Effect Of Oil Company Seismic Surveying On Water Wells

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What Is The Effect Of Oil and Gas Seismic Surveying On Water Wells?

Can a seismic survey  by an oil company ruin your water well? The chances are slim but it can happen. The way that an oil and gas seismic survey works is that surface equipment  produces vibration, utilizing trucks with large hydraulic vibration pads. Also,  explosive charges are sometimes set off to create vibrations that reach far down into the earth. These vibration waves return to the surface where they are read by sensors placed across a wide area of land. In the same way a sonogram reads an image of the womb, an oil company seismic survey reads the underground landscape and shows geologists where pockets of oil and gas are located.

There are two types of waves that happen when an oil company seismic survey is done. The surface wave from an oil company seismic survey is most likely to affect water wells.

Surface waves from oil and gas seismic surveying travel easily through loose rock and wet sand to water wells nearby. A surface wave from an oil and gas seismic survey can affect water wells that are hand dug, uncased or have rusty casing. In 1989 the author’s water well was affected by an oil company seismic survey which was taking place about one mile away. One day after the seismic survey our water well began producing large volumes of sand and dirty water.  It was found later that the casing ( PVC)  had not been properly glued together. A slight shifting of the soil occurred where the well had not been properly cemented and this caused dirt and debris to fall to the bottom of the well. Farther away, another neighbors old water well was damaged by the seismic survey because it had never been cased below 20 feet. Several neighbors in the county joined a class action lawsuit and had the damage to their water wells from seismic surveying repaired at the surveying company’s expense.

Below is an image of a properly cased water well that has been cemented.

How Do You Protect Your Water Well From Seismic Surveying Damage?

There is really nothing you can do to protect an existing water well from damage from seismic surveying. Make sure a new well is properly cemented and the casing is lined with clay down below the cement, and that good quality PVC or steel pipe is used. Use the right screen for your type of aquifer to prevent sand from coming in. If you notice cloudy well water after a seismic survey in your area, run your well for several hours to clean it out. Have your well water tested to make sure that no new channels have opened up to surface contamination sources like septic fields. You can get cheap water testing kits online.


Seismic surveying can affect water wells, but mostly if there is already a problem with the well. In the event you have damages to your water well from seismic surveying it can be extremely hard to prove and in many cases the state inspector will find that there was some fault with your well. It is even harder to prove damage from things like debris falling down your water well or poor water quality after a seismic survey done for oil and gas exploration.  It is unfortunate that there is typically little protection to property owners from damage to water wells from seismic surveying. For more information on the subject you may contact your state water quality board. Also, if there were widespread reports of water well damage after a seismic survey in your area you may have grounds for a class action lawsuit. Contact your state attorney general or an attorney in your area that specializes in real estate law.

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