Water Well Standards


Developing the Standards

The Department of Water Resources began formulating standards for the construction of water wells and the destruction of abandoned wells shortly after the enactment of Water Code Section 231 in 1949. The Department made a comprehensive survey of existing laws and regulations governing well construction and abandonment in the then 47 other states and in the counties and cities of California. This survey culminated in the publication of "Water Quality Investigations Report No. 9 Abstracts of Laws and Recommendations Concerning Water Well Construction and Sealing in the United States", April 1955. Although the report is over 25 years old, it remains a useful source of background information. The Department has continued to keep informed of practices in other states, particularly those in which standards have been established, and changes in the status of California county well ordinances.

Concurrently the Department assembled and evaluated information on the development of well standards in California. The information was grouped into three broad categories: (1) groundwater geology and hydrology, (2) Impairment of groundwater quality, and (3) water well construction practices. The latter included suggestions and recommendations on methods and materials from representatives of State and federal agencies, steel companies, casing fabricators, pump manufacturers, water well drilling contractors, and other organizations and individuals concerned with the development and use of groundwater.

This activity culminated in the publication of the standards in their initial draft form, "Recommended Minimum Well Construction and Sealing Standards for Protection of Groundwater Quality State of California", Bulletin 74, Preliminary Edition, July 1962. In March and April 1965, the Department conducted a series of public hearings in conjunction with the Department of Health Services at six cities in the State. Discussion and comments received centered on two areas: (1) the standards recommended, and (2) means of implementation. Most of those concerned felt that the standards, as written, were too general. Accordingly, the Department decided to redraft them.

Following a review of all prior material and comments received during the period 1963 through 1966, the Department published an interim edition of the chapter containing the standards in February 1967. Two public hearings on the interim edition were held in May 1967, and written comments were received as part of the record. These were also joint hearings with the Department of Health Services.

The eight hearings produced correspondence and an extensive file of transcripts containing information, opinions, and suggestions, which would fill several volumes, if published.

In February 1968 the standards were issued in their current form.

For the most part, the standards can be applied anywhere in the State under practically any conditions. The procedures for closing-off the avenues of access, properly locating a well, destroying an abandoned well, etc., in Del Norte County, at the northwest corner of California, are similar to those in western Fresno County. Similarly, sealing-off the water in one or more zones or aquifers, to prevent its migration to other zones or aquifers, may be just as desirable for a well in western Merced County as it is at one on the Oxnard plain of Ventura County although, perhaps, for different reasons. However, in specific areas of the State it has been necessary to define the existing geologic and hydrologic conditions and the circumstances under which these standards should be applied. For example, it is helpful to describe the areal and vertical extent of geologic materials where sealing is needed to prevent the migration of poor quality water.

Thus, the Department maintained a concurrent and subsequent activity consisting of studies and reports describing the application of standards in designated areas of California. And, in addition to Bulletin 74, the Department issued a number of reports containing well standards for those areas (see Table 1).Note 1


(Listed by DWR Bulletin Number)

Area of Study DWR
Publication Date1, 2

Mendocino County
Alameda County
Del Norte County
Central, Hollywood, and
Santa Monica Basins
(Los Angeles County)
San Joaquin
Fresno County
Arroyo Grande Basin
(San Luis Obispo County)
Shasta County
Ventura County
West Coast Basin
(Los Angeles County)
Coachella Valley Area
(Riverside County)
November 1958
Supplement 8/7/693
P.E. December 1962
F.E.June 1964
Supplement 10/20/693
P.E. March 1964
F.E. August 1966
October 1965
Final Supplement August 1968
March 1965
Final Supplement July 1969
September 1968
July 1971
August 1968
August 1968
August 1962
Supplement 8/16/683
August 1979

1. Publications issued prior to June 1971 are out-of-print. Copies may be inspected at Department's district offices, county offices administering well ordinances, and local libraries.
2. P.E. - Preliminary Edition; F.E. - Final Edition.
3. Following the enactment of Sections 13800 through 13806 of the Water Code in 1967 supplemental memoranda reports summarizing the material presented in these publications and recommending the establishment of standards in these areas were issued.
4. Unnumbered memorandum report.

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