Skip directly to searchSkip directly to the site navigationSkip directly to the page's main content

Water Well Resources



About 20 percent of the population in New Mexico (or an estimated 400,000 people) receives their water from a private well. If you are among that 20 percent, the following information has been compiled to support you to maintain access to safe drinking water:
As a well owner, you are responsible for:
  • Learning about and maintaining private well water quality.
  • Testing for constituents of concern. It is recommended, at a minimum, that you test for:
    • coliform bacteria (including E. coli) and nitrates/nitrites, yearly.
    • arsenic, electrical conductivity/total dissolved solids, fluoride, iron, lead, manganese, pH, sulfate, and uranium, periodically.
    • any other contaminants of concern based on potential sources of contamination and/or history of the area, periodically.
    • The Colorado State University Water Quality Interpretation Tool can help you interpret water test results.
  • Well maintenance
  • Record keeping
    • Maintain your well records and keep track of the history of your well.
    • The New Mexico Office of the State Engineer (NMOSE) is your prime source to get some history of your well. Here you can learn about applying for well permits, drilling logs, and water rights, registering your well or filing a change of ownership.
    • Wells built after June 30, 2017 will have a well identification (ID) tag. This is a metal tag with a 5-digit Identifier and a QR code.
    • If your well is built before June 30th, 2017, you may also sign up for the free Well ID tag program, while supplies last. A well ID tag is especially useful during change of ownership and is an easy way to assess and maintain well records. Learn more about well ID tags.
    • When new wells are constructed, contractors will file a well log with the state (NMOSE). A well log is a document with information on the history of the well and well area (surrounding ground). Learn more about well logs from the National Groundwater Association.
  • Protecting your water source through:
    • Testing and (if needed) treating private well drinking water.
    • Well maintenance.
    • Septic system maintenance.
    • Practicing water conservation.
    • Keeping possible contamination a safe distance from the well.
  • Take the free class on water wells
As a well owner you can take many actions to help protect your water source including: learning about water quality and, if needed improving it through treatment; through water conservation; well maintenance, and, if applicable; septic maintenance.

An important step to protect your water supply is to keep potential contamination at a safe distance from a well, as illustrated in the graphic below.


Protect your well water by keeping potential contamination sources at a safe distance:
  • at least 50 feet- existing wells (including on another property).
  • at least 100 feet- septic tanks, leach fields, silos septic, and livestock yards.
  • at least 200 feet- manure storage, pesticide and fertilizer storage or handling, and petroleum tanks.
  • greater than 200 feet- manure stacks.
As a well owner, you are responsible for learning about and maintaining your private well. Know the history of your well and keep records related to well construction, testing, and maintenance.
It is recommended that you regularly (at least annually) visually inspect your well. This includes: examining the area above the ground surface over the well. Check the:
When new wells are constructed, contractors will file a well log with the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer. A well log is a document with information on the history of the well and well area (surrounding ground). This document contains important information about a well and every well owner should keep a copy of their well log. This type of information will be useful to well maintenance professionals.
Well logs typically contain:
  • A well reference number
  • Owner and location
  • Construction details, including contractor information
  • Any initial testing information
  • Geologic information
Learn more about well logs from the National Groundwater Association.
Maintain your well records and keep track of the history of your well.
  • The New Mexico Office of the State Engineer (NMOSE) is your prime source to get some history of your well. Here you can learn about applying for well permits, drilling logs, and water rights, registering your well or filing a change of ownership.
  • Wells built after June 30, 2017 will have a well identification (ID) tag. This is a metal tag with a 5-digit Identifier and a QR code.
  • If your well is built before June 30th, 2017, you may also sign up for the free Well ID tag program, while supplies last. A well ID tag is especially useful during change of ownership and is an easy way to assess and maintain well records. Learn more about well ID tags.

If you are purchasing a home with a well it is important to update the records with the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer (NMOSE). Registering a well or filing a change of ownership for a newly purchased well (change of ownership for a water right) is done through NMOSE. Visit NMOSE for more information and forms.

A real estate professional should be able to provide information about a property, which includes the drinking water source (private well) and sewage treatment system (septic system). This includes informing a prospective home buyer on the basics and importance of maintaining their private well water and septic systems.

It is beneficial for real estate brokers or property salespersons to know the basics about water quality, private well ownership, and private wells testing. In general, private well water quality is unregulated in New Mexico. Important exceptions include: Bernalillo County, foster or adoptive homes with a private well, and some mortgage lenders have well water testing requirements. See section below for more information.
In general, private well water quality is unregulated in New Mexico. Some mortgage lenders have test requirements for buying a home with a well. Additionally, state law requires well testing for foster or adoptive homes with a private well and Bernalillo County has testing requirements for new or modified wells. See below for more detail.
  • Mortgage lender testing requirements:
Most mortgage lenders require testing for bacteria, nitrate, and lead. Some lenders (including VA and FHA) follow US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing requirements when no state or local testing requirements exist.
Learn more about Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loan private water well testing guidance.
Learn more about VA home loans.
Learn more about Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans and private wells.
Learn more about FHA loans.
Learn more about private well testing.
  • New Mexico Children Youth and Families (CYFD) Adoptive and Foster home private well testing requirements:
    • A well water certificate from the New Mexico Environment Department shall be provided for initial licensure, and at five-year intervals. Well water testing instructions and an application form are available on the Environment Department website. Bottled water may be used for cooking and drinking if the water source is assessed to be unsuitable.
    • Learn more about the well testing ordinance.
Visit the New Mexico Environment Department Drinking Water Bureau or call (505) 476-8620 or (877) 654-8720 to learn more.
  • Bernalillo County testing requirements:
    • Any new or modified well must be tested and meet water quality standards for parameters as determined by the county before final approval will be granted. Water sample collection, analysis, and analytical costs are the responsibility of the owner. The analysis should include, but is not limited to, the following: total coliform, total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN), ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chlorine, bicarbonate, total dissolved solids, pH, and sulfate. Additional water sampling parameters may be required based on site conditions.
      Learn more about the well testing ordinance.
Learn more about private wells in Bernalillo County.
A well permit, to drill a new private well in New Mexico will be issued by the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer. Learn more about the NMOSE permitting process.

