Construction Permits for New Private Water Supply Wells and GHEX Loop Boreholes

Example of a private well construction permitWell construction permits are required for all water supply wells installed in Iowa. For private water supply wells - wells that serve less than 25 individuals or fewer than 15 water service connections - the construction permits are managed by the Iowa DNR Private Well Program and your local county environmental health offices.

If your well servers 25 or more individuals or has 15 or more water service connections, your well project requires a Public Water Supply Construction Permit issued by Iowa DNR Water Supply Engineering (WSE). Additional information on public water supplies can be found at the WSE web page.

In general, your local county will issue both state and county private well construction permits, but in some cases, the Iowa DNR will work with participating counties to collect permitting information and then perform the permitting at the state level.

A well construction permit authorizes you to construct a well at the address listed on the permit application and access the groundwater or geothermal properties under your property. The standard private well construction permit authorizes you to pump less than 25,000 gallons per day. If you need 25,000 gallons per day or more, you must obtain a Water Allocation and Use Permit. Additional information on Water Allocation and Use Permits can be found on the Water Use web page.

Examples of well that require a private well construction permit include:

  • All types of water supply wells including, drilled, augered/bored, and sand point wells used to supply water for: households, livestock, processing/commercial needs and all types of irrigation purposes,
  • recreational-use wells for lakes or pond water supplies, or to provide water for a fountain or other water feature,
  • industrial water supply wells providing plant process water or machine or process cooling water,
  • heat pump water supply and return or injection wells,
  • GHEX (geothermal) loop boreholes - both vertical and horizontal loop placements when the loop depth is 20 feet or greater in depth,
  • groundwater monitoring, contaminant monitoring or piezometer wells 20 feet or greater in depth that are not installed to meet a state clean-up or monitoring requirement.*,
  • groundwater level monitoring wells,
  • temporary or permanent dewatering wells when they are 20 feet or greater in depth, and
  • dam or levee relief wells when they are 20 feet or greater in depth.

Any property owner who plans to construct a private water supply well must agree to place the well in a location free from known surface and subsurface contamination, have the well constructed to meet or exceed state construction standards based and the type of well needed and the well location, and have the water tested at least once to determine the quality of the groundwater.

For monitoring wells and dewatering wells, the wells must be designed to protect the groundwater, constructed using industry standards, include adequate well head protections for the time they will be left in place, and be properly plugged when no longer needed.

All well services in Iowa - including well construction and renovation or rehabilitation, pump installation and pump repairs, pressure switch and pressure tank replacement, and geothermal borehole construction requires a Iowa DNR Certified Well Contractor be present on the job site and in direct charge at the time well services are being performed. The rules for well contractor certification can be found in 567 Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 82.

Here are a few additional permit areas you should be aware of -

*Monitoring Wells - Iowa DNR private well construction permits are not required when the well installation is part of a Iowa DNR required investigation or clean-up action. If the monitoring wells are installed as part of a private study or investigation, Iowa DNR private well construction permits are required if the well(s) will be 20 feet or greater in depth. All monitoring well construction must have a Iowa DNR Certified Well Contractor on-site and in direct charge when the well services are provided. When monitoring wells are no longer needed, they must be properly plugged with bentonite products or neat cement and the casings removed to a depth of four feet below surface grade.

Public Water Wells - Not all water supply wells are "private" wells. When a well or a water supply serves 25 or more people, or has 15 or more service connections, the well or water supply is considered a Public Water Supply under federal and state laws. Public water supplies require the use of a design engineer, and adherence to specific construction and monitoring standards that are established before the construction of the well takes place. These standards are required by federal and state governments. Before any work can be performed on a public water supply - including new well or water system construction, or existing well or water system alterations - public water supply construction permits must be obtained. You can obtain more information on permitting for public water supply wells from Iowa DNR Water Supply Engineering Section (WSE).

Water Allocation and Use Permits - Water Allocation and Use permits are required for high volume well users. If your well water needs are 25,000 gallons per day or more, you are required to obtain a Water Allocation and Use Permit to authorize your water needs. Water Use Permits are issued by Iowa DNR Water Supply Engineering. For additional information, please refer to the Water Supply Engineering Water Allocation and Use web page.

Well Construction Permits and other types of drilling -

Geotechnical Investigation Boreholes - Iowa DNR private well construction permits are not required for borings that are installed only to study the soil structure - like those used as part of a geotechnical investigation required to design and place foundations or footings for buildings or other structures. A well construction permit and Iowa DNR Well Contractor Certification is required if your geotechnical investigation includes placing a well casing or screen in a borehole to monitor or collect groundwater samples. Any investigation boreholes that are positioned in areas that will not be immediately excavated must be properly plugged with bentonite products or neat cement.

Geoprobe® Style Boreholes - Iowa DNR private well construction permits are not required for Geoprobe® style boreholes as long as temporary or permanent well casing is not installed in the borehole. Example, when sampling of groundwater through the probe tip without using any casing. If your boring(s) will place any casing in the ground, you need to obtain well construction permits before any probe work is started and have a Iowa DNR Certified Well Contractor on-site during the installation. All probe holes must be properly plugged with bentonite products or neat cement as soon as the sampling work is completed.

Cathodic Protection Wells - Iowa DNR private well construction permits are not required for cathodic protection wells. Cathodic protection wells are common and installed to protect metallic objects in direct contact with the ground from electrolytic corrosion. Objects like pipelines that carry petroleum, natural gas, and water, and their related storage facilities; power lines; telephone cables; and switchyards. In addition, cathodic protection wells are sometimes used to control electrolytic corrosion in large water supply wells. Even though construction permits are not required for cathodic installations, the installation contractor is still responsible to ensure that each borehole is constructed using the best industry standards - including bentonite products to seal between potential aquifers and the upper borehole, and the use of safe materials that will not contaminate drinking water supplies.


- For specific information on well permitting in Iowa, please contact -
Russell Tell, Environmental Specialist Senior
Wallace State Office Building
502 E. 9th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319-0034
(515) 725-0462 or by Fax: (515) 725-0348
Russell.tell@dnr.iowa.gov