top of page

Understanding Water Tables and Drilling Wells in Montana: What to Look for When Buying

If you're considering buying a piece of property in Montana, one of the most important things you need to do is figure out the water situation. This means understanding water tables, drilling wells, and knowing what to look for when purchasing land in the state. In this post, we'll cover everything you need to know.

What is a Water Table?

The water table is an important concept in hydrology and geology, as it plays a crucial role in determining the availability of groundwater. Groundwater is an essential resource that is used for drinking, irrigation, and industrial purposes, among others. The water table is not a fixed level but rather fluctuates depending on several factors.

The water table is typically highest in areas where there is a lot of rainfall, as the excess water seeps into the ground and fills up the soil and rock pores. Conversely, in areas with little rainfall, the water table may be very deep, making it difficult to access groundwater. The type of soil and rock can also affect the water table, as some types of soil and rock are more permeable than others. For example, sandstone is more permeable than shale, which means that water can flow more easily through sandstone.

The water table is not a uniform level across an entire region but rather varies depending on local conditions. This means that even within a small area, there can be significant differences in the depth of the water table. The season can also affect the water table, as it tends to be higher during the wet season and lower during the dry season.

The depth of the water table is an important factor to consider when drilling a well. If the water table is shallow, it's easier and less expensive to drill a well and access groundwater. Conversely, if the water table is deep, drilling a well can be more difficult and expensive. Additionally, the depth of the water table can affect the quality of the groundwater, as deeper water is often more mineral-rich.

Why is the Water Table Important?

The water table is a critical component of groundwater management and the availability of water resources. It is an essential resource for numerous human activities, including agriculture, industry, and municipal water supply. Understanding the importance of the water table is crucial in making informed decisions about land use, water management, and conservation efforts.

One of the primary reasons why the water table is important is that it is a significant source of groundwater. Groundwater is the water that is found underground in the soil and rock, and it is an important source of freshwater. The water table represents the upper boundary of the zone of saturation, where the soil and rock are filled with water. As such, the water table determines the amount and quality of groundwater that is available in a particular location.

Additionally, the depth of the water table can affect the quality of the groundwater. Deeper water is often more mineral-rich, which can affect its suitability for different uses. For example, groundwater with high levels of dissolved minerals can be unsuitable for drinking, but it may be suitable for irrigation or industrial use. Understanding the depth and quality of the groundwater can help ensure that it is used in the most appropriate way.

Moreover, the water table plays a crucial role in the hydrological cycle, which is the continuous movement of water between the atmosphere, land, and oceans. The water table contributes to this cycle by supplying water to streams, rivers, and lakes. This, in turn, supports a wide range of plant and animal life and helps maintain healthy ecosystems.

Drilling Wells in Montana

The depth of the water table is also a critical factor to consider when drilling a well. If the water table is shallow, it is easier to drill a well and access groundwater. In contrast, if the water table is deep, drilling a well can be more challenging and expensive. Understanding the depth of the water table is therefore essential for anyone who is looking to drill a well for personal or commercial use.

Drilling wells is a common practice in Montana, where many people rely on groundwater for their domestic and agricultural water supply. When purchasing land in Montana, it's important to understand the state's regulations for drilling wells and to work with a licensed and experienced well driller. A professional well driller will be able to assess the water table and geology of the area to determine the best location and depth for your well.

Before drilling a well in Montana, you will need to obtain a permit from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC). The permit process includes completing an application and paying a fee. You will also need to provide a legal description of the property and a description of the well location. It's important to note that the DNRC has specific requirements for well construction, including casing depth, grouting, and wellhead protection. These regulations are in place to protect the groundwater and ensure that wells are constructed properly.

Working with a licensed well driller is critical for several reasons. First, they will have the necessary equipment and expertise to drill a well safely and efficiently. They will also be familiar with the local geology and water table and will know how to properly construct the well to avoid contamination and ensure a reliable water supply. Additionally, they will be able to provide guidance on maintenance and testing to ensure that your well continues to provide clean and safe water.


The cost of drilling a well in Montana can vary depending on several factors, including the depth of the well, the geology of the area, and the type of well casing and equipment used. It's important to factor in these costs when purchasing land, as drilling a well can be a significant expense. However, having a reliable and safe water supply can be invaluable for both personal and agricultural use.

A common practice for accessing groundwater, working with a licensed well driller, and obtaining the necessary permits is essential for ensuring that the well is constructed properly and safely. The cost of drilling a well can be significant, but having a reliable and safe water supply is invaluable. Understanding the regulations and requirements for well drilling in Montana is important for anyone purchasing land and considering drilling a well.

What to Look for When Buying Property in Montana

When looking for property in Montana, there are several other factors to consider beyond the water situation. Here are some things to keep in mind when searching for the perfect piece of land:

  1. Location: Consider the location of the property in relation to amenities such as grocery stores, schools, and medical facilities. Also, consider the proximity to outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, and skiing.

  2. Zoning: Look into the zoning regulations for the area where the property is located. This will help you understand what type of development is allowed on the property and whether it meets your needs.

  3. Access: Consider the accessibility of the property. Is there a road leading to the property? Is it maintained during the winter months? This can impact the ease of accessing the property year-round.

  4. Topography: Look at the topography of the property. Is it flat or hilly? Are there steep slopes or rocky terrain? This can impact the cost of construction and the types of structures that can be built on the property.

  5. Soil quality: Soil quality is important if you plan to use the land for farming or gardening. Look at the type of soil on the property and consider having it tested for nutrient content and pH levels.

  6. Wildlife: Consider the wildlife in the area. If you're planning on hunting or fishing, make sure the property is located in a good area for these activities. If you want to avoid wildlife, make sure the property is located away from areas known for bears or other dangerous animals.

  7. Utilities: Look into the availability of utilities such as electricity, natural gas, and internet. If the property is located in a remote area, it may be more expensive to access these services.

  8. Property boundaries: Make sure you understand the property boundaries before purchasing the land. This will help you avoid disputes with neighbors and ensure that you're getting the amount of land you're paying for.

In conclusion, purchasing property in Montana requires careful consideration of several factors. By taking the time to research and evaluate the property based on location, zoning, access, topography, soil quality, wildlife, utilities, property boundaries, and water situation, you can ensure that you're making a sound investment. Working with a licensed real estate agent who is familiar with the area can also help you navigate the complexities of purchasing property in Montana. By working with a licensed well driller and choosing a property with a shallow water table, you can ensure that you'll have access to the groundwater you need.


"This site contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a commission. Thanks.”

Find top-rated agents around Montana

Search for a rental, discover the best places and where you want to live.

Free and paid listing sites, from $0-$900+.

Search current free listings across Montana.

bottom of page