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In Iowa, all work that meets the definition of "well services" as found in Iowa law and Iowa Administrative Code must be performed by an Iowa DNR Certified Well Contractor, or by the land owner.
The goal of the Iowa DNR Well Contractor Certification program is to help ensure the groundwater professionals you hire meet minimum levels of work experience and knowledge. This experience and knowledge requirement means that the individual performing the work understands what basic protections are required by law and rule, and how their work impacts the safety of the drinking water supplies used by citizens, communities, and industry.
If the land owner hires anyone to perform the well services, the individual must be an Iowa DNR Certified Well Contractor and the certified contractor must be on-site at all times any well service is taking place.
If a land owner performs their own well services, the owner must physically perform the work themselves - they cannot hire, pay or barter with another individual or non-certified company to perform the actual well service. Landowners must follow the same well laws and rules that certified professional well contractor follow.
The term "well services" includes but is not limited to:
For additional information regarding the definition of "well services" along with the other well program definitions found in the Iowa well rules, please see the Private Well Program
Well services are complicated and detailed tasks that require highly trained individuals using specialized equipment
to perform them competently and safely.
Certified Well Contractors are professionals who have a large investment in their tools, their continuing education, and their work experience. This allows them to perform the job in a manner that protects your drinking water and the groundwater others depend on for their water source.
Well Pluggers - note - this classification is limited in the type of wells they can plug.
Groundwater is a precious resource and it can be found in abundance in most areas of Iowa. Certifying well contractors is one step we use to help ensure the well services you pay for are completed in a manner that focuses on providing a safe water source. It also helps provide the long term protections needed to preserve the resources for future generations.
The protections are part of a set of uniform standards that the well industry helped create and are part of all well services a professional certified well contractor provides. These services include well construction, pump installation, pump and pressure system repair, well renovation, well rehabilitation, water line installation and repair, and well plugging services.
There are minimum statewide standards and a requirement that the contractor plan and adapt your well services to the conditions found at your location and increase minimum standards when necessary to allow for greater protection. In some areas of the state, these additional protections are needed to ensure your drinking water starts out safe and remains that way for the useful life of the well.
Iowa DNR Certified Well Contractors are individuals who meet minimum work experience requirements in areas required for certification, successfully passed state examinations which demonstrates their knowledge for basic well services and the state rules. They also must obtain continuing education to further their knowledge and skill sets. Certified Well Contractors are required to follow the well rules and contractor obligations as outlined in 567 Iowa Administrative Code Chapters
38, 39, 49 and 82. Well contractor certification is renewable for two year periods as long as the individual meets all eligibility requirements.
The type of well contractor certification an individual requires is based on the type of well services they want to offer. There are currently three levels of Certified Well Contractors in Iowa. They are Well Drillers, Pump Installers, and Well Plugger (a limited certification).
You can find a list of definitions in our the Private Well Program
This document can help you understand the common terms used when we discuss the topics of well construction, pump repair, and well plugging.
When choosing a certified well contractor, look for one who actively applies the standards, increases their knowledge and professionalism through continuing education, and has experience in providing successful outcomes in your local conditions.
The term "Well Driller" means an individual certified by the department to perform well drilling services like:
The term "Pump Installer" means an individual certified by the department to:
The term "Well Plugging Contractor" means an individual certified to plug only Class 1 wells (100 feet or less in depth and 18 inches or more in diameter) or Class 3 wells (sand points).
A Well Plugging Contractor is not certified to plug Class 2 wells (100 feet or more in depth or less than 18 inches in diameter) or perform any other well services.
The term "well plugging contractor" can be confusing because a contractor with this certification cannot plug all water wells.
Well Plugging Contractors can only plug two of the three classes of water wells - it is a limited class of certification.
If a Well Plugging Contractor discovers that the well they are plugging is a "Class 2" well, they can not perform any plugging on the well and the well owner must hire either an Iowa DNR Certified Well Driller or Certified Pump Installer to perform the well plugging.
This link will provide you with a list of Iowa DNR Certified Well Pluggers. Please remember that certified well drillers and certified pump installers can also plug wells.
Iowa DNR does not reciprocate with any other state's well contractor certification or licensure programs, or NGWA national certification. These certifications provide proof that you are a professional who is vested in the industry, but they do not allow you to work within Iowa's borders without first obtaining Iowa DNR Well Contractor Certification.
Well Driller and Pump Installer certification includes a minimum work experience requirement.
The minimum work experience takes into consideration all associated work in the specialty area in which the contractor wants to operate.
Well Driller certification requires that you have a minimum of 2 years and 2,000 hours of experience with the type of drilling you want to specialize in and well plugging experience.
Pump Installer certification requires that you have a minimum of 2 years and 1,000 hours of experience in well pump installation, repair, water system installation and repair, and well plugging.
Well Plugger certification is a limited certification with restriction on what type of wells can be plugged. There is no minimum experience requirements, but you must attend a DNR approved well plugging course, pass a certification exam, perform the plugging work according to the rules, and maintain your certification in good standing.
All CEUs must meet specific criteria to quality for well contractor credit.
