Published: March 7, 2013

    Testing Your Well Water

    Time to TEST YOUR WELL & change the batteries in your smoke detectors!

    According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), over 15 million households in the United States get their water from a private wells.  The clear financial benefit of getting your water from a private well is the lack of paying a monthly water bill to a municipality or water district.  However, the responsibility to manage and protect the private well water source falls squarely on the shoulders of the property and home owners.  The CDC recommends that ALL private wells are tested at least annually, generally in the spring time, to ensure that the water remains suitable for drinking, cooking and bathing needs.  When was the last time you had your well water tested?

    Many private well owners rest comfortably under false assumptions that their well water cannot be contaminated from manmade and environmental factors that occur outside the boundaries of their property.  This is a very dangerous way of thinking!   It is important for well owners to understand that their water is coming from an underground aquifer (basically an underground river) that likely crosses many property boundary lines.  It is not uncommon for underground aquifers to be miles in length.   In fact, one of the largest known aquifers in the world is in the United States.  The Ogallala Aquifer is approximately 174,000 square miles in size and runs through parts of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and into Texas.

    So what does this mean to you?  It means that ALL wells are susceptible to contamination from circumstances that occur well beyond the control of private well owners and the boundaries of their private property.  Because of this, it is imperative to test your well water annually.  The CDC recommends that all wells be tested for a minimum of five WQIs (Water Quality Indicators) every year.  These WQIs are Total Coliform, Fecal Coliform, pH, Nitrates and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds).  In addition, well owners should maintain annual contact with their local health department to inquire about know regional contaminants that should be tested for.  Also, anytime a private well owner notices a change in water color, taste, odor or effects, they should immediately stop drinking and bathing in the water until the source of change is identified and evaluated.

    The location of the well on the property can also play an important factor in maintaining the health of the water and preventing problems.  Septic tanks should never be any closer than 50 feet from the well point.  Livestock should also be kept 50 feet away from the well area.  It is a great idea to keep all petroleum storage tanks, manure storage compounds, fertilizer storage containers a minimum of 100 feet from the well at all times.

    Keep in mind these two basic rules of thumb.  First, when contaminants show up in your well water they don’t coming knocking at the door.  Next, you are most likely downstream from other wells, septic systems, leach fields and sources of contamination.  “Contaminants in water can lead to serious and long term health issues, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems, and neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people whose immune systems are compromised because of AIDS, chemotherapy, or transplant medications, may be especially susceptible to illness from some contaminants.” (CDC)

    So, who should test your well?  The CDC recommends that you consult your state and/or local health department for certified laboratories in your area that have the capability of providing you with a wide array of testing.  A water test from a certified and independent lab, as opposed to a company that sells water filtration equipment, will go a long way in boosting consumer confidence as to what is in your water and what is not.  For more information you can contact the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791.

    • www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/private/wells/diseases.html
    • www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/private/wells/testing.html
    • www.uswaternews.com/archives/arcsupply/6worllarg2.html
    • www.ogallala.ars.usda.gov