Photograph of a drilled well casing How to Find the Well
Methods for locating a water well, dug, drilled, or driven point

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How to locate a water well or well casing: this article describes how to find a water well at a property. We describe a series of steps and methods that can help find the well when its location is otherwise not obvious. Finding the well without having to dig up the property like a madman can be important when well or well piping, pump, or foot valve repairs are needed or when we need to sanitize or shock the well.

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Water Well Location - how to find the well

Pitless adapter sketch (C) InspectApediaReader Question:

3/24/2014 Ted said:

How do i know if my foot valve is bad on a two line system. and how do I find the well opening.

Reply: How to Find a Water Well:


If your well and pump system keeps losing prime that's a good clue that there may be a bad foot valve (or a leak in well piping).

I can't know where your well is located, but there are some common approaches starting by noticing where well piping exits the building, inspecting the site for places we would NOT put a well (like near a septic field), contacting well drillers to ask who drilled the well (often they have records of its location), inspecting the site for obvious clues (depressions, well casing visible above ground), and ultimately, using equipment to follow well piping.

In addition to some practical suggestions I'll make in a moment, here are some related "how to find" articles that give useful techniques for finding a component that is not in plain sight. All of these "how do I find ..." topics use similar thinking and approaches, combining a search for records or sketches, an inspection of the site for reasonable locations where the well or septic component or buried tank might be located, and if necessary the use of equipment or even modest excavation.

  • At BURIED OIL TANKS, FINDING we describe how to find evidence of buried oil storage tanks (USTs) by visual inspection.
  • At SEPTIC TANK, HOW TO FIND we discuss how to find the septic tank - but similar methods might be used to locate a well whose casing or top is buried and not immediately obvious. If you prefer to watch a video on how we figure out where a septic tank could or could not be located, see SEPTIC VIDEOS.

Photograph of a drilled well casing Photograph of a drilled well casing

  1. Look on the property for a well casing, cap, or well pit. If inspecting the property itself does not disclose an above-ground, visible well casing and cap then you may have an older well whose casing top was left buried. Look for a steel casing like the one in our photo at above left.

    At an older property the casing may be at ground level (photo at above right) or even buried completely, or as we show at our SEPTIC VIDEOS the well casing may above ground but not obvious because it's hiding in a clump of bushes.
  2. Look for locations where a well would be likely to be placed: continue by looking in the building for a sketch of well location - often left in a basement or crawl area over or close to the pressure tank and pump/controls, or sometimes even sketched on a ceiling joist or wall where the well pipe exits the building.

    Often in older neighborhoods the same well driller installed all of the local wells and knew about where the aquifer ran at an accessible depth. For example we sometimes find that along a suburban street all of the local water wells are more or less in a line from property to property.

    See WELL CLEARANCE DISTANCES for examples of areas where you would not expect to find the well. This data can help focus a search for the actual well location.

    If your well is a jetted or driven point well (DRIVEN POINT WELLS and JETTED WELLS) you probably won't find a 6" diameter steel casing but rather a much smaller 1-2" diameter galvanized iron pipe.
  3. Call local well drillers: f that doesn't come up with a sketch of well location, continue by calling all of the well drillers in your area to ask if one of them installed the well. Attempting to locate a buried well pit cover in New York I called local well drillers. Even though the home had been built in 1924 I found that a local well driller actually recalled the event and could immediately tell me where the well was located - in that case from memory but more often from records.
  4. Pipe tracing equipment: well piping can often be traced using pipe locating equipment. Your local plumbers and some well drillers have electronic equipment that can trace piping. Some people swear by dowsers who use a willow-switch to "follow the water pipe" but in my own research I've not found scholarly studies that support that surmise.
  5. Dig if dig we must: A last resort is a series of small test excavations to follow the well line.

Suggested citation for this web page

WELL DEPTH, HOW TO MEASURE at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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