Siting Private Wells Can Bring Job Satisfaction

Work to provide your customer with the ideal spot for their well system.

By Gary Shawver, MGWC

There have been many articles written over the years on siting private wells. All of them have had pertinent information useful and helpful to those who have this task of siting wells.

As a contractor, I often was on site many times before other contractors and I helped the landowner determine where I felt the best place was to put their well. I also offered tidbits that helped them ensure little things I saw were often overlooked got done. Siting wells with my customers was probably
the most enjoyable part of my job and my career.

Selecting the Well Site

I looked first at the obvious and mandatory parameters for well siting, which included but was not limited to the following (and may vary from regulating authority to regulating authority):

  • High elevation compared to the surrounding land features
  • Septic and drain field setback distances
  • Power line setbacks
  • Fuel tank/barrel setback
  • Road ditch
  • Body of water setbacks (ponds, lakes, streams)
  • Building setbacks
  • Property line setback
  • Well pit setback.

Next, I typically looked at access for later well service. While it is often easy to place the well where we can get the equipment in and out, it may not always be the best location for getting a pump service truck in later after the home is built (assuming new construction). So I tried to put the well within 20 feet of the driveway, but a minimum of 10 feet off the driveway so it would not get hit from either an errant driver or snow removal.

Sometimes this was in front of the home and the homeowner often didn’t want the “ugly well casing” sticking up in the yard, so I often recommended putting a fake rock over the well and doing some minor landscaping around the rock. I say “minor” so it would not get destroyed when the pump needed to be serviced.

I often spent more time discussing these issues than I did the well or how we were going to construct the well.

If possible, I also looked at which direction the snow removal would go and try to locate the well on the opposite side of the drive where the snow may be pushed or plowed so as not to create an obstacle if the pump needed to be replaced in the middle of winter.

I would also try to keep the well a minimum distance of 20 feet from the edge of the proposed home or garage. Most homeowners are under a budget, so decks and sunrooms or even future additions are not in the original construction budget or even on their radar for the future. But often these get put in later, only to have the well in the wrong place for the homeowner.

Putting the well a minimum 20 feet from the home will often allow for a future addition and I made sure to point this out to them so they understand why I want it that far away. In addition, if you don’t get the well in before the foundation or basement is installed, you certainly don’t want that 50,000-pound rig sitting next to a new foundation or large excavation in the ground.

I also suggested, if appropriate, to put the well at a 45-degree angle from the corner of a home and at a minimum distance of 20 feet. The reason for this is again the future addition or the deck. If a well is put in at a 45-degree angle from the corner of the home and an addition goes on, the addition goes in one direction or the other, not both. Therefore, the well being placed at a 45-degree angle is never in the way of an addition, regardless of what direction it may go.

In many of my jobs, the lot size or lot features made it extremely difficult to get a drill rig and tender onto a site, so it was imperative to get the well done prior to any construction starting. Many times tight quarters due to a heavily wooded lot or steep-sloping lot made a challenge to get a drill rig in at all. Therefore, I made it a priority with all customers I wanted to get on site and look the location over early in the planning process to ensure the project went smoothly for the homeowner as well as the crew.

Getting a crew to a job site and then spending hours getting a rig in or having to get permission to change the well location made for unpleasant exchanges with the customer as well as lost profit on the job. It could have all been prevented with an early siting or being on the job before any construction

To help meet your professional needs, this article covers skills and competencies found in DACUM charts for drillers and pump installers. DO refers to the drilling chart. The letter and number immediately following is the skill on the chart covered by the article. This article covers: DOA-1, 2, 3, 4, 5; DOB-1, 2 More information on DACUM and the charts are available at

I also needed to see if the well location required a dry site to get equipment in and out. If it did, I made sure the homeowner knew good weather would be required to get the equipment in and out, or a road or drive built by the homeowner to facilitate this.

Talking with the Well Owner

Good communication with the landowner was key. I often insisted I speak to the homeowner to ensure they understood the necessity of what I needed to do and why—so there were no surprises. I took a three-ring binder with site pictures to show the new homeowner as many had no idea of the size of
the drill or equipment that was going to show up on site. This made it much easier to have them understand what I needed and why.

I also suggested some little things often overlooked by contractors unless someone pointed them out. These included:

  • Putting a piece of 3- or 4-inch PVC under the footing in the location where the water line would come into the home. This facilitated getting the water line into the home without either having to dig under the footing later or drilling a hole through a basement wall later (which oftentimes is hard to get sealed properly).
  •  If the property was going to have other outbuildings where water was needed, I suggested putting a valve manifold in their utility room that would allow them to control the water from their utility room in lieu of “teeing” into the line outside without a valve or having to use a curb stop. If this was the case, I would then recommend a second 3- or 4-inch PVC be placed under the footing to facilitate placement of this line.

I also explained to the customer if the water needed to be shut off to the outbuilding for whatever reason, it would still allow water in the home without having to shut down the whole system. Also, in Iowa where the winters can be harsh and deep in snow, going outside to shut off a curb stop is not a pleasant thing. Being able to go into the utility room and simply turn a valve is much more enjoyable!

  • I also recommended a drain be put near the pressure tank (if the system was to be a conventional system) as the tank often sweated in the summertime and water would need to be flushed from the system. I recommended a stand pipe drain be placed in the vicinity of the pressure tank to facilitate a softener backwash drain.

I can’t begin to tell you how many homes were built where both of these were missing. It created a mess for the homeowner later on (water trickling across the floor from a sweating pressure tank) and extra expense to get a drain line to the water softener.

Suggesting many of these little things left the homeowner with the impression I really cared about their project and wanted to ensure they had a home that minimized problems later. I often spent more time discussing these issues than I did the well or how we were going to construct the well.

Siting a well can give you a lot of satisfaction that you are really helping the landowner to have their home be functional while eliminating headaches for them later on. Take time with your customers. They can be your best advertising for you and they are paying you for your expertise.

Gary Shawver, MGWC, is president of Shawver Well Co. Inc., an employee stock ownership plan company in Fredericksburg, Iowa. He has been in the water well industry for 40 years and is a Master Groundwater Contractor. He has served as president of the Iowa Water Well Association, the Iowa Groundwater Association, and most recently served on the NGWA Board of Directors. Shawver is semi-retired, having recently sold his business to his employees. He contributes to NGWA’s member e-publication and can be reached at