Wells and water quality

About wells and groundwater catchment structures

A groundwater catchment is a structure used to draw water from aquifers (groundwater). Generally, catchments are classified as either individual (intended to supply an isolated residence) or collective (intended to supply more than 20 people). The regulations governing each of these catchment types vary according to the structure’s potential impact on human health.

Several types of structure can capture groundwater from an aquifer:

  1. Tube wells
  2. Surface wells
  3. Wellpoints
  4. Spring-water tapping
  5. Drain wells
  6. Horizontal drains

In Québec, of the wells listed above, tube wells (also called artesian wells) and surface wells are the most common. Other types of groundwater-collection structures are rare.

Test your water at least once a year!

The quality of water from artesian wells and surface wells can change over time. For example, harmful yet odourless and colourless substances can make their way into the water. That’s why you should have your well water checked yearly, and even twice yearly if possible.

The first time you have your well water tested (even for existing homes), it’s best that you ask the laboratory to check for the full list of substances recommended by the provincial government. You can then focus subsequent tests on the bacteria and other substances that had higher concentrations in the first set of samples.

Note, however, that if you’re building a new home with a new well and septic system, Québec’s ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MELCC) requires that the full analysis be done.

To install or repair a well, you must first obtain a permit to do so. You’ll need a plan from an engineer or technologist showing the location of the groundwater catchment work. Any person planning to build or redesign a groundwater catchment structure needs a certificate from the municipal officer in charge or from the MELCC.

The Municipality is responsible for approving certificate applications, except those for the following groundwater catchment projects under the authority of the MELCC:

  • The well project is designed to supply water to more than 20 people.
  • The daily capacity of the water-intake structure, regardless of its use, exceeds 75 cubic metres.
  • The project involves collecting groundwater for distribution or sale as spring water or mineral water.

Only a qualified well-digger can drill an artesian well and only a contractor with the minimum qualifications of the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ) can build a surface well, as both must complete a drilling report on a MELCC form. You therefore can’t construct your own surface well unless you have RBQ’s Level 2.2 training for non-drilled wells.

Between day 2 and day 30 following the start-up of the pumping equipment, the owner of an intake structure must have groundwater samples drawn and analyzed by an accredited laboratory. The analysis must include readings for all the following:

  • coliform bacteria (total)
  • Escherichia coli bacteria (E. coli)
  • enterococcal bacteria
  • arsenic
  • barium
  • chlorides
  • iron
  • fluoride
  • manganese
  • nitrates and nitrites
  • sodium
  • sulfates
  • total hardness based on calcium and magnesium content