Well 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 (in place at least 7 days) or permanent dewatering wells, and
- dam or levee relief wells.
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.
Private Well Construction Permits and other types of drilling -
Dewatering wells used to lower groundwater during construction activities - Iowa DNR private well construction permits are required for most forms of dewatering. Please see details below.
- Dewatering deep wells - This form of dewatering is commonly used when the aquifer extends to a depth well below the bottom of the planned excavation. Well casings with slots or well casings with sand screens are installed into the aquifer and pumping systems installed to artificially lower the groundwater table. Private well construction permits are required for all dewatering wells, regardless of depth. In addition, an Iowa DNR certified well driller is required on the site at all times when well services are being performed. This includes well installation and well extraction, pump installation and extraction, and plugging of all dewatering wells. All dewatering projects must register with the department as a minor non-recurring use of water user. Please see the Water Allocation and Use website for additional information.
- Dewatering sandpoint systems - This form of dewatering is commonly used when working above a shallow aquifer where the groundwater level needs to be lowered 20 feet or less. Well sandpoint systems normally consists of a number of sand points spaced along a trench or around an excavation site. The sandpoints are connected to one or more common header pipes and attached to one or more pumps that pull water into the points and header pipe through vacuum lift method. The groundwater is then routed away from the excavation before it is allowed to discharge. Well construction permits are required for any sandpoint dewatering system. In addition, an Iowa DNR certified well driller is required on the site at all times well services are being performed. This includes well installation and well extraction, pump installation and extraction, and plugging of all dewatering wells. All dewatering projects must register with the department as a minor non-recurring use of water user. Please see the Water Allocation and Use website for additional information.
- Trench style dewatering - Trench type dewatering is where a horizontal trench is excavated in the area where the groundwater needs to be lowered, and the trench becomes the conduit for water to be removed. The trench may or may not contain a collector pipe to accumulate and move the water. Water is pumped directly from the excavation through a pump located in a sump of the excavation, or by suction lift through a drain line that is located at the bottom of the trench or excavation. Normally, trench style dewatering is limited to depths of approximately 20 feet. Iowa DNR Well Contractor Certification is not required for trench style dewatering regardless of depth. All dewatering projects must register with the department as a minor non-recurring use of water user. Please see the Water Allocation and Use website for additional information.
Monitoring Wells - Iowa DNR private well construction permits are always required for monitoring wells except for those wells installed as part of a Iowa DNR required contamination investigation or clean-up action, or if the total depth of all monitoring wells will be less than 20 feet before normal surface grade. All monitoring well construction must performed under the direct supervision of an Iowa DNR Certified Well Contractor who is onsite and in direct control of the well services being provided. When any monitoring well is no longer needed, it must be properly plugged with bentonite products or neat cement, the casings removed to a depth of four feet below surface grade, and one Iowa DNR Form 542-1226 filed with the department for each monitoring well plugged.
Geotechnical Investigation Boreholes - Iowa DNR private well construction permit is not required for any boring 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 well casings or screens in any boreholes 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.
Here are two additional permit areas you should be aware of -
Public Water Wells - Not all water supply wells are "private" wells. When a well or a water supply serves 25 or more individuals, or connects to 15 or more service connections, the well or water supply is considered a Public Water Supply under federal and state laws. Public water supplies can only be permitted through Iowa DNR Water Supply Engineering (WSE). Local county private well programs cannot approve or issue any public water supply construction. In order to obtain a public water supply construction permit, the water supply owner must use a design engineer to establish a specification and design that adheres to the 10 States Standards for Public Water Works, and work with WSE to ensure the design and construction fulfills the required standards. Public water supplies are also required to test the water on a regular basis for quality assurance and provide notification to the well users and the department when any tests indicate the water is not safe for consumption, or when a defect in the system places the users at risk for consuming contaminated water. 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 - 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 can only be issued by Iowa DNR Water Supply Engineering. For additional information, please refer to the Water Supply Engineering Water Allocation and Use web page.
The Iowa DNR Private Well Program
Water Supply Engineering Section
Wallace State Office Building
502 E. 9th Street, Des Moines, IA 50319-0034