Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Smoky Mountain Water Wells but were Afraid to Ask!

Unlike more urban communities, many Smoky Mountain homes still have water supplied by individual underground wells. The fact is that only a relatively small (but ever growing) portion of our area is served by municipal utility water. This is rarely a problem as wells here in the Gatlinburg and surrounding area usually produce clear and good tasting water for significantly less cost than utility water once the one-time expense of drilling the well is covered. In fact, while there are certainly exceptions, our area is known for exceptionally clean and good tasting well water. More than one brand of bottled water is actually drawn from underground sources right here in the Smokies. What can go wrong you ask? Unfortunately, plenty!

In those relatively rare cases where a well’s iron or sulfur content causes the water to be unsuitable, a water filtration system can generally be installed to remedy the situation. Water filtration can be as basic as a very inexpensive cotton string filter that will remove visible iron and sediment to sophisticated systems that can cost well over a thousand dollars.

Another potential trouble spot can occur in the case of a “shared” well. In many cases, a developer or builder pays to have a well drilled when a home is built. The cost of having the well drilled currently averages around $14 per foot once the pump, storage tank, and control modules are accounted for. The situation that most frequently occurs is that the well driller hits a good vein of suitable underground water with a more than adequate supply. In an attempt to reduce expense and because they don’t want to roll the dice again by drilling a second well for the house they intend to build next door, the decision is made to share the well they have just completed. A well can successfully be shared by as many as 3 or more homes if the supply is sufficient and the installation is well executed. This is not a problem IF the physical installation and the legal well sharing agreement are properly executed.

While the plumbing required to share a well is pretty straightforward and rarely causes problems, we run into problems fairly frequently where the implementation of the mandatory shared well legal agreement is NOT properly completed. In fact, it was a sticking point more than once during transactions last year which caused me to want to write about this topic. Somehow, people manage to purchase a home that features a shared well and not obtain a shared well agreement. This can have the potential for disaster as I have personally witnessed at least twice this year. Without a properly executed and recorded shared well agreement, there is no protection for the owner(s) who rely on their neighbor for water because the shared well is not located on their own parcel. Without that recorded agreement, the party that owns the land on which the well is located is not required to provide water to the neighbor and can in fact cut off the supply if there is any sort of disagreement. Furthermore, if the well owner allows their electricity to be shutoff, any other home on the system is not going to have water. In the current foreclosure environment that causes homes to have their electricity disconnected, this is what is most likely to cause a problem. Without that crucial shared well agreement, there is no assurance that the well will be kept operational. You can easily see the potential recipe for disaster.

The answer is of course to understand how any home that you are considering purchasing obtains its water. Shared wells must be disclosed and if the installation and the legal documentation is done properly really aren’t a bad thing. In fact, what it means is that in the unlikely event that the well ever requires servicing, you will have one or more partners to help bear that burden. ALWAYS check with your agent and the title company to make sure that if a shared well situation exists, you are properly protected. For professional representation in any real estate transaction in our Gatlinburg area, please contact us!


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