State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2009OR117B
Title: A Local Assessment of "Abandoned Wells" in Linn and Benton Counties
Project Type: Education
Start Date: 3/01/2009
End Date: 2/28/2010
Congressional District: 5th
Focus Categories: Education, Groundwater, Management and Planning
Keywords: abandoned wells, drinking water source protection,
Principal Investigators: Carter, Deron; Carter, Deron
Federal Funds: $ 10,254
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 22,001
Abstract: The use of groundwater for domestic and non-commercial irrigation in Oregon has steadily increased since the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 and the advancement of water well drilling technology in the 1950s. The majority of this domestic groundwater use occurs within the populated rural areas of the Willamette Basin often just outside of city water service areas within rural residential zoned land. Specifically, within the boundaries of Linn and Benton counties, density estimates suggest that 300 domestic groundwater wells are located inside a single square mile. However, the estimated numbers of rural households in these areas are 20 to 50 percent fewer than State recorded well records. The gaps between current households that frequently maintain and use single water wells, and the number of State recorded well logs, can only be explained by the presence of "abandoned wells".

Unknown, inoperative, and often unseen groundwater wells can impact water quality. These historic wells provide a direct channel to freshwater supplies, and may act as a conduit through which surface and subsurface contamination can travel and pose risks to local and regional drinking water. Water quality impacts occur where septic tank drain fields and other hazardous materials are located within the historic well capture zones, leading to pollution of water resources. Depending on the hydrogeology, soils, and land use, water quality contamination from "abandoned wells" has a range of negative impacts on groundwater and ultimately surface water quality over time.

The proposed project will locate improperly abandoned wells (defined by the State Water Resources Department) in Linn and Benton Counties by: 1) investigating, assessing, and analyzing existing Federal, State, and County land and water use records such as parcel maps, tax-lot records, hydrogeology, soil/drainage reports, and well records to determine approximate locations of abandoned wells, and 2) conducting field investigations to assess the condition of these abandoned wells. This research will be largely conducted and complied by a Linn Benton Community College (LBCC) student intern trained in technologies (i.e. Geographic Information Systems, Global Positioning Systems, magnetometer use) to effectively locate and assess abandoned wells, assisted by the Principal Investigators, to accomplish the following objectives during the project period:

Progress/Completion Report, 2009, PDF

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