drinking water is a
top priority for families. But homeowners who rely solely on well water
can be open to certain risks.
If your water is provided by a city or county source, it isn't
necessary to have it tested unless an in-house contamination is
suspected. Public and municipal water supplies are routinely tested and
must meet Environmental Protection Agency standards.
Well water can become contaminated from various sources and can make
homeowners sick. Since there are no federal or state monitoring
regulations for private wells, it is the homeowner's responsibility to
make sure their well water is safe to drink.
Well water may not be safe to drink if...
isn't just for
- you have
frequent and unexplained illnesses in your
- your neighbors
find toxic chemicals in their well
- you are
concerned about the lead pipes or soldering
in your home.
- you detect a
difference in the taste, smell or color
of the water.
- you are buying a
new home with a well that has been
out of use.
- it comes from an
improperly sealed or unprotected
well, spring or cistern.
- you spill
fertilizers, pesticides, oil, gasoline or
other toxic substances on the ground in or near the well.
Poor water quality not only affects drinking water. It can also affect
a variety of household functions. Contaminated water used for cooking
may affect your health, while an excess of certain minerals can hamper
cleaning tasks in laundry or bathroom.
single test can provide
information on all possible contaminants.
tests determine if water is free of
disease-causing bacteria, but there are many types of tests that cover
a variety of bacteria. The most common bacteriological test checks for
E. coli and total coliform bacteria, which can come from fecal
- Mineral tests
can determine if the mineral content is
high enough to affect either health or the water's aesthetic or
cleaning capacities. This test often pinpoints calcium, magnesium,
manganese, iron, copper and zinc. An abundance of these minerals can
cause hard water, plumbing and laundry stains or bad odors.
- Pesticide and
chemical tests are generally performed
only if there is reason to believe a specific contaminant has entered
the water system, such as pesticides.
It is important to regularly inspect your well for sources of
Other potential problems can exist with the slab, the well screen, the
building covering the well or landscaping.
If you suspect a problem with your well water, contact a licensed well
driller to inspect the well and have it tested for bacteria. This test
should be done at least
once a year, especially after well water disinfections.
Well testing can be done through most local Cooperative Extension
A basic test, which tests for pH, hardness and more than 15 minerals,
costs about $15. An expanded water test, which tests for minerals,
soluble salts and alkalinity, will cost $50 or so.