Texas is home to more than a million water wells, and Johnson, Ellis, Hill and Somervell Counties include over 2,000 water wells. If your clients have questions about a well on their property or a well on a property they’re interested in, we have compiled information on some of the frequently asked questions listed below. As your local groundwater conservation district, Prairielands GCD is here to provide assistance and resources for current or prospective well owners. Please contact our office for any additional information by calling 817-556-2299 or by filling out our contact form here.
Change of Well Ownership
Change of well ownership must be completed within 90 days after the date of a change in ownership of a registered exempt well.
How to Change a Registered Well
Complete a change of well ownership form available on the District website and submit to the District by fax, email or in person.
What if the Well Isn’t Registered?
If the well was drilled before April 1, 2011 and is not registered with the District, then registration is optional, but encouraged. If the well is drilled on or after April 1, 2011, it must be registered with the District, regardless of size, capacity or type of use. Wells drilled after after May 15, 2017 must be located on a minimum tract size of two acres.
What does the District do with the Registration Information?
State law requires the District to collect information about the wells in its jurisdiction. The District must determine how much water is needed and being used by Johnson, Hill, Ellis and Somervell Counties, so it can ensure District constituents have sufficient water for now, as well as estimate the future needs based on projected growth.
Why is Well Registration Important?
The owner of an exempt well drilled before April 1, 2011 may elect to register the well with the District to provide evidence that the well existed before the adoption of certain rules by the District. This could exempt the well from the requirement to comply with some well location, minimum tract size, or spacing requirements of the District.
Registering the well also enables protection of the owner’s well against encroachment from new wells through the District’s well spacing requirements, and any other entitlements that existing wells may receive under District rules. The District can’t consider and protect your water needs if we don’t know about your well.
What if a Well Needs to be Drilled?
District rules require all new wells to register with the District prior to drilling. Oftentimes, a drilling company will register the well on your behalf but the responsibility falls on the landowner. Check with your driller. In addition, all new wells must comply with, or obtain a variance for, the following rules:
For all wells, the property must be at least 2 acres and the well must be drilled at least 50 feet from the nearest property line.
New Well: Exempt
A well is considered exempt from permitting, fee payment, metering and reporting if it meets the following criteria:
• Used solely for domestic use, livestock use, poultry use, or agricultural use
• Has a maximum designed production capacity of 17.36 gallons per minute or less used for any purpose of use other than public water supply
Any new well must be registered with the District and comply with the two acre minimum tract size and well spacing requirements.
The well owner will need to submit a well registration form and pay the non-refundable $500 registration fee. Exempt wells are not required to pay water use fees. However, if exempt well status is withdrawn, the District may assess fees and in accordance with the District Rules.
New Wells: Replacement Wells
A well cannot be replaced without prior authorization from the District. A replacement well must:
• Be within 50 feet of the location of the well being replaced
• Be completed and screened at an equal or greater depth than the well being replaced
• Not be larger in designed production capacity than the well and pump being replaced, unless the maximum designed production capacity is 17.36 gpm or less
• Immediately upon commencing operation of the replacement well, the well owner will cease all production from the well being replaced and will begin efforts to plug the well being replaced in compliance with the well plugging guidelines set forth in the Texas Water Well Drillers and Pump Installers Administrative Rules.
New Well: Non-Exempt
Beginning January 1, 2019, you must apply for and obtain an Operating Permit prior to drilling or operating a new, non-exempt well. Non-exempt wells are used for purposes other than domestic, livestock, poultry or agricultural use. The well owner will need to submit a well registration form, a $500 non-refundable registration fee, and an application for an Operating Permit with a fee of $1,000 per well. All permits must be renewed every 5 years with a $150 per well fee.
A well determined to no longer be operational is required to be capped or plugged by a licensed well driller in accordance with the specifications listed in the Texas Administrative Code and in compliance with District rules and any incorporated city ordinances.
Abandoned wells are a threat to well water and public safety. Abandoned wells provide a direct channel for contaminants to pollute the aquifer below. Contaminants that enter a well are introduced directly into the aquifer with no opportunity for natural filtration by soils or geologic materials.
Abandoned wells also present the possibility that a humans or animals can fall into the unplugged wells and suffer injury or death. Texas law makes the landowner responsible for plugging abandoned wells and liable for any water contamination or injury. Please refer to the Texas Groundwater Protection Committee’s Landowner’s Guide to Plugging Abandoned Water Wells for more information.
House Bill 1221, affecting all transfers taking place January 1, 2016 or later, requires sellers of residential real estate to disclose whether any part of a property is in a groundwater conservation district (GCD) or subsidence district. It officially incorporates groundwater as an important component of real property, but the law expressly states that it does not apply “unless the seller has actual knowledge on the date of the notice that the real property is located” in a GCD, and does not “create any duty for any person to investigate to determine if the residential real property is located” in a GCD. So if you simply don’t know, you’re not required to find out.
If property you own is in a GCD, you have an opportunity –and some would say responsibility– to be informed and involved in its rulemaking and operations. Groundwater districts exist for the protection of shared groundwater, to ensure long-term supply. Local citizens in Texas are involved and put in countless hours to deal with groundwater issues for their districts; local input is extremely valuable to GCDs.
Rainwater harvesting is an innovative alternative water supply approach anyone can use. Rainwater harvesting captures, diverts, and stores rainwater for later use.
Texas has several laws supporting rainwater harvesting. Texas Property Code prevents a homeowner’s association from prohibiting the use of rainwater harvesting systems (Texas Property Code §202.007).
The Texas Legislature allows the exemption of part or all of the assessed value of the property on which approved water conservation initiatives, such as rainwater harvesting, are made. Individuals planning to install rainwater harvesting systems should check with their county appraisal districts for guidance on exemption from county property taxes. Also, Texas Tax Code exempts rainwater harvesting supplies from state sales tax. Please visit the Rainwater Harvesting page of our website for more information.
Your client should arrange to have the water tested at a state certified lab. These labs follow accepted procedures for testing contaminants. Make sure that the lab is certified to test for the contaminants requested. The lab will provide sampling instructions and collection bottles for taking the water sample, or in some cases, may send a professional to the home to collect the samples.
What are the costs for testing? What to test for and how much the test will cost will vary by state and lab. Testing can range from as little as $5 for an individual test parameter (like pH) to $250 or more for a combination of tests covering a wide spectrum of parameters.
Are there any other parts of the water system that need to be inspected? Yes. In addition to a well water test, the mechanical workings of the water system should also be inspected. This includes the well pump, pressure tank, water treatment system (should one exist), the condition of the area around the well, and the well’s proximity to potential contamination sources. The well itself should be inspected to ensure tight construction. Also, the well’s location should not be subject to flooding or drainage. It is important to advise your client to rely on qualified professionals to conduct the inspection. Qualified home inspectors can inspect the plumbing system, such as general age, appearance and performance of the piping, storage tank and/or other water system appliances like water filters and treatment systems. For any inspection or work on the well, it is recommended to contract with a registered well driller or pump installer.
The current homeowner may have testing and maintenance records, and well construction information (also known as a well log, a water well record, or a drilling report). Most states require that a registered well driller file a well log with the state agency or local groundwater conservation district. However, depending on the age of the well, this may not have been done or may be difficult to track down. In some cases, your client may be able to contact the individual who constructed the well or may be able to find more information by searching the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) well reports. If this information is unavailable, then your client will have to rely on the information produced by the current homeowner. Determining the well type—whether dug, driven, or drilled— can often be done by a visual inspection of the well or by a qualified home inspector. For more information on well reports, contact the District.