Well Water

The Tennessee Water Well Act of 1963 requires all persons drilling a water well to be licensed. A water well is any well for the production of water for beneficial use such as domestic use, irrigation, livestock watering, etc. A person installing a pump or water treatment device on a water well must also be licensed.

The Well Driller Supervision Program licenses well drillers, pump setters, and water treatment device installers in the State. Licensed individuals must develop wells and install equipment according to standards, which are designed to protect the resource and insure consumers of a safe and reliable structure. The duties of the Commissioner are given in TCA, Section 69-10-106, and include, among other things, the authority to:

  • License drillers, pump installers, and water treatment device installers
  • Inspect well construction
  • Investigate complaints
  • Promulgate Rules relative to well construction

Tennessee requires that all water well drillers, pump and water treatment device installers be licensed by the State.

A list of licensed drillers and installers is available under the Additional Recourses drop-down menu at the bottom of this page.

The following questions should be asked of a water well driller and/or a pump or water treatment device installer:

>Will you provide a written contract?
>Does your insurance cover damages that might occur to the property or other liabilities?
>Can you provide your license certificate and a list of references?
>Will you itemize what the well system will cost; including the registration fee paid to the State of Tennessee?
>How will the well be constructed?

-size of the borehole
-type of cap
-well casing (steel, plastic)
-how is the well disinfected
-type of screen, if required
-how is the well developed
-how is the well backfilled and sealed
-well report furnished

Anyone who manages or supervises the digging, drilling, or redrilling of a well or anyone who installs, or repairs well pumps or filters and treatment devices must obtain a license to work in Tennessee.

Well Driller or Installer License Page

Quantity and availability of ground water varies considerably across the State. A licensed driller and/or a representative of the Division of Water Resources can help determine the prospects for ground water in your area. Locate the well a safe distance from potential sources of contamination. The following distances of separation are required by regulation:

Potential Sources of Contamination Minimum Distances
Sewage Lagoons; Leaching Pits 200 feet
Animal Pens; Feed Lots 100 feet
Sludge; Septage Disposal Sites 100 feet
Pit Privies 75 feet
Sewer Lines 50 feet
Septic Tanks; Drain Fields 50 feet
House To Septic Tank Connections (Tightline) 10 feet

The well site should not be subject to flooding. If site conditions make it necessary to construct a well in an area subject to flooding, the watertight casing should extend at least two (2) feet above the 100-year flood elevation. The well should be at least five (5) feet away from any overhanging rooftops or power lines. The well should not be constructed in pits, basements or in areas where future construction may take place. The ground should slope away from the top of the well. For a well on a hillside, the uphill side of the well should be designed to prevent runoff from entering the well. The well should not be located closer than ten (10) feet from a property line.

Although the type and depth of well construction varies with location, there are several important things to be aware of concerning the construction of a well:

  • The outside diameter of most private, domestic water wells is 6 5/8 inches in Middle and East TN, and 4 inches in West TN.
  • New black or galvanized steel casing is required when drilling and completing a well in bedrock. Most wells in Middle and East Tennessee require steel casing.
  • Wells developed in sand or other loose material may be cased with plastic pipe approved by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) with a minimum stress design rating Standard Dimension Ratio (SDR) 26.
  • Watertight casing should extend at least six (6) inches above ground level; a minimum of two (2) feet for areas subject to flooding.
  • Wells constructed in bedrock should have watertight casing down to nineteen (19) feet or five (5) feet into the top of bedrock, whichever is greater.
  • Wells constructed in unconsolidated material such as sand or gravel should have watertight casing down to nineteen (19) feet or to the top of the aquifer, whichever is greater.
  • The well should be sealed at the top of the casing with a suitable cap or sanitary seal.
  • The outside of the well casing should be backfilled with an impervious material such as cement grout or bentonite clay, from a minimum of three (3) feet to ten (10) feet below land surface to prevent surface water from entering the well. The remaining backfill material may consist of bentonite, cement, drill cuttings or a mix of cuttings and bentonite. The backfill should be free of cracks or any evidence of collapse.
  • The size of the pump and storage tank needed depends upon the yield of the well and the number of persons in the household. Generally, a well which yields 3-5 gallons per minute or more will adequately serve a household of four (4) to six (6) people.
  • Underground pipes leading from the well should be fitted with a pitless adaptor, which provides a watertight, frost-free connection.
  • The driller is required to "develop" the well after the drilling is completed to remove any debris, sediment or cuttings from the well.
  • Following development of the well, the driller should disinfect the well to kill any bacteria which may have been introduced into the well during drilling and/or pump installation.
  • The driller is required to send a Tennessee Water Well Drillers Report (CN-0825) to the Division of Water Resources. The report must give the name and address of the owner, the location of the well, the date of completion and a description of the well’s construction. The well owner should request a copy of this report from the driller. This report may be valuable to you or subsequent owners in the event of any problem with the well.
  • The well casing should never be cut off by the owner after the well is completed. Not only is the well I.D. tag lost, but the well becomes more susceptible to surface water and bacterial contamination.
  • The use and/or storage of chemicals, including pesticides, gasoline, paint thinner, solvents, etc., should not take place within a twenty (20) ft. radius of the well.

Bacteria can enter a well from the handling of the pump and pipe as well as from the drilling equipment. A strong chlorine solution will kill most bacteria in a well if allowed to remain for at least twelve (12) hours. The Water Well Construction standards require both the driller and pump installer to disinfect the well.

To disinfect the well, pour into the well one (1) gallon of chlorine bleach or one (1) ounce HTH super chlorinated solution for every fifty (50) feet of well depth.

Once the chlorine is in the well, the faucets in the home should run until a chlorine odor is noticed. The water is then turned off and allowed to remain in the well and pipes for at least twelve (12) hours.

