Abandoned wells are much like straws capable of delivering contaminants directly into the underground resources where water is stored. The EAA’s Abandoned Well Program helps identify and address abandoned water wells located within the aquifer system. Currently, within the jurisdictional boundary of the EAA, over 6,000 Edwards Aquifer wells reside in EAA databases. The EAA also has information on over 2,400 plugged wells within that same area. Confirmed abandoned wells comprise about 300 of the 6,000 known Edwards Aquifer wells.
Under EAA rules, wells that have been abandoned must be addressed to avoid creating a pathway for pollution into the aquifer. Older wells are particularly vulnerable since they often have been inadequately sealed or may have deteriorated well casings. Improperly plugged wells may also cause aquifer contamination.
There are two basic ways to stop the threat of contamination. A well can be capped if there are plans for using it in the future or it can be plugged and sealed permanently. EAA staff can guide owners through the process of identifying and, if necessary, properly closing a well. Programs are available for those who need financial assistance to cap or plug abandoned wells. Additionally, the EAA may provide services such as camera work to help determine the condition of a well.
Abandoned Well Initiative
A well is a direct conduit for contamination from the surface to the fresh water supply in the Edwards Aquifer.
Abandoned water wells pose a threat to our groundwater quality. Water wells that are not physically or legally capable of making beneficial withdrawals are considered abandoned. The term “deteriorated” considers the condition of the well casing and the seal between the borehole and the well casing (annular seal).
- Surface Contaminants – a well is a direct conduit for contamination from the surface to the fresh water supply in the Edwards Aquifer.
- Co-mingling of groundwater – a well that is open to more than one aquifer (improperly constructed) can transmit contaminants or lower quality water from a shallow aquifer to the Edwards Aquifer even if the surface seal is in good condition.
Texas law makes the landowner responsible for plugging abandoned wells. However, the threats that a deteriorated abandoned well poses can be significant health risks to the general population.
- In Bexar County, the EAA works with the San Antonio Water Systems (SAWS) to identify and plug abandoned wells. The EAA researches historical databases from SAWS, and the state in addition to systematic canvasing of landowners to register and inspect all Edwards wells.
- The Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) has funded a needs-based abandoned well closure assistance program (AWCAP) to assist well owners with proper plugging of wells.
- Accelerate the plugging of abandoned wells based on risk to groundwater quality and public health.
- The EAA has developed an abandoned well risk assessment tool to rank potential impacts to groundwater quality.
- To increase the rate of plugging high risk wells, the EAA needs collaborative partners across the region to help with notification, information sharing, and potential funding sources.