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Iowa's Private Water Well Program

Private Well Hot Topics -


- Attention irrigation well owners and other high volume well users-

Water Use permits are issued to convey the right to use the water if the use can be shown to be beneficial. A Water Use Permit is required for any person or entity that withdraws at least 25,000 gallons in a 24-hour period during any calendar year. The permit lists the amount of water that can be withdrawn each year by the permittee, and is valid for 10 years. The Water Use Permit also requires that a Water Use Report be submitted each year to the Iowa DNR. Water Use Permits are typically issued to public water supply systems, industries, agricultural businesses, irrigation users (crop agricultural, golf courses, athletic fields, etcetera), recreational areas, gravel quarry dewatering, and etcetera. To find out more about Water Use Permits or to apply for yours today please look at the Water Supply Engineering Water Allocation and Use web site.


- Renewal of General Permit #6;

General Permit #6 - Well Construction and Well Service Discharges (also known as GP6) will renew on March 1, 2015. You can learn more about GP6 and view related documents at the following web link:


- Proposed Chapter 48 GHEX Rules - Attention Iowa DNR Certified Well Contractors, Citizens and Interested Parties -

The department proposes to resume rulemaking of the geothermal heat exchange loop borehole rules known as Chapter 48 - Geothermal Heat Exchange (GHEX) Boreholes. The Chapter 48 rules were initiated in the past and the current rulemaking will build on the previously proposed rules and addresses issues that were brought out during the original public hearings. You can view the current version of the proposed rules by clicking the following link - Proposed Chapter 48.  You can send written comments to Russ Tell at or by US mail to the address listed at the bottom of this web page.


- Why Protect the Groundwater? -

Groundwater protection is something that everyone and and should do. Why you asked?  Because we all have a stake in maintaining its quality and quantity.  Poor quality groundwater affects all of us - with health implications for our families and increased cost to supply, use and enjoy the water resource.

Did you know that 99 percent of all available freshwater comes from aquifers underground? Being a good steward of groundwater just makes sense.  Not only that, most surface water bodies are connected to groundwater and contamination can make its way into both sources, so what you do that impacts groundwater matters.   Remember that all drains eventually flow to surface and groundwater sources.  Whatever you dump down the drain will eventually end up in the water supply that it you count on.  Don't dump it unless you want to drink it! 

Many public water systems draw all or part of their water supply from groundwater sources, so protecting the groundwater protects the public water supplies and helps reduce treatment costs, saving all consumers money.  And for those who live outside of the reach of  public water mains - the private water well users - protection of the groundwater resource helps keep your cost of self supplying water as low as possible by keeping shallower aquifers from becoming too contaminated for use and helping to reduce the amount of water treatment that you must use before you drink the water. As a well owner, you are the manager of your own water system. Managing your system correctly will help protect the groundwater in your area and will help reduce risks to your own water supply and the supplies that serve others.   What each of us do to protect and maintain our wells will make a difference in maintaining our groundwater as a resource that is safe and available for all to use.

- Private Well Users - Knowledge is Power -

Private well users - think about it... When was the last time that you had your private water system sampled and tested?  Do you know if your water is safe to drink today?  Can your family drink and use the water without worries of illness and chronic long term exposures?

Did you know health organizations recommend that you test your water system at least once each year? How about this fact - did you know residents of 98 of our 99 counties can take advantage of a program that provides basic private well water testing for free?

The Iowa Department of Public Health manages a private well testing program called the "Grants to Counties Well Program. This program provides free private water system testing and will help you understand the safety of your drinking water. You can contact your local county environmental health department to arrange your free water test.

Remember, no matter what type of water supply you use, public or private supply, you can make a difference in the overall water quality where you live.  The great thing about you doing your part is that it is easy - just be considerate how you handle things that you don't want to end up in the groundwater and your drinking water.  Keep this statement in mind - Don't dump it unless you want to drink it! 

The Iowa DNR supports efforts to inform and educate citizens on groundwater protection and promote safe drinking water.


- Attention well users in or near flood waters -

The Iowa DNR has information on how flood waters can impact your water supply well and the items that you should consider before trying to use your well during or after a flood event.  Flood waters can present a hazard to your water supply well regardless if your well is located in the floodway or not.  Please view our  guidance document  for more information.  


- Is the water from your private well safe to drink today? -

When was the last time that you had your private water well system sampled and your drinking water tested?

Did you know that the major health organizations recommend that you test your private water system yearly at least once per year?

How about this - did you know that there are contaminants that you should test for besides bacteria and nitrates? 

The Iowa DNR has guidance available to help you understand the importance of sampling and testing your private water system. Check out our "Frequently Asked Questions About Private Drinking Water".