After twelve (12) hours, the water should be pumped out of the well until the chlorine odor is gone. Do not run heavily chlorinated wastewater through a septic tank system or discharge into a surface water body.

The disinfection procedure should be repeated each time the well, pump or pipes are serviced.

Pumps must be installed by a licensed installer. Selection of the correct pump is based in part upon the diameter of the well casing, well depth, static water level, well yield, friction loss, vertical lift, drawdown, and number of water fixtures or residents in the home. The installer will use these figures to determine the appropriate size and type pump for your water well. Installation must follow National Electric Code (NEC) Standards. All pumps must be grounded from the pump motor frame to the service entrance per NEC Section 250-43 (k). Also, any pump placed in metal casing must be grounded to the casing above land surface, either by welding the ground wire or using a crimp or set screw.

In addition, proper electrical cables should be selected. Type "TW" wire, Submersible Pump Cable, should never be buried directly in the ground unless it is placed in conduit and buried eighteen (18) inches deep. Type "UF" and Type "USE" cable may be directly buried twenty-four (24) inches deep. Consult the NEC for more information.

It is strongly recommended that private water supplies be tested annually for bacteria. Coliform bacteria are indicator organisms used to assess the potential for disease causing-bacteria in well water. If your well tests positive for bacteria, disinfect the well and have it retested. If bacteria persist in the well, it may be necessary to install some type of permanent disinfection equipment, such as a chlorinator or ultraviolet light. Please visit the  Laboratory Certification Program’s website  to obtain a list of private labs certified for drinking water.  There are two buttons at the bottom of the page that will allow you to access the lists.

Existing wells no longer in service or those that may pose a threat to ground water should undergo proper abandonment (well closure). The Division requires that these wells be closed by a licensed water well driller.

Licensed well drillers are required to perform well abandonments in accordance with state standards. Any newly drilled well in which the casing has not been installed or from which the casing has been removed must also undergo proper abandonment.

The State of Tennessee does not have requirements for sampling and analysis of private water supplies.  Since there are no state requirements, you first need to ask the entity requiring the sampling (e.g. your lender), what parameters the well water must be sampled and analyzed for to satisfy their requirements.

If your lender requires only total coliform sampling, please reach out to your local health department or complete the TDEC Service Request Application to have your water tested.  If you have questions about Total Coliform sampling and analysis, please contact Brad Harris (Brad.Harris@TN.gov) or John Newberry (John.Newberry@TN.gov) with the Division of Water Resources.

If your lender is requiring a more robust suite of sampling parameters, you will need to reach out to a private laboratory or consulting service to have the sampling and analysis performed.  A list of laboratories certified for drinking water analysis can be found by visiting the Laboratory Certification Program’s website.  There are two buttons at the bottom of the page that will allow you to access the lists.

The State of Tennessee does not have requirements for sampling and analysis of private water supplies. Since there are no state requirements, you first need to ask the entity requiring the sampling (e.g. the lender), what parameters the well water must be sampled and analyzed for to satisfy their requirements. For more information, see question #1 above.

Information regarding private water wells is public record.  TDEC has created a web-mapping application to assist private wells owners, well drilling professionals and researchers in obtaining private water well data.  A link to the water well web application can be found under the “Additional Resources” tab on this page.  If you need a copy of the Driller’s Report for a private water well, please contact your TDEC field office at 1-888-891-TDEC (8332) and give them the Driller Tag number to look up the report for your well.

There may be records in the State’s water well database that do not contain reliable locational information, specifically with respect to the reported latitude and longitude.  The database includes entries reported as far back as the 1920s and the accuracy of locational information depends on the type of instruments (e.g., topographic map, address, GPS, etc.) used to record/report the location as well as the diligence of the reporting entity. 

If your well is mapped incorrectly, please notify the Division by e-mailing Richard.Rogers@TN.gov.  If possible, please include the Driller Tag number, State Well Tag number, the address where the well is located, and accurate coordinates of the well head.  You will likely be contacted by e-mail or phone to confirm the information.

Exporting a state-wide dataset is very time consuming so we have established access to a state-wide dataset using a GIS REST Service.  The URL for that rest service is shown below.  Please use this URL to add the data set to your GIS project.  At that point you may query the data in your GIS and export a local copy of the data necessary to achieve your study goals.

URL: https://tdeconline.tn.gov/arcgis/rest/services/WLTS_Well_Locations_PUBLIC/FeatureServer

Alternatively, and more time consuming, the state-wide dataset can be downloaded one county at a time using the query and download options provided in the water well web application.

A list of licensed well drillers, pump installers and treatment system installers can be accessed under the Additional Resources tab at the bottom of this page.

TDEC does not have any programs to assist with funding or financing of private water supplies, however, there are programs available. 

Please visit these pages to learn about well financing options.

Water Systems Council

Rural Community Assistance Partnership

Water Well Trust


There is a wide variety of common treatment problems with the use of groundwater in Tennessee.  Common water quality problems that might be mitigated with treatment devices include:

  • Bacteria
  • Iron & Iron reducing bacteria
  • Sulfur odor
  • “Hard” water
  • Sediment

These problems are highly dependent upon the geologic conditions in the vicinity of your well.  In addition to well drillers and pump installers, TDEC regulates licensure of water treatment system installers in Tennessee.  A Treatment system installers license is required of an individual who performs maintenance on or installs a water treatment device on a private water supply.  Licensees are required to obtain continuing education each year to stay current with the changing technology in private water treatment devices and systems.  We recommend that you reach out to a licensed individual with experience in your area and explain your concerns to them so that they may recommend and install proper treatment devices that will address your specific concerns.

This Page Last Updated: April 18, 2024 at 3:34 PM