Please see the "additional information" area below for more information.
Well Driller certification (DR) requires 1.6 qualifying CEUs or 16 contact hours every two years.
Pump Installer certification (PI) requires 1.0 qualifying CEU or 10 contact hours every two years.
Combination Well Driller and Pump Installer certification (DR-PI) requires 1.6 CEUs or 16 contact hours every two years.
Well Plugger certification currently does not currently require CEUs.
The time period to earn CEUs is during the current two year certification period which starts on April 1st of even numbered years and ends on March 31, of even numbered years. For example - earn your CEUs from 4/1/2016 through 3/31/2018 to renew your certification for the 2018-2020 certification year.
Well Driller - Initial certification fee of $300. Two year renewal fee of $300.
Pump Installer - Initial certification fee of $250. Two year renewal fee of $200.
Well Plugger - Initial certification fee of $250. Two year renewal fee of $200.
Iowa offers a "provisional certification" for well contractors who don't meet current minimum work experience requirements, but have at least one-half of the required work experience and they are employed by or work in the same company as a fully certified well contractor.
Provisional certification requires you to sit for and pass the certification exams in your areas of specialty and have a fully certified well contractor working for the same company inspect and sign-off on any work performed independently while building work experience. Contact us for more information.
Currently, there are four dedicated exams you will take depending on the work that you want to perform.
Well drillers - will take a general exam and the well driller specialty exam.
For pump installers - will take a general exam and the pump installer specialty exam.
For well pluggers - must attend an approved Iowa DNR well plugger class and then take the well plugger exam.
The applicant must pass each required exam to qualify for the level of well contractor certification they are seeking.
It is the well contractor's responsibility to submit qualifying CEUs to the Department and to notify the certification staff of any changes in mailing address. The Department maintains an on-line Iowa DNR
Operator Certification Database which will help individuals track their CEU contact hours, view their contact information and find training events that have been submitted to DNR for approval.
Once certified, well contractors who work in Iowa are required to renew their certification every two years. Each certification period starts on July 1st of even numbered years and ends on June 30 of even-numbered years. The required CEUs earned by a well contractor must be earned between April 1st of even numbered years and March 31 of even numbered years. CEUs in excess of what's needed for renewal cannot be carried forward into the next certification period.
CEUs - All CEUs that will qualify for well contractor training hours for renewal purposes must be directly related to the subject matter of the certificate or other groundwater related topics defined under in Iowa Administrative Code. These topics include:
CEUs Events - CEU events are hosted by various state and national training organizations both inside and outside of Iowa. When You should submit the training itinerary to the department in advance of the event for review and approval. This ensures that you will get the most hours for your limited time if you choose to attend. You also help other contractors when you submit the potential events to our offices. The events we review are placed on a training calendar for all contractors to view and consider.
Renewal applications are mailed to the well contractors 60 days prior to the expiration date of the certificates and all CEUs submitted must meet the requirements of 567 Iowa Administrative Code Chapter
82.11(3). Only contractors obtaining the required CEUs are eligible for renewal of their certificate(s) and can continue to perform well services in Iowa.
The DNR Private Well Tracking System - County environmental health officials and Iowa certified well contractors can use the Private Well Tracking System (PWTS) to manage information about water supply wells installed and used in Iowa. The PWTS is a web based well data management system used to track information about private water supply wells including: documentation of well construction permits, well log reporting, water test reporting and tracking, well renovation and well plugging information.
Installing geothermal heat exchange loops (GHEX loops) in Iowa requires that an Iowa DNR Certified Well Driller be present on-site at all times when vertical or horizontal borehole drilling is taking place, when loop pipe fusion is taking place, when the loop pipe is installed into the borehole, pressure testing of the loop pipe and when borehole grouting is taking place.
As you perform GHEX drilling in Iowa, please be sensitive to the goal of protecting the groundwater resources that Iowa's citizens use for drinking water supplies. GHEX boreholes interact with our aquifers and because of this your drilling projects must be designed to provide ongoing protections within each borehole. In addition, much of the eastern one-third of Iowa includes
Karst geologic features that make it difficult to install GHEX boreholes in a manner that insures long term protections remain in-place. Please contact our offices for additional information on borehole drilling and grouting requirements in Karst areas of our state.
Because GHEX boreholes can intersect the groundwater aquifers used for drinking water supplies, all GHEX boreholes should include features such as full depth grouting and detailed records of anomalies that may compromise the boreholes in the future.
Using care during the construction of GHEX boreholes along with void mitigation and full depth grouting, helps ensure that the groundwater remains protected and helps reduce the need for additional rules and/or policies that place additional restrictions on the industry. Please contact usfor additional information on GHEX drilling in Iowa.
To find out more about becoming certified in Iowa as a Well Contractor, please refer to the Operator Certification web site. To apply for well contractor certification, please refer to our application form.
Or you can contact:
The Iowa DNR Operator Certification Section at 515-725-0284.
The Iowa DNR Private Well Section at 515-725-0462.
Make sure you hire only Iowa DNR Certified Well Contractors.
