Homeowners considering well water drilling and installation need to know if their property is in a flood plain, also known as a FEMA 100-year “flood hazard” zone. This designation does not necessarily mean that your property is prone to flooding. In fact, it could be due to outdated or flat-out wrong information. You can ask FEMA to reassess your property, but that can take time. Homeowners who need or want to install a well right away may not want to wait.
Each county has a flood plain ordinance. This is required in order for those within the county to get flood insurance, or even get FEMA benefits, should a flood occur. The ordinance places construction limits on properties in a flood plain, and especially on properties with a floodway (river channel). These limitations are designed to protect homeowners from severe damage during a natural disaster. Permits may be required for certain types of construction, including the drilling of wells. FEMA also has technical guidelines specifically for wells in flood plains.
Each county has different rules, and a good well driller will know the ins and outs of local permitting. Drillers may need to work with a local flood plain administrator, and they are often the middleman between the state Department of Environment Protection and other government entities. Unsurprisingly, all of these permissions, permits and contingencies can get confusing for homeowners who simply want to get their well installed. This is why it is so important to choose a well technician who is knowledgeable about local ordinances.
Many times, a simple trip to the county or city courthouse for a chat with the administrator can clear up a lot of questions. The first step is often finding out exactly where the flood plain is, if it even still exists at all. City and county records often offer a ballpark figure, but a surveyor must be brought in to tell you exactly where it starts and ends. Usually, but not always, the city/county records are exaggerated and conservative.
Why does it matter if your well is in a flood plain? For the most part, it usually doesn’t (although it certainly does from a legal standpoint). Most designations are based on old information. However, should your property flood and impact your well, your drinking water can get contaminated. This is particularly true if you live near farms where animal waste can travel with flood water.
All homeowners should know if they live in or near a flood plain, and this goes double for well owners. Protecting the integrity of your drinking water is a top priority. In Utah, call Mike Zimmerman Well Service for all your well drilling and installation needs.