Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Magnetic surveys for locating abandoned wells

January 1, 1995

Abandoned and unrecorded wells may act as conduits for the contamination of groundwater supplies by oil field brines and other pollutants. The casings of abandoned wells eventually develop leaks, which, if not properly plugged, can allow pollutants to reach freshwater aquifers that supply drinking water. Sources of pollutants include brine ponds, landfill sites, agricultural activities, industrial activities, illegal disposal sites, or accidental spills. The problem is particularly acute in regions where there are old petroleum fields or where water wells have been extensively used for agricultural irrigation. Even urban areas can contain wells that were abandoned and concealed during development. Carefully designed ground magnetic or aeromagnetic surveys can be used to locate abandoned wells by mapping the magnetic disturbances or "anomalies" produced by their steel well casings. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) can, at the request of other Federal, State, or local agencies, conduct, process, and interpret such surveys, or it can aid in the design and monitoring of contracts for such surveys.

Publication Year 1995
Title Magnetic surveys for locating abandoned wells
DOI 10.3133/fs16395
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Fact Sheet
Series Number 163-95
Index ID fs16395
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center