Short answer: Homeowners insurance will not cover a dry well unless it results from another issue that is covered under your insurance policy, like a natural disaster.
Wells in the United States
Approximately 43 million people in the United States rely on private wells as their source of drinking water, according to the United States Geological Survey. This means that 15% of the U.S. population is responsible for maintaining their own well systems and monitoring water quality. Private wells are often the sole source of water for people living in many rural areas and maintaining them is the homeowner’s responsibility.
Surprisingly, Prince George’s County in Maryland has a great number of people relying on private wells – over 277,000. Erie County in New York is a close second, with almost 265,000 people relying on private wells for access to water. Because private wells are typically tied to homeownership and properties, does homeowner’s insurance include a dry well?
Insurance and Dry Wells
Sometimes, wells dry up. This happens when the original water source has dried up because the resource has been used up. This can also happen in regions that may be affected by drought or wildfires. Once a water source has dried up, there are generally only two options. Either the homeowner can move the well to a different location, or they can fill the ground with their own water supply. Both options are typically too expensive for the average person and can still result in a long period of time without any water.
Boring a new well can be particularly cost depending on the conditions of your local environment and groundwater. Although state agencies can provide some guidance on proper well construction for your geographic area, many recommend hiring a water system professional who can mitigate issues that might be unique to your property or proximity to water.
One reason why homeowner’s insurance does not cover dry wells is that dry wells are treated similarly to clogged drains. Homeowners are expected to perform routine maintenance, repairs, and home updates. Maintaining and, when necessary, replacing the well is the responsibility of the homeowner and is incidental to homeownership.
Dry Well Due to Peril
Generally, insurance will only cover a dry well if it ran dry because of an issue that is identified under your homeowner’s insurance policy. For example, if the natural spring your water was originally sourced from ran dry due to a wildfire, you may be able to file a claim requesting financial assistance to replace your water source. Insurance may make exceptions for “named perils” such as a fire, but it can also include volcanic activity, a collapsed sinkhole, or explosive events.
With the growing effects of climate change, it is unclear whether insurance companies will consider changing general policy terms. More and more people in the U.S. are affected by consequences of climate change, which means that for individuals who rely on private wells for drinking water, their lives may be in danger if a disaster eliminates their access to water.
Signs of a Dry Well
If your home relies on a natural spring water source, you should be keeping a close eye on potential drought conditions or natural disasters if your geographic area is prone to any in particular (like California and wildfires, for example). Some signs of a dry well include muddy or unclear water, a different taste in the water, and spigots that sputter with air when you go to turn them on.
If you notice these signs in your water, you should immediately assess your well water depth to determine if it is running dry. Catching the issue sooner rather than later may grant you enough time to determine what to do next – and to save up some personal funds to do so.
Access to water is as vital as access to healthy foods and clean air. However, the risk some homeowners take on by maintaining and utilizing a private well for their source of water is not covered by home insurance. As a result, it is critically important to plan ahead and determine when – rather than if – you will be replacing your well (or moving to a different location where the water source has not dried up).
It is important to review your insurance policy carefully to understand what is covered and what is not. If you have any questions, or if you want to learn about what your options may be in terms of extending your coverage, you should speak to your insurance representative immediately.