The Illinois State Water Survey and the Illinois Water Resources Center at the University of Illinois are pleased to announce a new nationwide training initiative funded by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) through a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The training will includes classes for those who own or use private water supply wells.

The Private Well Classes are designed to help a homeowner and well user understand the basic science of water wells and inform them of best practices to maintain and protect the water supply. These basic tools can help ensure a safe drinking water supply and extend the life of the well.

The classes are part of an online learning experience that includes monthly emails with class lessons that will be reinforced by monthly webinars you can attend as often as you wish - even after the emailed class materials have ended. Click here to find out how the class works.


- Help protect your ground water: Plug any unused or unneeded water wells -

Old water supply wells can be a hazard to personal safety and to groundwater. Abandoned wells that are left un-plugged pose a risk to our groundwater supplies and our active water wells because they can be a direct pathway for poor quality contaminated water to enter our deeper and more protected aquifers. Help protect the groundwater used by your family and others by plugging your old unneeded wells. To find out more about well plugging and participating in a grant program to help pay for a portion of well plugging on your property, please visit our well plugging information page.


- Notice to Homeowners,Water Well Drillers and GHEX Loop Borehole Contractors -

In Iowa, the installation of geothermal boreholes, water supply wells and all well pump installation and well repair services require that an Iowa DNR Certified Well Contractor be present on-site at all times when all well services take place. You can find out more about well services and the certification requirements by viewing our Certification and Contractor Certification web pages.

You can also refer to our Frequently Asked Questions  document helpful in learning more about state well contractor certification requirements.


 - Important information about the occurrence of Arsenic in groundwater and water wells -

Map of Arsenic positive tests in IowaRecent concern about arsenic in drinking water has left many homeowners wondering "Should I test my water for the presence of arsenic?" If your drinking water is provided by a city or town, these municipalities are required to perform testing on an ongoing basis to ensure water is safe to drink, and there would be no need for private individuals to test for arsenic in this situation. Public water supplies provide an annual water quality report to their customers.

Read the Iowa DNR "Arsenic in Iowa's Drinking Water" Information Sheet

If your drinking water comes from a private well we recommend that the water be checked at least once a year for coliform bacteria and nitrate to ensure that the water is safe to drink. In addition to testing for bacteria and nitrate levels, drinking water can also be tested for arsenic. If you are concerned about arsenic levels in well water, contact the State Hygienic Laboratory (1-800-421-IOWA) or your local county sanitarian  and ask for a test kit to test the water for arsenic. Analysis of drinking water for arsenic can be performed by any Safe Water Drinking Act Laboratory certified for arsenic testing by the Iowa DNR. Contact your local county environmental health office or the Iowa DNR for additional information.

Arsenic is an element that occurs naturally in rocks and soil. You can find additional information about arsenic by reading the private well arsenic guidance found on the Water Supply Wells web page.

There are treatment options available for well water that is determined to have elevated levels of arsenic. Information about this contaminant and water treatment options can be found in a State Hygienic Laboratory information booklet named Well Water Quality and Home Treatment System.   Additional information about analysis of your drinking water can be found on the on the home page of the State Hygienic Laboratory website found at the following web site:

Additional information on arsenic in drinking water is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Source - State Hygienic Laboratory, University of Iowa



East-central Iowa Silurian Aquifer Groundwater Study and Predictive Model Completed

The Silurian Aquifer is an important groundwater resource for a number of mid-western states. The DNR Iowa Geological and Water Survey (IGWS) recently completed a groundwater study and predictive model for the Silurian aquifer in east-central Iowa. Information from thousands of well records, hundreds of water production tests, current and historic water levels, and water withdrawal records were incorporated into a groundwater model. The completed and tested model will give estimates of the changes in water levels into the future for a wide range of anticipated or possible future demands.

"The Silurian aquifer is an important groundwater source in eastern Iowa" said Mike Gannon, an IGWS research geologist who coordinated development of the model. The Silurian aquifer is widely used by cities, industries, farms and rural communities, and also supplies a number of geothermal wells.

As the study was being completed, the model was used to assist Marion and Coralville in assessing long-term additions to their water supplies.

The Silurian study follows work done on the Dakota aquifer in northwest Iowa, shallow alluvial aquifers in several parts of Iowa, and the deep Jordan aquifer across the state.

"This effort is the key to long term management of our underground water supplies" says Iowa’s State Geologist Bob Libra. "The decisions we make about water development today will be with us for decades, and this work helps assure the investments made for water will pay off for the long run. The studies will also allow us to assess and predict the impacts of developing drought conditions in western Iowa."   View the aquifer report here.

