number. (See help on "Locating your well.")

Q. What is the shallowest depth that a well can be constructed?


A. All domestic water wells must have a casing (solid pipe) that extends at least twenty feet below the surface. The well screen is attached to the bottom of the casing and is rarely less than 5 feet long. This means that the minimum depth of a well is 25 feet.

Q. Can I install my own well?


A. Only a licensed well driller can construct wells. The Regulations for Licensing Water Well Contractors, Pump Installer Contractors, Well Drillers, Well Drivers and Pump Installers contains the requirements for obtaining licenses as a water well contractor, pump installer contractor, pump installer, well driller and well driver. You can also contact the Well Permits Branch at (302) 739-9944.

Q. What is the current permit fee for a well?


A. For domestic drinking water wells, the current fee is $35. Other fees for licenses and permit applications, including permits handled by the Water Allocation Branch.

Q. Why does my water smell bad or stain my clothes?






A. The most common reasons for water to smell bad or stain clothes is the natural occurrence of minerals present in the groundwater. For example, dissolved iron will stain your clothes, dishes, dishwasher, etc. to a rusty color. If your water smells like "rotten eggs" it is most likely from hydrogen sulfide. Insufficient flow in a water pipe can allow the treated water to become stagnant and form odor-causing compounds such as hydrogen sulfide. This can occur anytime water in a pipe stops flowing, e.g., in a dead end line or in your plumbing if you are away from home for extended periods of time. If you notice an odor like rotten eggs in your water, let it run for ten to fifteen minutes. This reestablishes the flow in the pipes drawing in fresh water and the odor should disappear.

Q. What aquifer is my well located in?


A. Most private wells downstate are shallow, less than 100 feet deep. Most of them are in the Columbia aquifer. If the well is deeper, or if the Columbia is absent (or unusable) the well could be in one of a dozen different aquifers. Your contractor should know the aquifer, or you can always the Water Supply Section at (302) 739-9945 and ask to speak to a hydrologist who can identify your aquifer.

Q. What aquifer is the best to put a well in where I live?






A. Generally, the best aquifer is the Columbia aquifer. (The Columbia has several common names: water table, unconfined, or surficial.) The depth to water is not great, so installation costs will be lower and little or no treatment of the water is usually needed. A well can be too shallow and seasonal drops in the water level can dry out the well.  

In some areas the Columbia aquifer is absent (or unusable), and another one must be used.  Your contractor is very experienced in selecting the best aquifer depending on your location and your needs. The Water Supply Section can also help you with your options. Call (302) 739-9945 and ask to speak to a hydrologist.

Q. How far does my well have to be from a septic system?


A. Domestic wells must be constructed at least 100 ft. from the septic disposal area and at least 50 ft. from a septic tank. If the well is screened in a confined aquifer, it can be no closer than 50 ft. from the disposal area.

Q. How far from a property line can a well be constructed?


A. The well must be 10 ft. from the property line. This requirement may be reduced to no less than one foot when additional room is needed to maintain the required distance between the well and sources of contamination, such as a septic system.

Q. How long is my well construction permit good for?


A. Well construction permits are valid for one year from the date issued. They can be extended provided a written request is submitted before the permit expires. Expired well construction permits can not be renewed.

Q. Will my shallow well be at risk of being contaminated with nitrates?


A. Shallow wells are susceptible to nitrate contamination. Septic systems, agriculture and lawn fertilizers are some of the common sources of nitrates. If these types of sources surround your property, it is recommended you test your water on a periodic basis.

Q. How can I get my water tested?


A. The Division of Public Health provides very inexpensive test kits that will give results for common substances in your well water. Routine testing is very important, especially for bacteria and nitrate because these cannot be detected by taste or odor. Call the Office of Drinking Water at (302) 741-8630 for the nearest location to pick up a test kit. If you are a customer of a water utility, the company is required to provide their test results to you each year in the Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). Ask for it when you when you start your service. The Office of Drinking Water can also advise you with a list of certified laboratories that can do extensive testing.


Q. My home is connected to a public water utility, but I want to put in a well for my garden and lawn irrigation system. Will I be able to obtain a well permit?




A. Contact a licensed water well contractor to prepare an application for a permit to construct an "agricultural" well. Providing the application is complete and meets the requirements of current regulations, you will be granted a permit to construct a well for outside use excluding human consumption. The permit will contain conditions to assure that no interconnection is made to your home plumbing, and limiting the well to non-potable uses.


Q. I've just bought a home and need help locating the well.













A. This can be easy or hard. First, if it is a new home simply look around your property, usually in the front yard, for a capped pipe sticking out of the ground a foot or so.  You have found the well.  There should also be a metal tag strapped to the pipe with the well ID number on it. Use that number when seeking information about your well.

In older homes the wellhead may now be hidden by landscaping. If you know which contractor installed it, call them and they can tell you exactly where it is located. 

Otherwise, try this to narrow the search if you have access to a basement or crawl space. Find where the water supply line comes into the house or trace the line back from your hot water heater to see where it leaves the house. The main water line will usually point in the direction the well is located out in the yard. 

If this fails your well is probably buried, a practice no longer approved. Your last resort is to hire a contractor who has equipment to locate your well. Buried wells should be brought above grade to provide the proper seal for the wellhead. 

Call the Water Supply Section at (302) 739-9944 for complete information about your well, including copies of records, and to research your well ID number if your tag is missing.   

Q. Why does my well have to stick up out of the ground?




A. The above ground cap limits the possibility of vermin and contamination entering the well from the surface and provides easy access in the event that the well or pump needs to be serviced. Visibility is important too, to assure that septic systems or other possible sources of contamination are not mistakenly located to close to your water supply. The metal tag attached to the upper terminus of the well contains your permit number and an address to write for information. Many people choose to camouflage their wells by creative landscaping and the use of lawn ornaments.


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