The Importance of Private Well Water Testing

Why Should I Test My Well Water?

Testing your private well's water quality on a regular basis is an important part of maintaining a safe and reliable source. The test results allow you to properly address the specific problems of a water supply. This will help ensure that the water source is being properly protected from potential contamination, and that appropriate treatment is selected and operating properly.

It is important to test the suitability of your water quality for its intended use, whether it be livestock watering, chemical spraying, or drinking water. This will assist you in making informed decisions about your water and how you use it.

Regular testing is important to:

  • identify existing problems

  • ensure water is suitable for the intended use, especially if used for drinking by humans and animals

  • track changes over time

  • determine the effectiveness of a treatment system

The quality of a water source may change over time, even suddenly. Changes can go unnoticed as the water may look, smell, and taste the same.

Is My Water Safe To Drink?

The only way to tell if your drinking water is safe is by having it tested at a certified laboratory. Harmful bacteria, parasites, and viruses are invisible to the naked eye, so water which looks and tastes good may not necessarily be safe to drink. These microbes can exist in surface and groundwater supplies, and can cause immediate sickness in humans if not properly treated.

Certain chemical contaminants that are sometimes found in a water source can cause long term health problems that take years to develop. Frequent water testing will identify unsafe water and ensure that the treatment system is treating the water to a satisfactory level.

What Tests Should I Have Done?

Useful tests are available to help determine the health and safety of a water supply, and the performance of a water treatment system. Your local health department can assist in selecting tests important for assessing your drinking water.

  • Basic water potability

    Include tests for coliform bacteria, nitrates, pH, sodium, chloride, fluoride, sulphate, iron, manganese, total dissolved solids, and hardness.

  • Coliform bacteria

    Indicate the presence of microorganisms in the water that are potentially harmful to human health.

  • Nitrate

    A common contaminant found mainly in groundwater. High nitrate concentrations can be particularly dangerous for babies under six months, since nitrate interferes with the ability of blood to carry oxygen.

  • Ions

    Ions such as sodium, chloride, sulphate, iron, and manganese can impart objectionable taste or odor to water.

  • Sulfate

    Excessive amounts of sulfate can have a laxative effect or cause gastrointestinal irritation.

  • Fluoride

    Fluoride is an essential micro-nutrient, but excessive amounts can cause dental problems.

  • Total dissolved solids

    Represent the amount of inorganic substances (i.e. sodium, chloride, sulphate) that are dissolved in the water. High total dissolved solids (TDS) can reduce the palatability of water.

  • Additional testing

    Other tests may be appropriate if a particular contaminant is suspected in the water. For instance, groundwater sources are sometimes tested for arsenic, selenium, and uranium. Both surface and groundwater sources may also be tested for pesticide contamination.

How Often Should I Test My Well Water?

Private well water should be tested a minimum of once per year. Drinking water supplies obtained from shallow wells and surface water sources should be tested more frequently (i.e. seasonally), as they are more susceptible to contamination.

It is important to test your drinking water at the tap and at the source. Testing both will help you determine if your treatment system is performing correctly, and if the quality of your source water has changed.

Where Can I Get My Well Water Tested?

Contact your local or state Health and Human Services Department. They will be able to refer you to a certified laboratory in your area. In addition, many communities offer free screenings, called "Test Your Well" events. Get started In your community.

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