South Carolina's Flagship University

Regulatory Pathfinder
for Coastal Development in South Carolina

Residential Ground Water- Individual Residential Wells

Although permits for use of groundwater are typically required under state law, no such permit is needed for residential groundwater use, because it is considered a necessary component of a habitable structure. In fact, it need not be shown on the application for the habitable structure. S.C. Code Regs. 30-15(F)(5). The single family residence or household (assuming noncommercial use) is exempt from the Groundwater Use and Reporting Act under S.C. CODE ANN. Section 49-5-70 (A)(4).

However, there are state regulations that set minimum standards for the construction, maintenance and operation of wells, including individual residential wells. The applicable regulations depend on what sort of well you have decided to install - a drilled or bored well. As is true of all of environmental regulation, particular words that have specific meanings under the law so be sure to follow the links to all the important information, including the definitions section. This page contains the general rules for all residential wells using groundwater as their source.

All residential groundwater wells must comply with the following:

  1. At the time of construction every well must be accessible for cleaning, treatment, repair, inspection, and other attention as necessary (S.C. Code Regs. 61-71(E)(3));
  2. Unless the landowner is constructing or abandoning the well on their own property for their own personal use all individual residential and irrigation wells must be constructed or abandoned by licensed well drillers. The license must be from the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (LLR);
  3. Each well driller must also be bonded per LLR requirements.
  4. The well owner must allow DHEC to access their well at reasonable times so DHEC can perform inspections;
  5. It is the responsibility of the well driller to make sure the permit has been issued and all permit conditions are complied with;
  6. There must be a Notice of Intent (NOI) submitted prior to construction and a copy must be kept on the drilling site at all times. This NOI is your State permit;

Any well falls in one of the following categories:

  1. Type I- open hole in bedrock aquifers;
  2. Type II- screened with natural filter in unconsolidated aquifers;
  3. Type III- screened with artificial filter in unconsolidated aquifers;
  4. Type IV- open hole in consolidated limestone aquifers;
  5. Type V- bored or dug well having a large diameter.

S.C. Code Regs. 61-71 (B)(32), available here.

All individual residential wells must be located at the following minimum distances from the following potential sources of contamination:

  1. Sewer Lines - 20 feet
  2. Lakes, streams, surface-water bodies - 50 feet
  3. Septic tank/tile fields - 50 feet
  4. Animal feedlots, barns, stables - 50 feet
  5. Waste disposal- land application sites - 100 feet
  6. Waste treatment lagoons - 100 feet
  7. Chemical, herbicide, pesticide and petroleum storage or handling sites - 100 feet
  8. Landfills - 100 feet
  9. Hazardous waste landfills/surface impoundments - 100 feet
  10. Radioactive waste landfills - 100 feet
  11. Property lines and buildings - 5 feet

S.C. Code Regs. 61-71(E)(1), available here.

If the following conditions exist the well's distance from a potential source of contamination must be changed after consultation with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC):

  1. Type I and IV wells that have less than 20 feet of casing;
  2. Type I wells with fractured rock at the surface;
  3. Type II or III wells without confining layers between the screened zone(s) and the ground surface;
  4. Type IV wells with no confining layers overlying the open-hole limestone or the limestone is at a shallow depth;
  5. Type V wells if they are in under water-table conditions.

S.C. Code Regs. 61-71(E)(2), available here.

Click here for information on specific rules for individual residential and irrigation wells.

Click here for information on rules for bored individual residential and irrigation wells. Note that the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has a very helpful website on residential wells available here.

Request for variances must be directed to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) in writing and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Only requests for an alternative construction method that ensures equivalent protection of groundwater and public health when the normal regulations cannot be met will be considered. Any variance can be revoked by DHEC as DHEC deems appropriate. S.C. Code Regs. 61-71 (C), available here.

If you plan on drilling your own well please click here for a direct link on DHEC's website about Residential Wells about drilling yourself.

You can find the a lot of links about residential wells on DHEC's website at this location.

Last Updated October 29, 2010


This project was supported through a generous grant from the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium. The principal investigator is Professor Kim Diana Connolly at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Two law students, Keith Bartlett and Valerie Cochran, provided invaluable work toward project completion. Technical assistance with web design was provided by USC School of Law webmaster Tobias Brasier. Broken links should be reported to lawweb@law.sc.edu. This website is NOT intended as legal advice, and particularized analysis by professionals should be sought wherever appropriate.