Using a non-certified well contractor creates additional expenses and requirements for both the well owner and the contractor. This ultimately increases the cost to both and creates additional liabilities for any inferior well services provided.
If a non-certified contractor creates a groundwater hazard on your property, you, as the owner, are ultimately liable for all expenses to resolve the issue.
It's easy to find out if the individual working on your property is properly certified - just look-up their name on the lists below based on the well services they are providing.
If they are certified, their name will be on the list. If they are not certified, you shouldn't hire them - find a properly certified well contractor to perform your well services.
Well Drillers can drill new wells, renovate and rehabilitate old wells, and plug all types of wells
Pump Installers can install and repair pumping systems and water distribution systems, and plug all types of wells.
Well Pluggers can plug only Class 1 and Class 3 wells.
Any contractor working without proper Iowa well contractor certification is breaking the law.
Remember - Do it once and do it right!
Performing basic geotechnical drilling in Iowa not require an Iowa DNR Certified Well Driller on-site during operations as long as you are not installing temporary or permanent monitoring wells or piezometers.
Non-certified contractors can perform geotechnical services that include the general examination of the subsurface to study and report the principles of soil and rock mechanics and investigate existing subsurface conditions and materials. In general, these types of studies would look at risks posed by site conditions when designing structure foundations and earthworks or to explore for minerals in the shallow subsurface.
If your job includes the study of groundwater through the use of temporary or permanent monitoring or piezometer wells, an Iowa DNR Certified Well Driller must be on-site at all times the wells are being installed, extracted or plugged. Open boreholes can be left in place long enough to obtain water level information as long no casings or pipes are installed (other than the auger column) and the location does not pose any hazard to the groundwater.
As you perform geotechnical services in Iowa, please be sensitive to our state's goal of protecting the groundwater resources. You should immediately plug any boreholes that won't be immediately excavated with proper bentonite or cementitious well sealing products. If boreholes are not adequately plugged after your investigation is completed, it may lead to the adoption of rules and/or local ordinances that place restrictions on the geotechnical drilling industry within our state.
Please take note of this section if your company operates equipment in Iowa that uses hydraulically-powered, direct push machine technology that uses both static force and dynamic percussion force to advance sampling tools into the ground to facilitate subsurface sampling and soil investigations.
The "direct push" technique refers to sampling tools that are "pushed" into the ground without the use of conventional drilling techniques to remove soil or to make a path for a tool or monitoring gear.
In general, direct push operations do not require the services of an Iowa DNR Well Contractor Certification unless the project requires the installation of temporary or permanent monitoring or piezometer wells. Well Contractor Certification is not required for operations that allow the collection of groundwater through the probe tip. But if your direct push project calls for obtaining water samples through the use of well casings and/or screens placed into the borehole, an Iowa DNR Certified Well Driller must be on-site at all times the wells are being installed, bailed/purged/sampled, the casing extracted and the borehole plugged.
As you perform direct push work in Iowa, please be sensitive to our state's goal of protecting the groundwater resources. You should immediately plug any push boreholes with proper bentonite or cementitious well sealing products. If boreholes are not adequately plugged after your investigation is completed, it may lead to the adoption of rules and/or local ordinances that place restrictions on the direct push industry within our state.
Geotechnical drilling is used to obtain information on the physical properties of soil and rock around a site.
It's commonly used when designing a structure such as a building, foundation, or earthen project. It may be part of a construction project or used as part of the investigation process conducted on a site before construction takes place.
Geotechnical drilling is used to sample and/or test the surface/subsurface conditions of a site so that an appropriate structure can be designed and constructed.
Geotechnical drilling usually isn't performed to obtain groundwater or to utilize the properties of groundwater.
Geotechnical boreholes are not water wells and do not require well contractor certification unless they include well casing to obtain water samples.
Direct push drilling uses a machine that "pushes" its tool string into the ground by relying on a relatively small amount of static weight combined with a percussion technique as an energy source. This causes the tools and sensors to advance or push into the ground.
This technique doesn't remove soil to make a path for the tool. Instead it depends on compression of soil or rearrangement of granular soil particles to allow the advancement of the tool string.
In addition to Iowa DNR Well Contractor Certification, the State of Iowa requires that all Well Contractors register with the Iowa Division of Labor and renew the registration annually
More information can be found by reviewing the Iowa Code and Administrative Rules.
Out of State well contractors will also need to post a surety bond to work within Iowa's borders. More information can be found in the "Frequently Asked Questions" page.
Use this link to check to see if a contractor is currently registered with the Iowa Division of Labor.
Use this link to view the Iowa Department of Labor Contractor Registration web page.
Anyone who performs water well related services are considered contractors under Iowa Department of Labor registration requirements.
Iowa Department of Labor requires all individual contractors and businesses performing “construction or service” work within Iowa to be registered with their department, if the individual or business earns at least $2,000.00 a year from that work.
Iowa DNR Private Well Program web page
Private Well Program, general well and certification questions, and qualifying CEU events and contact hours, contact:
For Certification Program and general certification program management questions, contact:
For CEU submittals, arranging to take certification exams, and general certification questions, contact: