Private Wells

In November 1990, the Common Council adopted the Well Abandonment Ordinance (MGO Section 13.21) to prevent groundwater contamination from unused, unsafe, or non-complying wells. The ordinance requires that a private well shall be properly abandoned or a permit obtained to operate the well. The requirement applies to wells located in the City of Madison or on premises served by the Madison Water Utility.

Recent changes to the ordinance clarify the responsibilities of property owners and the Water Utility relating to the permitting of wells. A service connection requirement was also enacted.  All residential buildings must be connected to municipal water. Buildings currently served by a private well are required to connect to the city water system within 90 days of the sale or transfer of the property.

Well Operation Permit

Well operation permits may be obtained by submitting a Well Operation Permit application and the $355.00 permit fee to:

Madison Water Utility
Attn: Private Wells
119 E. Olin Avenue
Madison, WI 53713

By ordinance, permits are valid for a period not to exceed five years. Permits are non transferable and become void with the sale of the property. For transfer of property, please contact the utility at (608) 266-4654 at least fourteen days prior to the transfer of the property.

Before a permit will be issued, the well must satisfy each of the following three criteria:

  1. The well and pump installation must comply with provisions of Chapter NR 812 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code,
  2. The well must produce safe water, as determined by bacteriological analysis, and
  3. There must be no cross connections between the well and the municipal water system.

After the Well Operation Permit application and permit fee have been received, an appointment will be scheduled to inspect and confirm that the installation meets state code. The first of two water samples will be collected and tested for coliform bacteria and nitrate. A second sample will be collected at least two weeks later and tested for coliform bacteria only. A permit will be issued only after two consecutive bacteriologically safe samples, free of coliform bacteria, have been collected.

If the minimum requirements are not met, the private well must be abandoned or corrections must be made to bring the well into compliance before a permit will be issued. Please refer to the Well Abandonment section for abandonment information and available reimbursement programs.

A list of licensed well drillers and pump installers is available on the Department of Natural Resources website.