Ground Water Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Water Right?

All water within the State of Wyoming is the property of the State of Wyoming. Water rights granted by the State of Wyoming allow use of certain portions of the waters of the state to be used for specific purposes and are administered by their priority dates.

Do I need a permit to drill a water well? 

Yes. Any person who intends to acquire the right to beneficial use of any underground water in the state of Wyoming, shall, before commencing construction of any well or other means of obtaining underground water or performing any work in connection with construction or proposed appropriation of underground water or any manner utilizing the water for beneficial purposes, shall file with the State Engineer an application for a permit to make the appropriation (i.e., an Application for Permit to Appropriate Ground Water, or a U.W. 5 Form) and shall not proceed with any construction or work until a permit is granted by the State Engineer (W.S. 41-3-930).

Do I need a license to drill a water well? 

Yes. It is unlawful for any person to construct, alter, or rehabilitate a water well or install pumping equipment in a water well without a license as provided by W.S. 33-42-101 through 33-42-117 unless you are:

Who has to comply with the Water Well Minimum Construction Standards? 

It is the joint responsibility of the drilling and/or pump contractor(s) and well owner(s) to comply with these standards. Further, the well owner(s) must maintain a well in a condition so that it does not contribute to contamination (pollution) of the groundwater supply.

Every well constructed or repaired with a withdrawal of well casing after the adoption of these standards must comply with them. Any deviation from these standards must be approved in writing by the State Engineer or his designee.

What happens if I don’t comply with the Water Well Minimum Construction Standards? 

If compliance with these Water Well Minimum Construction Standards will not result in a well that is sufficiently sealed from either surface or subsurface contamination, then the drilling and/or pump contractor(s) and well owner(s) must use additional safeguards to protect the groundwater supply and its users.

The State Engineer is authorized and empowered on advice and consent of the Board of Control to require the abatement of any condition, or the sealing of the well, responsible for the admission of polluting materials into an underground water supply.

What if I want to construct a well differently than that allowed by the Water Well Minimum Construction Standards? 

Any waiver or variance to these Water Well Minimum Construction Standards can only be obtained by applying for the waiver or variance to the State Engineer in writing – and before the well is constructed. The waiver or variance will not result in a well that will have a detrimental effect on the groundwater resource.

Must my license be displayed on the job site? 

Yes. A copy of the license of a licensed water well drilling licensee or water well pump installation licensee overseeing the job and assuming liability for the water well drilling or water well pump installation shall be conspicuously posted at the water well drilling or water well pump installation site.

How can I tell if my well is permitted?

Perform a Water Rights Database Search using e-Permit. You'll need the legal description for your property - Township, Range, Section and Quarter/Quarter of the section. 

What does the Water Right Status on my permit mean in e-Permit?

For explanation of a Water Right Status as seen in e-Permit, click here.

What is a legal description? (And no, your address isn't enough!)

A legal description is a description of property used in legal documents, in contrast to a street address by which property is commonly known. The Public Land Survey System (PLSS) is a way of subdividing and describing land in the United States, and is used to describe well locations. 

The PLSS employs a grid system based on township, range and section numbers. Here's an example of a PLSS legal description:

You can find your legal description information: 

Can you help me find a driller?

Our office cannot recommend a driller for you. However, a list of licensed water well drilling contractors can be found here.

What if my existing well fails? And how do I relocate and/or deepen an existing well without obtaining a new permit?

If it is an unadjudicated domestic and/or stock well please visit here. 

If your water right is adjudicated or will need to be adjudicated in the future please visit here.

The process of adjudication finalizes a water right. It fixes the amount of the appropriation and the point(s) or area(s) of use. The adjudication procedure can be found in our Rules & Regulations found here.

How do I permit an existing well?

If you would like to permit an existing well, you must submit forms U.W. 5 and U.W. 6 concurrently, with the appropriate filing fee. 

How do I assign an existing permit to indicate that I am the current water right holder?

In the State of Wyoming, water rights are property rights that transfer with the sale of the property they are attached to. If it is essential that the records indicate you as the current permittee, you must submit proof that you own the land where the water right attaches. Proof can be submitted in the form of a warranty deed, quitclaim deed, etc.

How long does it take to obtain an approval?

Permit: It depends on the use for which you are applying. Domestic and/or stock use permits typically take 1 to 2 weeks, while more complicated permits can take several months. 

Statement of Completion: We currently have a 6 month to 1 year back log of these documents awaiting review. 

Extension Request: About three or four months. 

Relocate/Deepening Request: Approximately two to four weeks.

How deep do I need to drill my well?

You can research data on nearby permitted wells using our website to obtain an estimate. In instances where there are no permitted wells nearby, you may need to solicit the services of a geological consultant to assist you in designing your well. Your driller may be able to estimate the depth based on his experience and local conditions.

When is a spring considered ground water and when is it surface water?

In order for a spring to be permitted through the Ground Water Division, the following criteria must be met:

If any of the above conditions are not met, the spring must be permitted through the Surface Water Division.

How far from my property line and sewer should my well be?

The State Engineer's Office' Rules and Regulations require a minimum distance of 10 feet between the location of a well and any property line. For setback distances from sewers, septic tanks, etc. please read page 10 of our Water Well Minimum Construction Standards.

For other requirements contact the Water Quality Division of the Department of Environmental Quality (307) 777-7781.

How many acres must I own to drill a well?

