In this article, you’ll learn whether it’s legal to construct a water well in Florida including the legal details.
As someone that has done some well contracts in Florida, I am well aware of the procedures for drilling a water well and the legalities. The construction of water wells in Florida is highly regulated. However, the intensity of regulations and permit acquisition varies tremendously in the five counties. Knowing how to acquire a permit and under what conditions you can construct a well in a non-polluted aquifer without a license helps to avoid run-ins with the law.
In general, you must comply with Florida Water Management Districts (FWMD) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) requirements and obtain a license to drill your own water well in Florida.
- Some counties in Florida will allow you to construct a well without a license if it’s less than 2 Inches in diameter, but you need an FWMD’s greenlight.
- Wells larger than 2 Inches in diameter require a permit to drill.
I will cover more detail below.
Water Wells Construction Florida
The construction of water wells is associated with groundwater pollution and other environmental problems. In that vein, various federal environmental protection statutes regulate the construction of wells. However, Federal Law doesn’t control the construction of water wells in Florida.
Some problems related to the construction of water wells include the seepage of hazardous waste products from a contaminated well into an aquifer. There will be a Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) investigation in such a situation.
So, briefly, you must contact the Florida Water Management Districts (FWMD) for formalities before drilling a water well. It’s because, at the state level, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) highlights the Florida Statutes through chapter 373 of the constitution and Section 373.308.
This has relinquished most of its statutory authority to control the construction of water wells to the FWMD. Therefore, it will be illegal to drill a water well without the consent of FWMD, which is under the canopy of the FDEP.
These statutes and rules have been developed to ensure the safety and quality of water extracted from the wells. The quality and quantity of aquifer or groundwater are also safeguarded.
The FWMD also monitors the amount of water obtained from a well, they have set specific requirements depending on the water well diameter and consumptive use permits. You may find detailed information on consumptive use permits in FE608, Consumptive Use.
Water Well Construction Requirements
As aforementioned, you must clear it with respective authorities (particularly FWMD) before considering water well construction. Otherwise, you will be breaching the law.
The statutes only permit licensed contractors to construct, repair, or abandon water wells.
The FWMD oversees testing and licensing procedures for water well contractors. However, there are some exceptions to the requirement to hire a licensed contractor. Individuals may be allowed to excavate wells if they comply with the local and state statutes.
So, no permit is required for the following two cases (refer to section 373.326(2), Florida Statutes):
Case 1: Drilling Two-Inch Water Well for Domestic Purposes
Homeowners are allowed to dig 2-inch water well in their homes for domestic uses, farming, for example.
The homeowners or renters may still be obligated to get a permit and submit a detailed report of the water well completion to Florida Water Management District. To be certain whether you need a permit or not for a 2-inch diameter water well, contact your local authorities (county government or UF/IFAS Extension office).
Case 2: If The Fwmd Rules out Possibilities of Unnecessary Hardships for The Applicant
Compliance with the law regarding water well construction in Florida may account for unnecessary hardships for the applicant. In such a case, the FWMD will permit a water well contractor or an individual to drill a well without a license.
Still, you have to qualify for the undue hardship exemption. Write a formal request to the governing Water Management District. The FWMD will assess your report jointly with the FDEP before you get a green light.
Several counties in Florida have weaved local ordinances with stricter requirements for water well construction permits or license acquisition. For instance, in Manatee County, property owners must acquire a water well construction license for any water well, even for those wells less than 2 inches in diameter.
Wells Greater Than 2 Inches in Diameter
Water wells with three-inch, four-inch, and so on diameters must be constructed by licensed contractors. Homeowners also need a permit to construct such wells.
The five FWMDs in Florida might have varying permit requirements. So, ensure you contact your FWMD for precise information regarding water well construction. Luckily, you can visit the FWMD’s official website for more information.
The primary exceptions for construction, repair, and abandonment permits or license fall under the following scopes:
Wells were constructed before 1972
You don’t need to obtain a construction permit retroactively for wells constructed before 1972. But you still need a repair or abandonment permit if the FDEP flags yours well as hazardous to groundwater sources.
Temporary Operation of Dewatering Equipment
You don’t require a construction permit to operate equipment for dewatering.
A construction permit is unnecessary before construction, repair, or abandonment of wells exempted by Chapter 373, Florida Statutes, Sections 373.303(7) & 373.326 (includes oils wells, natural gas wells, mineral Wells, and mining & quarrying wells).
Siting Water Wells
The FWMD also dictates where to situate or construct a water well. So, you must forward your potential water well site to the FWMD for approval.
Pre-approval of water well sites prevents the possibility of drilling a well in an area of existing groundwater contamination or pollution. The FDEP continually updates and publishes maps of polluted sections of the aquifer. You can request this information from your FWMD. (1)
The FWMD and health departments also prescribe the minimum distance that water wells must be constructed from contaminated aquifers. Additionally, the FWMD advises applicants on the minimum water well placement distances from drain fields, chemical storage areas, septic tanks, and other contaminated things and facilities.
On that note, consulting with the FWMD on where to construct your well is vital. That way, you will avert water poisoning and diseases associated with drinking contaminated water.
Also, note that if pesticides are applied recklessly, they can poison the aquifer and consequently cause widespread pollution of the groundwater. So, farmers need to understand the regulations on water well construction. (2)
Take a look at some of our related articles below.
- How long does it take to drill a well
- Where are water hammer arrestors required
- How to test water heater element without multimeter
(1) groundwater contamination – https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/
(2) widespread pollution – https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/
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