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.
- Coverage of a well failure is different depending on whether the well is attached to the house or not
- Coverage depends on what caused the well to run dry and what perils are covered under the homeowners policy.
- Well coverage can sometimes be added on as an endorsement or a separate policy
When well going dry is covered by home insurance
A homeowner’s well going dry can be a devastating catastrophe. Not having access to water is something that none of us wish to experience. Alas, well failure does occur. If your get your house water from a well, it is important to know if you are covered if your well were to go dry.
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The first and most important thing to look at is what perils are covered under the home insurance policy. Is the policy a named perils policy or open perils policy? If the policy is on a named perils basis, there will typically be specifically listed perils that would allow a homeowner to be eligible for a covered claim. These perils typically include:
- Riot/civil commotion
- Damage from aircraft
- Damage from vehicles
- Falling objects
- Weight of ice/snow/sleet
- Power surge
- Accidental discharge of water
- Sudden tearing, cracking, burning, or bulging of a built-in appliance
- Volcanic eruptions
If the policy is an open perils policy there may be more instances where the well running dry would be covered, but it is still important to note that there will be explicitly excluded perils like earthquakes or floods that will not allow the homeowner to be eligible for a covered claim.
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.
If well dries up naturally
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 homeowners 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.
Differences in how the well is covered
A key piece to what extent one’s well is covered under their homeowner policy is whether the well is attached to the house or not. All home insurance policies break down the policies into separate coverage for the home’s structure (and anything attached to the home) and detached or other structures on the property. This is an important distinction because the maximum amount that may be awarded in the event of a covered claim can be vastly different under each section.
Normally, under dwelling coverage the maximum amount of coverage is the replacement cost value of the home or anything attached to it. Whereas with other structures coverage, the maximum amount that will be awarded is generally limited to 10% of the replacement cost of the dwelling.
If one’s well is attached to the home than it may be fully covered for the cost to replace it in the event of damage, but if the well is detached from the home the same amount of damage may be only partially reimbursed by the insurance company, leaving the homeowner to foot the rest of the bill.
Make sure to note and even confirm with your insurance company whether your will is defined as attached or detached from the structure of your home.
How can I make sure my well is covered?
Many insurance providers offer add-on endorsements for wells and other forms of utilities on one’s property. There may also be the opportunity to purchase separate coverage for the well. Luckily, add-on endorsements usually only cost in the range of $100 to $300 per year, making it only a slightly larger expense to the homeowner. Separate policies may be more expensive than the range above. Both may be good options as the cost to repair a well can be as little $200 and as high as $5,000 while total replacement can range even higher.
What can cause a well to run dry?
Unfortunately, two of the most common reasons why a well may run dry are also two commonly excluded perils. These two causes are normal wear and tear and earthquakes or other ground movement.
Like most everything, eventually the wear and tear over a long period of time can finally do a well in. Insurance companies essentially always exclude this peril as it is expected of that the homeowner reasonably maintain their home and any other structures such as well. A separate policy, add-on, or home warranty to include this peril would have to be purchased for one’s well to be covered in this instance.
Earthquakes or other ground movement like erosion or sinkholes are another main cause of well damage. This is particularly present in the western U.S., but can affect anyone around the country. In order to cover a well or any other part of the property a separate policy for earthquake protection would have to be purchased to include this peril.
There are a number of other causes for well going dry, some of which may be covered, some of which may not be depending on the specific policy that the homeowner possesses.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Check with you insurance agent and read through your homeowner’s policy to ensure that your well is protected and what section of coverage it is covered under. If it is not covered at all, it may be prudent to shop around for add-ons, separate policies, or a home warranty to make sure that you are covered in the even of your well going dry. This may be a lesser thought of risk by a homeowner, but can be a costly one if a dreaded catastrophe does occur.