by Merri Ann Simonson
Coldwell Banker San Juan Islands Inc
Unlike liquor, your water source in San Juan County is not guaranteed and must be acquired and cared for.
When you first consider purchasing an unimproved parcel of land you should condition your purchase upon a satisfactory water source. The days of clients purchasing land without the water source determined are long gone. Further, if one hopes to use institutional financing, the lender will require that the water source be acceptable in quality and quantity. Lenders will also require a valid septic system permit and access to an electrical power provider.
The majority of non-platted parcels in the San Juan Islands are serviced by individual wells. Most subdivisions offer access to a community water system, and some urban areas offer public systems.
Types of water sources in the islands include:
• Individual Private wells
• Shared well; 2 users. These systems should have a recorded shared well agreement with easements for maintenance and access. Depending on the volume, individual holding tanks may be required.
• Group B water system; 3-14 users. In the late 1990s, the County began managing the approval process for this group of water system. The County requires that the system have a maintenance agreement, access easements, a protection zone and regular testing with an assigned purveyor. The County requests the purveyor to submit a bacteria and nitrate tests annually to remain in “good standing”. Prior to late 1990s, these were unregulated systems and some of the older systems have yet to be brought up to proper standards. Hence, the importance of confirming with the County that the system is in “good standing”. These systems typically have a base monthly charge plus a fee based on your use and surcharge for heavy use.
• Group A water system; 15 plus users. These systems are larger providers such as Roche Harbor Water or the Town of Friday Harbor. The system’s reports are reviewed by the State and must comply with the State’s requirements for maintenance, testing and notifications. The hook-up fee in the town of Friday Harbor is currently $13,700 and the fee for Roche Harbor Water is $9,000-$13,000. These hook-up fees do not include the installation cost for connection to the main sewer lines or storm water management systems. Again, these systems have a base monthly charge plus a use fee.
Drilling a New Well
If purchaser is considering buying unimproved land, it is prudent to ask for the seller to drill the well, in a mutually agreed upon location, at seller’s expense. Depending on the purchase contract, if the well is satisfactory to the purchaser, the seller may be reimbursed for all, part or none of the well drilling expense.
You need to get a quote from the well driller on the timing. They all have wait lists at this time and currently, our well driller is out 12 months subject to the type of access to the location of the proposed well. Some land can only be accessed during the dry seasons and the well rigs are very heavy. The non-ferry serviced islands always present a challenge.
Well drilling runs about $22.00-$25.00 per foot and the average depth of wells on the island is approximately 400 feet. The cost to drill the well is in the range of $20,000-$30,000 including the pump, pressure tank, water lines, power, and filters. You should add $15,000-$20,000 for the modest well house and $12,000-$15,000 if a water storage system with electrical, trenching and pumping is needed.
If the proposed well site is within 1000 feet of the shoreline, an entire list of regulations must be complied with which will add to the cost of your well installation. If the proposed site is within 50 feet of a lot line or public road, variances may be required from the neighboring properties.
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