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Basic Information about Private Wells


There are an estimated 350,000 active wells in Oregon.

Whether or not you use a well as a potable water source, below are some frequently asked questions about private wells. Make sure to visit the other pages to get more information.

What is a private well?

A well is a hole that is drilled, bored, or dug into the ground to reach water. 
  • There are different types of wells, which include PDF icondug, PDF icondriven, PDF icondrilled, or jetted.
All four types can provide drinking water or can be used for non-potable uses such as irrigating and washing. A well is considered private or domestic if it serves no more than three households. If your water is coming from a private source, such as a well or spring, YOU are responsible for making sure that your drinking water is safe. This responsibility means that you are not only the consumer but also the regulator, inspector, maintenance manager, and accountant. Make sure to stay current on your well and use all available resources on this website.

Where does the water come from?

  • All private wells use groundwater, and Oregon is no different!
When all of the Oregon rain falls and the snow melts, the water that does not run off as surface water and has not evaporated or been absorbed by plants, is left to soak into the soil. The water then moves downward to fill cracks and other openings in the soil, sand, and rocks until it reaches a dense layer of rock. The water that is above the dense rock layer and below the ground is known as an unconfined aquifer and groundwater source. Another type of aquifer that can exist below an unconfined aquifer is a confined aquifer. A confined aquifer lies between two layers of less permeable rocks and is filled with water. The saturated zone above where confined aquifers are loacted, contains porous and permeable material that is saturated with water and constrained above and below by less permeable material (material that does not allow very much water through). Wells are constructed to reach these aquifers, which vary in depth, and provide you with water. Some wells have a pump to bring water to the surface, while others may be constructed into an aquifer that has enough naturally occurring pressure from the ground to flow water to the well.

Is the groundwater safe to drink?

This answer varies depending on your location and the construction and depth of your well
  • While public drinking water systems are protected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regulations do not apply to PDF iconprivately owned wells in Oregon unless you plan to sell your property.
Because of this, it is important to know that YOU are responsible for knowing the quality of your water. If polluted ground water is consumed from a well, it could cause you and those in your household to be sick. It is recommended that you test your water every year and keep up with a maintenance schedule.

Who do I contact if I have further questions?

For program related questions and concerns or if you are not sure who to call, contact one of the Oregon Domestic Well Safety Program Staff. You can also check our Resources section for more answers.

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