Abandoned Well Program
In recent years, abandoned wells have become a concern in Nebraska. There are thought to be 150,000 or more abandoned wells in the state, and it is estimated that 1,000 or more of those are in the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District.
There are two major concerns associated with abandoned wells. First, they pose a safety hazard to children and animals, who can fall into unsealed wells and become trapped. Second, they can channel pollutants directly into groundwater, which more than 90 percent of Nebraskans rely on for drinking water.
What Is an Abandoned Well?
According to state regulations, an abandoned well is "any water well, the use of which has been accomplished or permanently discontinued." Essentially, this means any well that is no longer used and that is not being maintained. State law requires that these wells be sealed, or "decommissioned," following Nebraska Department of Health and Human Service rules.
To encourage landowners to decommission abandoned wells, the Lower Platte North NRD will pay up to 75 percent of the cost. The work must be done by a licensed well driller to qualify. For domestic and stock wells, the district will also provide cost -share for removal of pumping equipment and other obstructions.
What is a Decommissioned Well?
A well is "decommissioned" when all of the equipment has been removed and the casing has been filled and sealed. Treated sand or gravel is the primary fill material; grout or bentonite is used to create watertight seals at the water table and the top of the well. These seals must be at least five feet long. Also, the top three feet of casing must be removed, and a seal has to be placed on top, extending beyond the casing at least one foot. The hole should be backfilled with native soil and mounded for settlement.
How Do I Apply for Cost-Share Assistance?
To apply for cost share assistance, well owners need an information packet from the NRD. The packet contains guidelines for the NRD's cost share program and a list of licensed well drillers and pump installers in the area.
The packet can be downloaded in PDF format here. If you would prefer to have a copy mailed to you, call (402) 443-4675.
To qualify for assistance, the well owner has to get a cost estimate from a licensed well driller or pump installer and submit it the NRD. An NRD staff member will come out and inspect the well and either approve or deny the cost estimate. If the estimate is approved, work can proceed on the decommissioning. When the work is completed and paid for, the well owner must submit a copy of the bill to the NRD for reimbursement. No cost share assistance can be granted unless this procedure is followed.