Local permitting requirements may exist, check with your city and county.

Learn more about well permits for Bernalillo County.
If you have a private well, it is likely you also have a septic system. An estimated 20% of houses in the US are served by septic systems. Maintaining your septic system is associated with your well because it could impact your drinking water quality or water source if not well managed. Learn more about private wells and septic systems.

There are regulations for home liquid waste systems (septic systems). You can learn about those and get tips from the New Mexico Environment Department's Liquid Waste Program.
Well repair, replacement or other issues related to water quality such as septic system repair or water treatment systems can be costly. Some national loan or grant programs do exist to help well owners with these expenses. Eligibility varies by program, see program sites for more details.
Loans and Grants for Individuals

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Individual Water & Wastewater Grants

  • This program provides funds to households in an area recognized as a Colonia before October 1, 1989.
  • These grants are only available in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The Colonia must be located in a rural, unincorporated area.
  • Grants for updating water, wastewater and plumping infrastructure.
  • Apply through the NM USDA Rural Development state office.

Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) Household Water Well System (HWWS) Loan Program

  • RCAC provides environmental assistance in 11 western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
  • Low interest loans for construction, refurbishing, or replacing individual water well systems.

USDA Single Family Housing Repair Loans and Grants

  • Low interest loans for repair or improvement of homes or to remove health and safety hazards.
  • Grants for income eligible homeowners 62 or older.

Grants for Non-profits and Tribes

USDA Household Water Well System Program

  • This program helps qualified nonprofits and tribes create a revolving loan fund to increase access to clean, reliable water for households in eligible rural areas by providing grants for non-profit organizations to provide low-interest loans to home owners.
  • The fund may be used to construct, refurbish, or service individually-owned household water well systems. Terms for the loans include one percent fixed interest rate, 20-year maximum term, and an $11,000 maximum loan per household.
  • Homeowners seeking a loan should contact the NM USDA Rural Development state office for details on nonprofits participating in this program.

Emergency Response Funding

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Individual Disaster Assistance

  • Provides recovery support after a major disaster.

Disaster events seen in New Mexico including wildfire, floods, and extreme weather, can damage or contaminate wells. Taking steps to protect your well before a disaster or weather event can greatly reduce the potential for damage and contamination. Learn more about private wells and disasters.

If your well has been contaminated or you suspect that it may be contaminated, do not drink the water. You need to properly disinfect or treat the water and have it tested before drinking/using the water. Drink clean water from another source (e.g. bottled water) until you are sure the water from your well is safe to drink again.
Community water systems have drought plans and management strategies (access to alternative safe water resources) to enable them to maintain supply for their customers during drought conditions.

Private well owners, who maintain their own water supply, do not have these resources or infrastructure. Twenty percent of New Mexican's rely on private well water as their primary drinking water source.

Wells whose depth to water is near the water table, are at increased risk of running dry during droughts (or when groundwater pumping, or mining, increases). During drought, when not being replenish by precipitation, the water table falls and may fall below the level of a well completion depth.

If you live in a drought prone area and have a private well, follow these tips to help protect your well and respond should drought occur:
  • Maintaining your private well will help it withstand the stress of drought.
  • Be familiar with and document (photograph) well components should they need replacement.
  • Drought can affect water quality by increasing the concentration groundwater constituents (chemicals) and changing how groundwater and surface water interact. The best way to determine if any changes in water quality have occurred is to test your well water regularly.
  • Practice water conservation. Some suggestions include:
    • Check for and repair leaking plumbing fixtures.
    • Install water saving plumbing fixtures.
    • Install drip irrigation, water-saving landscaping.
    • Install rain sensors or a rainwater harvesting system.
    • Spread out your water use over the day (dishwasher, washing machine, shower).
    • Wash full loads in the dishwasher and the washing machine.
    • Water lawns and plants during evening or early morning to reduce evaporation.
    • Take shorter showers .

Learn more about protecting your private well before and after drought.


Groundwater is, simply put, water that is naturally underground. It differs from surface water, which is typically lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and streams. Private wells use groundwater. Groundwater, which underlies the surface of Earth, is sometimes close to the surface, for example, springs, and in other cases found at great depth. Often when speaking about groundwater, we use the term aquifer. This means the water is stored in and moves slowly through permeable rocks. Groundwater is the water that fills cracks and other openings in beds of rocks and sand.

In New Mexico we rely on the monsoon season rains and winter snows to provide us with water for growing gardens and drinking water. These precipitation sources provide a way to "recharge" the aquifers or replenish the water that is pumped out of wells across the state. However, due to New Mexico's mountainous terrain and arid environment, some of this water is lost to runoff and evaporation. A small portion though soaks into the earth and overtime migrates down through the soils (unsaturated zone) until it reaches the water table and enters the aquifer.

The aquifer in many cases is made of a porous rock, like sandstone. Therefore, groundwater is simply the water that fills all the tiny pore spaces in the aquifer or "saturated zone".
The NM EPHT website is supported by Cooperative Agreement Number, 6 NUE1EH001354 (previously, 5 U38EH000949), funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC or do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Sat, 21 September 2019 18:34:28 from New Mexico EPHT Tracking Public Web site: https://nmtracking.org/ ".

Content updated: Fri, 30 Aug 2019 08:37:29 MDT