Owning a private water well is a major responsibility and investment. Substantial costs are involved in both drilling and maintaining a well. For many well owners, groundwater produced from this well may be the sole source of drinking water. Proper placement and construction are crucial to maintaining water quality.
A poorly designed or constructed well may result in contamination of the water and the aquifer. Precautions need to be taken to protect the health of family members, as well as other families drawing water from the same aquifer. Unlike public water supply systems, there are no experts regularly testing and certifying that the drinking water from a private well is safe for consumption. This responsibility falls to the well owner.
Well Construction and Maintenance
To ensure that a water well is properly placed and constructed, it should only be drilled by a licensed well driller/pump installer. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation maintains a list of licensed drillers and installers.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has a guide for homeowners entitled Drinking Water From Household Wells. This guide answers frequently asked questions, describes problems to look for and offers maintenance suggestions. The guide can be downloaded by clicking on the item at the bottom of this page. Listed below are six basic steps from this guide to maintain the safety of your drinking water:
- Identify potential problem sources.
- Talk with local experts.
- Have your water tested periodically
- Have the test results interpreted and explained clearly.
- Set a regular well maintenance schedule for your well, do the scheduled maintenance and keep accurate, up-to-date records.
- Remedy any problems.
Also, to prevent opportunities for vandalism or terrorism, well owners should take precautions to ensure their well is not easily accessible to strangers.
Groundwater may contain some natural impurities or contaminants such as magnesium, calcium, chlorides, arsenic, boron, selenium, or radon. Whether these natural contaminants pose a problem depends on the amount of the substance present. In addition to natural contaminants, groundwater is often polluted by human activities. These include the following:
- Improper use of fertilizers, animal manures, herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides.
- Improperly built or poorly located and/or maintained septic systems for household wastewater.
- Leaking or abandoned underground storage tanks and piping.
- Storm-water drains that discharge chemicals to groundwater.
- Improper disposal or storage of wastes.
- Chemical spills at local industrial sites.
Water Quality Testing
The US EPA recommends that private water supplies be tested annually for nitrate and coliform bacteria to detect contamination problems early. More frequent and detailed testing is recommended if a problem is suspected.