There are no statewide requirements, but the setback distances outlined in the Water Well Minimum Construction Standards must be adhered to. Local ordinances may require a minimum acreage amount for the construction of a well. Please contact your local government prior to commencing construction of the well.

What are the requirements for providing GPS coordinates for my well location?

For more information, click here.

How do I complete the Statement of Completion (U.W.6) and/or Beneficial Use Form (U.W.8)?

The Statement of Completion form describes how your well was constructed. It also includes the pump information and the amount of water your well is producing. 

The Beneficial Use form indicates the date that the water was first used for its permitted purpose. It is typically submitted to our office along with the Map to Accompany Proof of Appropriation and Beneficial Use of Ground Water. 

Why do I have to get my Statement of Completion (U.W.6) and/or Beneficial Use Form (U.W.8) notarized?

When one of the forms listed above is submitted to our office after the date the permit has expired, the forms must be notarized attesting to the fact that the well was completed and/or beneficial use was established prior to the permit's expiration.

Why do I need to submit a map or have my water right adjudicated?

Adjudication is the formal process of proving beneficial use of a water right and is required for nearly every ground water right which is not strictly limited to domestic and/or stock watering uses or temporary in nature. 

For a ground water right, the adjudication process consists of three parts. Part I is the submission of the Proof of Appropriation and Beneficial Use of Ground Water Part I (U.W. 8) form. Part II is the submission of a map prepared by a Professional Land Surveyor or Professional Engineer licensed to practice in the State of Wyoming and will show the locations of the well, irrigated lands, and points of use of water, among other things.

Part III is a document created after an on site inspection of the facilities to determine compliance with the terms of the water right. The document will list the findings of the inspection, must be approved by the appropriator, and is ultimately forwarded to the Wyoming State Board of Control who will adjudicate the water right.

When is my well considered complete?

The SEO considers a well "complete" when it is possible to install a pump and pump water. A spring is considered complete when it has been developed and the water first used.

Can I write one check when I submit multiple applications?

Yes, please do.

Can you rush my application? The driller is waiting in my front yard!

No, sorry. Applications get processed in the order that they are received in our office. In almost all cases, permits can be obtained months in advance of the need to drill.

What is your water right research policy?

Requests for water rights searches are not a priority for our office. If the project needs to be completed in a timely manner, you can use our online database to research our records or hire a water rights consultant.

How will I know when my application has been approved?

You or your agent will receive a letter stating that your application has been approved. Submission of an application for permit does not mean your permit has been reviewed and approved.

Do I need a permit for a monitoring well?

No, as of March 12. 2013, the State Engineer's Office - Ground Water Division no longer requires monitoring wells to be permitted through the Division.  In general, monitoring wells are used to measure water levels and/or collect water samples for analytical purposes.  Monitoring wells are not used for production of water for beneficial use.

Must I submit a copy of our water quality test results on our well?

We do not require the water quality results; however, we encourage you to submit them with your U.W.6 form, and they will be made a part of the permanent record of your permit.

Is it a good idea to get a shared well agreement?

If you are planning on sharing a well it is always a good idea to have all parties' rights and responsibilities clearly listed. The SEO does not recommend sharing wells.

What is an aquifer?

AQUIFER - Any underground geological structure or formation having boundaries that may be ascertained or reasonably inferred, in which water stands, flows or percolates.

If I put in a new pump do I have to contact your office?

No, unless you are producing more water than was originally permitted.

How do you plug a well?

Please see: Section 5, Chapter 6 of our Water Well Minimum Construction Standards

If your well is classified as a public water supply system or was drilled under WDEQ oversight contact the Water Quality Division of the Department of Environmental Quality (307) 777-7781 for guidelines.

Who should I contact if the information in your database is incorrect?

Please contact our office at (307) 777-6163.

Who can sign water right forms as agent?

Anyone the applicant authorizes to do so. However, that person will then receive all future correspondence from the SEO.

What is a geothermal well?

A geothermal well produces ground water which has a temperature appreciably higher than that of the local average annual air temperature.

How can petroleum companies transfer wells to land owners?

The preferred approach is to have the company cancel their water rights and then have the land owner re-file on the existing well for the use of water that they contemplate. In very few cases does transfer of the ownership of a well bore result in the transfer of ownership of a water right, unless the point of use under the water right is within the well bore.

Does your office keep confidentiality?

No, we are a public office; therefore, all our records are open to the public for viewing.

How do I pick a well name?

You can pick anything you'd like that isn't vulgar or offensive. Usually people use their last names or subdivision lot numbers.

How can I make a well name change request?

Submit a letter to our office listing the permit number and the requested name change or when submitting the Statement of Completion form.

Whose responsibility is it to turn in the Statement of Completion form (U.W.6)?

It is ultimately the responsibility of the applicant to submit all of the paper work, although you may need help from your driller to properly complete the forms.

I have a well on my property. Am I the only person who can use the water from the well?

Not necessarily. Water rights attach to where they are used and in many cases there is no authorized use at the well site. There may be others who have a right to the use of the water from the well on lands that they own. However, they also need permission from the owner of the property to legally access the well. A detailed analysis of the water right associated with this well should reveal the answer to this question.

Can I apply for a permit for a well that is not located on my property?

Yes - However, approval of a permit to appropriate water from the well does not grant any right-of-way or easement to the well. Permission from the owner of the property on which the well is located will need to be secured for access to the well if the water right is to be exercised.

Does the State Engineer's Office have an involvement in the Subdivision process?

Discussion of proposed subdivision water supply reviews is located on the Ground Water Division page.