By Kari Burnett, PAg, Agricultural Program Specialist, Swift Current and Michelle Panko, Program Information Specialist, Regina
Open, abandoned wells pose an obvious threat to the safety of people and animals that can increase liability issues and even affect property values. When a well is no longer in use, or is not being properly maintained, rodents, snakes and debris can fall into the abandoned well. Abandoned wells also provide direct pathways through which surface contaminants can enter the groundwater. Due to these risks, landowners should attempt to locate and properly decommission all wells that are not in use.
Well decommissioning is an important component to Saskatchewan land management. Under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP), the Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure Program (FRWIP) continues to fund agricultural producers, Rural Municipalities (RM) and First Nations for well decommissioning.
To assist with the costs associated with well decommissioning, FRWIP rebates up to 90 per cent of eligible project costs to a maximum of $10,000. Pre-approval for all well decommissioning activities is required.
There are two types of water wells you may find on your property; bored wells and drilled wells. In addition to determining what type of well is located on your property, special care must be taken when dealing with a well that was constructed in a well pit. Well pits are confined spaces that may contain dangerous gases and low oxygen levels.
- Bored wells (large diameter wells, typically with an opening larger than a dinner plate) are usually located in areas with a high water table or limited aquifers. Bored wells may be decommissioned by a contractor or by the landowner. A bored well pre-approval worksheet must be submitted with an application for funding to ensure the worksheet calculations are correct and the proposed process will meet Water Security Agency’s (WSA) recommended standards.
- Drilled wells (small diameter wells, typically with an opening smaller than a dinner plate) are usually located in areas where the water is more than 70 feet below the surface. Drilled wells must be decommissioned by a professional well driller using specialized equipment to pump sealing material to fill the well.
Before taking steps to decommission a well, be sure to consult the WSA website for resources to assist with well decommissioning projects, including factsheets to help determine the appropriate decommissioning method and a list of registered well drillers who may be able to provide services. Applicants can also contact their local Agri-Environmental Technical Specialist, or the WSA at 306-694-3900 for assistance in completing all applications and pre-approval worksheets.
Landowners are ultimately responsible for how a well is decommissioned, whether they hire a well driller, contractor or complete the work themselves. For detailed program information, including eligibility criteria and fillable application forms, visit our CAP program pages.