Sometimes we need reminders to do routine chores and sometimes it helps to designate those chores to a certain time of the year to make sure we get them done. For me, one of those chores is getting our well water tested and I have found FALL is a great time to make sure our well is in good shape and providing safe drinking water.
Even if you believe that your well water is safe to drink, it’s important to periodically sample and test your water to assess any health related concerns the water may create. The information you receive from the test will help you make informed decisions on well maintenance and water treatment. It will also help you determine if you need to call a certified well contractor or seek an alternative source of drinking water.
At a minimum, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources recommends bacteria and nitrate testing be performed at least once per year. Nitrates pose a threat to infants and pregnant or nursing mothers, while the presence of bacteria indicates a pathway to disease-causing bacteria to enter the well. You may also want to have your well water tested if you notice any changes in color, taste, odor, hardness, corrosion, sediment, etc. Water can also be tested for naturally occurring contaminants like arsenic, fluoride, and radium.
To assist families with well water testing, nearly all of Iowa’s counties participate in the Grants-to-Counties Well Program. The Grants-to-Counties program can provide free or cost-sharing for water sampling and analysis to qualifying private drinking water systems. To find out if your county participates in the Grants-to-County Well Program or to arrange sampling of your water system, please refer to the pdf list of County Environmental Health Sanitarians on the DNR page and contact the Sanitarian’s office in the county where the well is located.
The grant program also assists with the cost of filling abandoned wells. Old wells pose a safety hazard as well as a hazard to ground water contamination. State law requires old abandoned wells to be properly filled to eliminate any hazards.
Minnesota residents can find more information on how to sample and test well water at the Minnesota Department of Health’s pages, Owners Guide to Wells – Well Management Program and Water Quality/Well Testing/Well Disinfection – Well Management Program.
The South Dakota Water Resources Institute (SD WRI) no longer provides interpretation of water analysis and recommendations for the suitability of water. However, their website offers a variety of analysis options and analysis packages which include analysis for the most commonly occurring water quality issues.
So if you have well water and haven’t set a time aside for routine testing, perhaps you, too, would like to schedule it for FALL to establish a routine.