From Iowa DNR EcoNewsWire News report on January 23, 2012


Attention drinking water well users who live in areas of Karst terrain -

Karst MapThe Iowa DNR has basic information available to help you understand the contamination concerns in shallow groundwater sources found in areas of Karst terrain. This information is available in the "Special Considerations for Drinking Water Wells located in Karst Bedrock Conditions" section on the Water Supply Wells web page.



The Iowa DNR Private Water Well Program

Welcome to the Iowa DNR Private Well Program web site. The Private Well Program provides regulatory oversight for a number of different types of well structures and borings that are used to access the groundwater or the thermal properties of the ground.

These well structures include:

  • Private potable water supply wells like private drinking water wells. This includes any water supply that does not meet the requirements to be regulated as a Public Water Supply.
  • Private non-potable wells used in industry like: Commercial water supply wells like plant process water supplies; cooling tower water supplies; and any other water well that supplies water for non-potable use.
  • Irrigation wells for all uses including row crop irrigation, watering truck gardens; water supplies for turf production and home yard irrigation.
  • Test, observation and monitoring wells use to determine the quantity or quality of the groundwater or to monitor water groundwater levels.
  • Temporary or permanent dewatering wells used to artificially lower water tables for new and existing construction.
  • Geothermal water supply and reinjection wells used to exchange heat from a structure to the groundwater.
  • Geothermal Heat Exchange (GHEX) loop boreholes used to exchange heat from a structure with the earth.
  • Direct push type technology for groundwater sampling when well casing and/or well screen is installed in the ground

If you self supply drinking water from a well, it is important for you to know that the Private Well Program rules only apply to those water supply wells and systems that serve fewer than 25 individuals on a daily basis. If a well system provides water to at least 15 service connections (like campground spaces or condos not served by a public water supply) or serves at least 25 individuals at least 60 days per year, the system requires management under the public water supply rules. Other examples of systems that meet the Public Water Supply definition include rural churches, rural restaurants and bars, rural manufacturing facilities, rural trailer parks and any other place that is not connected to a municipal or rural water public water supply where the public gathers or conducts business and 25 or more individuals have access to the water for 60 or more days during a year.

Public Water Supplies have specific federally mandated requirements to help protect the health of the water users. The requirements address water well and water treatment, storage and distribution system design and the  design and construction of these facilities follow approved specifications and standards as determined by the Iowa DNR Water Supply Engineering section. In addition, a Public Water Supply must also manage and monitor the water system according to an operation permit issued by the Iowa DNR Water Supply Operations section. To find out if you are a Public Water Supply or for more information regarding Public Water Supply requirements, contact the IDNR Water Supply section at 515-725-0282.


The Private Well Program provides administrative oversight of the statewide well program. This includes rule oversight, development, and interpretation for private well program related rules, working cooperatively with local county governments to administer the private well program at a local level, and providing guidance to the questions asked by contractors and citizens.


The goals of the Iowa DNR Private Well Program are to:

  • Protect the groundwater resources and public health by establishing well construction, well maintenance and well plugging standards.
  • Establishing well contractor certification requirements for all types of boreholes that meet the definition of "well."
  • Provide a source for accurate and meaningful guidance to help answer questions pertaining to the private well program areas.

The program goals are to have all private wells constructed to appropriate minimum standards and that competent Iowa DNR Certified Well Contractors are on-site in direct control of each well service provided. The local county permitting authority will issue you a local and state private well construction permit based on a single application.

To help achieve the program goals the Private Well Program works with local county environmental health staff to issue private well construction permits at the local level. This relationship is an important part of the program and helps to ensure that there are local contacts to provide well construction permitting and support for the local residents.

The Iowa DNR private well construction permit is issued at the local level through the use of a web based private well permitting system named the Private Well Tracking System or PWTS. This allows the county immediate access to issue state private well construction permits.


The Private Well Program also works with the Iowa DNR Operator Certification Section to help Certified Well Contractors with their certification questions and testing, and helps training providers determine if a training event will qualify for continuing education units (CEUs) or "contact hours" for well contractor certification.

There are other information pages available for the private well program that you may find beneficial. You can find additional topics in the left hand column of this page under the "Private Well Program" heading. At the bottom of this page you will find a number of links that provide information for commonly asked private water supply questions. If you find that you have questions that are not covered by these web pages, please contact us using the information at the bottom of this page.

The links below and in the left hand banner will provide you with additional important information regarding the private well program in Iowa.

- For additional information contact -

Russell Tell

Environmental Specialist Senior

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Wallace State Office Building

502 E. 9th Street

Des Moines, IA 50319-0034

Fax 515-725-0348 Phone 515-725-0462