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Rural Water Runs Deep: What North Carolinians Need to Know
April 26, 2021

Rural Water Runs Deep: What North Carolinians Need to Know

by The CE Shop Team

Don’t Get Caught in Hot Water

With novel remote work positions and an increased demand for space, more and more people are looking to settle in North Carolina’s lauded rural communities by purchasing land and building their dream homes. However, before you sell a picturesque rural plot right outside of Mayberry (Mount Airy), you might want to familiarize yourself with some of the challenges of building on a rural parcel, namely well water and septic systems.

Well Water Systems in North Carolina


When it comes to drilling a water well in North Carolina, it’s not as simple as hiring a drilling rig and striking water. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees local environmental health and water quality, there are a few things to consider before drilling a well:

  • Each county is required to have programs for permitting, inspecting, and testing of private drinking water wells. Before drilling, your client will have to obtain a permit from the county.
  • Permit costs vary from county to county and differ depending on the type of well you intend to drill. Information on the different types of wells, permitting requirements, and permitting contacts can be found on the North Carolina state government website.
  • Just because a property has an old well doesn’t mean it can be used. The well will have to meet modern construction and water quality standards before it can be used. If construction or repairs are required, permits are needed.

Lastly, while there are ways to prepare your well for major weather occurrences such as a hurricane or flood, your client should have their water quality checked after each event.

If you have a client seriously considering purchasing land to build or want to purchase a rural property with an existing well, the North Carolina State Website lists certified well drillers who can likely provide estimates and technical information.

Septic Systems in North Carolina

Septically speaking, the “Septic System Owner's Guide” published by North Carolina State University denotes that there are roughly 2 million septic systems in the state. Of course, there are different types of septic systems used to dispose of wastewater. If your client is considering a property with an existing septic system, it’s wise to try and figure out what kind of septic system the property has and whether or not it has been maintained. Like drilling wells, there are a few things that need to be considered when constructing or improving a septic system:

  • Since failing or faulty septic systems can create a public health hazard, a series of permits are required to construct a septic system.
  • To construct or repair a system with a pump, the State of North Carolina requires that the work be performed by a state-certified subsurface system operator. If your client is at that stage, they can obtain a list of certified contractors from the NC Water Pollution Control System Certification Commission at 919.707.9089.
  • Each septic system has a drain field where wastewater is eventually discharged. Since the ‘80s, however, North Carolina law requires that landowners who choose to build on their land designate a second area where a drain field could be built. That secondary spot is to be protected from excavation, house additions, garages, outbuildings, swimming pool construction, or any other soil disturbance activities.

What Real Estate Agents Should Know About Septic Systems

The North Carolina Real Estate Commission reports that septic systems can limit the number of bedrooms a real estate agent is allowed to advertise. Per the NCREC publication, the county in which the property is located should have septic information. If no septic information can be found and the home appears to have five bedrooms, but other county information says the home has four or fewer bedrooms, this could indicate that the home was limited to its septic system in the past. That information should be disclosed to your client, that is, if you want to avoid a crappy situation.

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