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Testing on private wells through the Iowa’s Grants to Counties program is recorded in a Private Well Tracking System database maintained by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The database, in use since 2003, also includes information about things like well depth, age, location and construction, when it is known.
This allows well owners to keep track of their well’s history, but also allows researchers to look at the broader picture of what wells look like in Iowa and what the water quality is in those wells.
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However, that broad picture is limited. Russ Tell, a senior environmental specialist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, estimated that perhaps 10 to 15 percent of Iowa’s wells have some sort of presence in an electronic database. He said it’s hard to say how many wells exist in Iowa because many were built long before records were kept.
Since 1986, well drillers have had to file for a permit to drill private wells. The permit is recorded by the DNR’s Water Supply section so the state at least knows how many have been drilled since the mid-1980s.
Iowa Geological Survey’s GeoSam database collects well logs but does not record water quality information. [Editor’s note: This paragraph and the previous one were rewritten after initial publication to reflect corrected information provided by the Iowa Geological Survey.]
State Geologist Bob Libra said databases of private wells help researchers to better understand the aquifers and groundwater formations in Iowa.
“Much of our understanding of that geologic plumbing system comes from private wells,” Libra said.