ECL §15-1525 requires any business conducting water well drilling activities to register annually with DEC before doing business anywhere in New York State. The water well contractor must notify DEC prior to commencement of drilling a water well and file a Water Well Completion Report with DEC upon completion of a water well. A copy of this report must also to be provided to the owner of the water well.
Water well standards are determined by the NYS Department of Health (DOH). Appendix 5-B, Standards for Water Wells contains specifications for location, construction, well yield, pumps, control of flowing wells, separation standards, well decommissioning, and more.
Consumer Information and Protection
Many New Yorkers rely on wells for drinking water. If you need to have a new water well drilled or an existing well repaired, you should know that consumers are protected under ECL §15-1525. The DEC Consumer Protection Guide (PDF) contains information that you may find useful. The Water Well Contractor Search Tool (below) will help you find a contractor in your area that is currently registered with DEC.
See the links below for additional information on basic water well construction, water well system components, drilling methods, maintenance and cleaning, water quality and quantity, treatment, and more.
- NYS DOH Drinking Water Protection Program
- US EPA Private Drinking Water Wells
- USGS Groundwater Information Pages
- National Ground Water Association Wellowner.org
Water Well Contractor Registration
Applications for registration are accepted throughout the year. Certificates of registration are effective through March 31st of the following year. Requirements for registration as a Water Well Contractor are:
- Proof of having passed appropriate certification exams as described below.
- Submission of a NYS Water Well Contractor Registration Form (PDF). The registration form may be completed and submitted online using DEC's online form tool, nForm.
- A check or money order for the $10 annual registration fee.
Water Well Contractor Exams
All water well activities must be supervised by a person on-site who is has taken and passed appropriate exams. To meet the requirements of ECL §15-1525, an individual must take and pass two exams (General Drilling Exam and one additional drilling exam) for drilling and two exams (Water Systems General Exam and one additional pump exam) for pump installation and service. Registered businesses are responsible for ensuring that all water well drilling activities, including pump installation and servicing, are supervised by an individual who has taken and passed the appropriate exams.
See DEC's Water Well Contractor Exam Requirements (PDF) for additional information, including study materials and information on how to sign up to take exams.
Water Well Contractor Reporting Forms
ECL §15-1525 requires that registered water well contractors:
- Submit a Preliminary Notice Of Proposed Water Well (PDF) to DEC prior to commencement of drilling a water well. This form may also be completed and submitted online using DEC's online form tool, nForm.
- Complete a Water Well Completion Report (PDF) upon completion of drilling a water well. The Water Well Completion Report must be submitted to DEC and the water well owner.
- For Long Island Wells (Nassau, Suffolk, Kings and Queens counties): Contractors must file a Preliminary Report of Proposed Well and the Long Island Well Completion Report with DEC's Region 1 Office. Forms for Long Island wells may be obtained by email or by calling 631-444-0405.
Registered Water Well Contractor Search and Completion Report Records
Registered Water Well Contractors: Find currently registered water well contractors
Basic information collected from water well completion reports is available in the formats listed below. Data is developed from Water Well Completion Reports submitted to DEC and in most cases is not verified. Information is subject to change at any time. User assumes all risk and liability in using this information.
- DECinfo Locator - Includes data for upstate and Long Island counties (Nassau, Suffolk, Kings and Queens). Includes downloadable Water Well Completion Reports in pdf format.
- Open Data Initiative- Upstate data only.
- NYS GIS Clearinghouse- Upstate data only.
- Water Well Information Search (Excludes Nassau, Suffolk, Kings, and Queens counties) - Upstate data only.
For open-loop or standing column systems, regardless of well depth, ECL §15-1525 requires that the geothermal well driller be registered and all drilling activities be supervised by a person on-site who is has taken and passed appropriate exams. ECL §15-1525 requires that preliminary notice and well completion reports be filed with DOW for wells drilled up to 500 feet deep. For closed-loop geothermal system wells, geothermal well driller registration, exams, and reporting are not required.
A State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) Permit may be required for certain open-loop systems.
For geothermal wells over 500 feet, drilling, construction, operation, and plugging is regulated by DEC's Division of Mineral Resources (DMN).
Although not currently required by NYS law, geothermal contractors may take Certified Vertical Closed Loop Driller (CVCLD) Exam offered by the National Ground Water Association (NGWA). Geothermal contractors may also be accredited and/or certified by the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA). See below for additional information for geothermal well contracting and ownership:
- NYSERDA Geothermal Heat Pumps
- The Geothermal Exchange
- US Department of Energy Consumer Guide
- Energy Star
Additionally, in Nassau, Suffolk, Kings, and Queens counties, a Part 602 permit is required for all open-loop or standing column geothermal systems with boreholes drilled up to 500 feet deep with the capability of producing more than 45 gpm (gallons per minute). The permit application must be filed with the DEC Regional Headquarters office in Stony Brook, NY. A Permit Application may be obtained by email or by calling 631-444-0405.
Flowing wells are water wells from which water flows under natural pressure without the use of a pump. Flowing wells occur in many locations across New York State, as shown on the map below. The discharge rate for uncontrolled flowing wells can range from a few drips an hour to over 1,000 gallons per minute (1.4 million gallons per day). A flow of just 5 gallons per minute will waste over 2.6 million gallons of water in a year.
Complications Arising from Uncontrolled Flowing Wells
When flowing wells are not controlled they waste our precious groundwater resource and can damage the surrounding environment in a number of ways.
- The water supply of the aquifer is reduced, potentially affecting wells miles away.
- Area water quality and aquatic habitat may be harmed. For example, if cold groundwater flows into to a stream, lake, or river, the habitat of warm water aquatic species may be impacted. Turbidity or water chemistry may be altered by the infusion of groundwater carrying high volumes of sediment.
- Water spilling over the outside of the casing of a flowing well may cause surface soil erosion, subsurface voids, and localized flooding. It is also possible for rocks and sediment to erupt during a breakout or blowout and create unstable and hazardous conditions near the well. The result could be damage to the land, the well, and structures.
Controlling Flowing Wells
These undesirable impacts can be avoided by controlling the flowing well. NYS Department of Health Standards for Water Wells require that flowing wells be constructed, equipped, and operated to control the rate of discharge. Well control may be accomplished by adding a few feet of well casing to the top of the well or by following other standard well drilling industry practices to stop the flow while maintaining its use. For general information of flowing wells, see the Flowing Well Handbook (PDF), published by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Owners of flowing wells should enlist the aid of a DEC registered well driller to ensure the proper operation of groundwater wells. DEC regulations address the damage caused by uncontrolled flowing wells, including:
- 6 NYCRR Part 608 Use and Protection of Waters
- Part 661 Tidal Wetlands - Land Use Regulations
- Part 663 Freshwater Wetlands Permit Requirements
- Part 750 State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) Permits
- Subpart 646-4 Stormwater Management
Water Well Decommissioning
To prevent groundwater contamination and hazardous ground conditions, all wells must be either maintained or properly decommissioned by a NYS Registered Well Driller. The procedures detailed in DEC's Water Supply Well Decommissioning Recommendations (PDF) should be used to ensure proper decommissioning of a well.
When an active well becomes inactive or is decommissioned, please fill out the Water Well Abandonment and Decommissioning Report (PDF) and submit to DEC.
For decommissioning procedures associated with environmental remediation projects, please see CP-43: Groundwater Monitoring Well Decommissioning Policy (PDF).