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Decommissioning Water Wells, The Right Choice

posted Jun 2, 2016, 8:47 AM by Alice Davis   [ updated Jun 2, 2016, 9:00 AM ]

By Shawna Green, Lower Qu’Appelle Watershed Stewards Technical

Many farms have old wells that are no longer in use, they may have been dug many years ago and are no longer functioning or providing the water needed to sustain agricultural needs. If these wells are not being properly maintained, risk of contamination from the surface to the aquifer underground increases. Surface water and contaminates have direct access through these wells allowing a potential contamination source.  Without maintenance there is an increased risk of the casing becoming weak and caving in.  This instability could cause the surrounding ground to sink or collapse creating a safety concern for the landowner; as people, animals and equipment have been know to fall into old wells. Therefore it is extremely important to take the time to decommission these wells and do it properly.

Decommissioning a well can be an easy and a cost effective way to not only make the area safe, but to also protect the water supply.  The aquifer that wells are tapped into are often the main water source for household and on farm use.  Often it is the same aquifer other producers in the area use.  Treatment to a contaminated water source can be costly to the landowner and in some cases, potentially affecting the property value.

To decommission a well properly a seal is created using bentonite to eliminate the risk of contamination.  Bentonite is a low permeable and swelling compound that creates a barrier or seal within the well.  It is important to determine the type of well you have, a small diameter ­ drilled well or a large diameter ­ bored well.  A Large diameter bored well can often be decommissioned by following the recommendations from Water Security Agency (/  Small diameter well drilled well needs to be decommissioned by a qualified contractor with specialized equipment.  Proper decommissioning also secures the ground around the well to leave the area safe.

Well decommissioning through the Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure Program (FRWIP) has funding available to qualifying producers.  A properly decommissioned well, is rebated back to the producer at 90%*.  Decommissioning your abandoned water well protects your water supply, keeps your family safe and reduces your liability, it is the right choice.

To find out more information on decommissioning and available funding contact the Lower Qu’Appelle Watershed Stewards Inc. Agri­ Environmental Group Plan Technicians, Shawna Green at 306-­434­-8690 or Bonnie Mandziak at 306-­795­-7279.

 *some conditions apply to be eligible for funding

 Photo’s Courtesy of Bonnie Mandziak                                                      

                                                                                    Bentonite Plug