GROUNDWATER--Disposition of Ground-Water Observation Wells

United States Department of the Interior
RESTON, VA. 22092

In Reply Refer To:	January 15, 1987
WGS-Mail Stop 405

Subject:	GROUNDWATER--Disposition of Ground-Water Observation Wells

The purpose of this memorandum is to establish a procedure and policy to address the 
following question:

"When the Geological Survey constructs a well solely for use as an observation well, and 
the well has served its purpose, is there authority for making such a well available to 
the owner of the land on which the well is constructed?"

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) often raises this question when a request is received 
from the owner of the land, because making the well available to the landowner is 
advantageous to the Government in terms of cost. In many States abandoned wells must, by 
law, have the casing cut off below the land surface, the hole filled with concrete, and 
the ground above it compacted. Also, pulling the casing out of the ground is an expensive 
process which normally exceeds its salvage value.

The procedure and policy will be as follows:

1. Each observation well which a USGS District or Project Office is considering for 
release to the owner of the land will be reviewed on its merits by the appropriate USGS 
Water Resources Division Regional Office. The District will submit a written justification 
to the Region stating why the well should be released and include the cost of 
rehabilitating the well site and the value of the casing materials which could be 

2. The Regional Office will determine--based on the justification submitted by the 
District--if it is to the advantage of the Government to make the well available to the 

3. The Regional Office will have the administrative discretion to decide if the 
observation well should be made available to the landowner. Written approval or 
disapproval will be issued by the Regional Office.

4. No observation well which has been in existence less than 5 years from the time of 
drilling will be made available to the landowner. This provision would be enforced to 
eliminate any appearance of impropriety in drilling the well on the landowner's property.

5. The landowner would be required to sign an agreement (sample attached) freeing the U.S. 
Government from any liability. This would include any liability for the construction of 
the well, the condition of the well at time of transfer, and for any injury resulting from 
the well being left unplugged. In addition, if the landowner chooses to abandon the well, 
he would assume full responsibility for proper disposition of the well according to state 
or county laws.

6. Under no circumstances will a USGS employee suggest to a landowner that he assume 
responsibility for a USGS observation well. The request should originate from the 
landowner when notified of the USGS intent to abandon the observation well.

7.		Information describing the physical properties of the well such as
location, depth, casing description, screened interval, and the condition in
which the well was left (capped, open, covered) shall be furnished to the

An opinion on the procedure and policy described above was requested from the Office of 
the Solicitor. Copies of the opinion can be obtained from the Chief, Branch of Operational 
Support, if desired.

This procedure and policy does not apply to requests for USGS observation wells by any 
party other than the owner of the land on which the well is constructed.

William B. Mann IV

Assistant Chief Hydrologist for Operations


WRD		Distribution: A, B, S, FO, PO

This memorandum does not supersede any previous WRD memorandum

The U.S. Geological Survey, hereinafter referred to as "the Government",
agrees to turn over the observation well, hereinafter referred to as "the
well", located at 

Lat. _________

(other location descriptions)________________________________

to ___________________________________, 

hereinafter referred to as "the landowner",

(name of landowner) giving the landowner all rights to the well.

The landowner hereby agrees to assume all responsibility for the above described well. The 
landowner agrees to accept the well "as is" and agrees not to hold the Government 
responsible in any way for any construction deficiencies or repairs which may be required 
on the well to make it meet any specified standard--safety, governmental, or otherwise. 
The landowner agrees to accept the responsibility for any and all liens, fines, damages, 
penalties, forfeitures or judgements in any manner accruing by use or existence of the 
well. The landowner also agrees to accept liability for any and all injuries or damage to 
property of whatsoever nature or kind arising out of the continued existence of the well. 
The landowner agrees to hold harmless the Government to any and all Tort claims resulting 
from the use or existence of the well. Should the landowner choose to abandon the well, 
the landowner agrees to assume full responsibility for the proper disposition of the well 
in accordance with state or county laws.

Signature U.S. Geological Survey 	Date

Signature Landowner	                Date

Notary Seal