THE IMPORTANCE OF PRIVATE WELL WATER TESTING
Regularly testing the water quality of your private well is important to maintaining a safe and reliable water source. Test results allow you to properly address specific problems with your water supply and ensure the water source is properly protected from potential contamination. Test results are also used to evaluate whether the well is operating properly and to identify appropriate treatment if needed.
It is important to test the suitability of your water quality for its intended use, whether it be livestock watering, chemical spraying, or drinking. Testing for the intended use parameters 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/ or animals,
- track changes over time, and
- 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 that looks and tastes good may not 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 are sometimes found in a water source and can cause long-term health problems that take years to develop. Frequent water testing will identify unsafe water and ensure the treatment system (if used) is treating the water to a satisfactory level when necessary.
WHAT TESTS SHOULD BE Completed?
Tests are available to help determine the water supply's health and safety, and the water treatment system's performance. Your local health department can assist in selecting test important for assessing your drinking water. Following is a list of tests that are commonly completed when accessing drinking water quality.
- Basic water potability - Includes tests for coliform bacteria, nitrate, pH, ions (sodium, chloride, iron, manganese, fluoride, sulfate), 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.
- pH- A measurement of how acidic or basic a solution is. The range goes from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. The typical pH of drinking water is 6.5 to 8.5.
- Ions - Ions such as sodium, chloride, iron, sulfate, fluoride, and manganese can impart objectionable taste or odor to the water. Excessive amounts of sulfate can have a laxative effect or cause gastrointestinal irritation. Fluoride is an essential micro-nutrient, but excessive amounts can cause dental problems.
- Total dissolved solids (TDS) - Represent the number of organic and inorganic substances dissolved in the water. High total dissolved solids can reduce the palatability of water.
- Hardness- The amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in the water. While posing no health risks, high amounts can affect the day-to-day life of the household in many ways. Dishes might emerge from the dishwasher polka-dotted with hazy white spots, fresh laundry can feel like sandpaper to the touch, and plumbing fixtures like faucets develop a chalky film.
- 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; if found in high quantities, they can harm a community’s health. 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.
WHERE CAN I GET MY WELL WATER TESTED?
Test kits are available from the Lewis and Clark Natural Resources District at 608 North Robinson Avenue in Hartington. Test kits are sent to a certified drinking water lab for processing. Stop in or call 402-254-6758 for more information. The Groundwater Foundation has provided the information found in this article. Additional information about groundwater is available on their website, www.groundwater.org.