Potentially 750,000 Private Water Wells Affected by Recent Hurricanes

Many private water wells were flooded by hurricanes and their aftermath during the past year, and each is a business opportunity for water well system professionals.

The recent string of hurricanes includes Matthew (North and South Carolina, October 2016), Harvey (Texas, August 2017), Irma (Florida, September 2017), and Maria (Puerto Rico, September 2017).

Some NGWA water well contractor members have reported responding to well owner needs for well recovery assistance.

In addition, in areas of private wells with known flooding potential in the spring, summer, and fall of each year — such as low-lying coastal areas, and river and creek valleys — contractors can work with state and county agencies, and local media, to alert them to their services and inform well owners of actions they can take before and after flooding to protect their groundwater supply.

Following a flood, disinfection and wellhead repair may be common needs among well owners. Well relocation and elevation may be other services offered. NGWA recommends that water well system professionals be used to assess and service the well.

Through today (October 20), 2017 has marked the seventh most active Atlantic hurricane season of record, according to statistics compiled by Phil Klotzbach, Ph.D., a Colorado State University tropical meteorologist. The Atlantic hurricane season is typically considered the period from June 1 through November 30.

Using the U.S. Census Bureau’s 1990 Household Water Supply Survey, potentially 750,000 or more private wells may have been affected by hurricane effects of flooding, high water table connection to septic systems, flood debris damage, or related incidents.

The following numbers of private wells (drilled and dug) were tabulated for counties receiving 10 or more inches of rainfall during the respective hurricanes that struck these states:

  • Texas — 215,906
  • Florida — 306,382
  • South Carolina — 92,477
  • North Carolina — 150,692
  • Total — 765,457.

Many household wells were likely affected in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, but no county census count is available for them.

To derive these numbers of wells, state county boundary maps were overlain with National Weather Service rainfall intensity maps to identify the counties and wells potentially affected, according to Chuck Job, NGWA regulatory affairs manager, who compiled this data.

“Our members helping their neighbors maintain their safe water supply presents a unique combination of supporting community health protection and recovery that is also a business opportunity,” Job said.

The December 2017 issue of NGWA’s Water Well Journal® will have an in-depth case study article by Job on lessons learned from Hurricane Matthew as well as a sidebar article on the importance of groundwater infrastructure resilience.

NGWA also has an online resources page​ for both well owners and water well system professionals to aid them in recovery following a hurricane.

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