How to Find Out If Land Has a Producing Well

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Locating a well
Locating a well (Image: old water pump image by Michael Shake from Fotolia.com)

To find out if your land has a water, gas or oil well, you need to research all historical and current documentation on the area as well as performing a physical investigation of the actual property. This research includes consulting a geophysicist to conduct non-invasive survey to detect water, gas, and oil wells below the earth's surface, and soliciting oral histories from long time residents who boader your land about local well development.

Things You'll Need

  • Water, gas, and oil well records
  • Water, gas, and oil well maps
  • Building permits
  • Old land deeds
  • Property surveys
  • Land transfer documents
  • Old fire insurance plans
  • Aerial photographs
  • Local references on well sites
  • Non-invasive geophysical surveys

Search the Public Land Survey System (PLSS) at the National Atlas of the United States online for a legal land description complete with all water, oil, and gas well records as designated within each state and county.

Search well records
Search well records (Image: globe image by Anatoly Tiplyashin from Fotolia.com)

Search the United States Geological Survey (USGS) at for water, gas, and oil well maps on or near your land, listed by state and county.

Search well maps
Search well maps (Image: Water well, Romania image by Oren Sarid from Fotolia.com)

Search municipal and township offices and local libraries for documentation that may give further clues as to the location of producing wells such as: building permits, old land deeds, property surveys, land transfer documents, as well as both current and historical aerial photographs.

Search all physical records
Search all physical records (Image: agricultural land image by Kostyantyn Ivanyshen from Fotolia.com)

Walk your entire property and investigate for likely places that a well may exist such as: residences, dwellings, barns, livestock feeding sites and fields with irrigation as well sites are likely to be located close to the area of intended use.

Conduct a physical investigation
Conduct a physical investigation (Image: collapsing farmhouse image by Adrian Hillman from Fotolia.com)

Draw a sketch on a map of the property identifying all potential well sites which include: abandoned houses, windmill sites, outbuildings, pump houses, barns, old foundations, piles of wood or other debris, silos, feeding pens, watering troughs, .

Sketch all possible well sites
Sketch all possible well sites (Image: drawing image by Oleg Verbitsky from Fotolia.com)

Physically check all uncultivated areas such as grassy or treed areas near actively cropped areas as it may be an old water, gas, or oil well site.

Check uncultivated areas
Check uncultivated areas (Image: dry grass on a meadow image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com)

Look for evidence and debris of an old well such as: old hand pumps; piles or rock and clay; steel casings, electrical switch boxes; pump motors; rings of concrete, bricks, or wood; buried piping as evidenced by pipes sticking up out of the ground; abnormal depressions in the ground; or aquatic vegetation.

Look for debris from old wells
Look for debris from old wells (Image: rusty bolt pile image by Dmitri MIkitenko from Fotolia.com)

Other People Are Reading

Consult a geophysicist to perform three non-invasive geophysical surveys; an electromagnetic survey, and a magnetic and ground penetrating radar survey, to locate oil and gas deposits beneath the earth's surface which indicate the presence of a oil or gas producing well, without having to excavate.

Get a geophyscial survey of land
Get a geophyscial survey of land (Image: survey equipment image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com)

Talk to long time neighbors that border your land for oral histories of preexisting wells that may not be documented.

Talk to your neighbors
Talk to your neighbors (Image: houses high street broadway cotswolds worcestershi image by david hughes from Fotolia.com)

Tips & Warnings

  • A lack of vegetation and/or tar like deposits may indicate an old oil or gas well as these wells can leak methane or salty, sulphurous water that kills plants.
  • Be careful around old well sites as the material and debris may collapse.

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