Protect the water quality of your water well

Yearly water testing ensures safety of water delivered by private drinking water wells.

Water testing helps ensure that well owners have safe, clean drinking water.  Michigan has a set of water resources that are amazing both in terms of quality and quantity. Most Michigan residents get their water from surface water sources. For example, most people in the metropolitan Detroit area get their water from the Great Lakes. However, nearly 44 percent of Michigan residents still get their drinking water from groundwater sources. Amazingly, within the entire Great Lakes basin, groundwater provides drinking water for about 8.2 million people.

Private drinking water wells, which tap into local groundwater resources, provide clean, safe drinking water. However, it is up to the individual well owner to take the necessary steps to make sure their water supply is safe. This includes ensuring their well is constructed properly and properly maintained to prevent fertilizers, bacteria, pesticides and other toxins from entering their water supply. Because many people depend upon common sources of underground water supplies, one single contaminant that finds its way into groundwater can impact many individuals.

Unlike sources of drinking water that come from city or municipal surface water supplies that are tested regularly before it is piped into homes and businesses, those who own private drinking water wells are responsible for testing the water to ensure it is safe to drink. It is recommended that people who are served by private drinking water wells test their water at least once every year.  This is especially critical to ensure the health and safety of households with pregnant women or those with are nursing mothers, infants, children, elderly or have compromised immune systems.

Water testing is available at most local county or regional health departments. Contact them for specific instructions on getting your water tested and for pricing information. Basic tests to consider for your water include Coliform (bacteria including E. coli), and what is referred to as partial chemistry (fluoride, chloride, hardness, nitrate, nitrite, sulfate, sodium and iron).

Health departments are a great source of information for those who don’t have a lot of history about their well, and could possess a variety of information about it including details about its construction. Health departments can also provide information about the quality of local groundwater supplies and suggest if testing for additional contaminants in their area is necessary and/or whether more frequent water testing is needed. For example, an arsenic test may also be recommended for areas where there is known to be naturally occurring arsenic in the soil, and therefore the potential for groundwater contamination.

Testing for volatile organics may be recommended in areas where there is the possibility or suspicion of a leaking underground tank or some kind of fuel or other spill. Other tests may be recommended if you have leaching of contaminants such as lead or copper from water pipes.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Drinking Water Analysis Laboratory also offers a spectrum of tests. You can contact the MDEQ Lab at (517) 335-8184. The MDEQ Lab also has a list of private labs where water samples can be submitted for water testing.

The “Home*A*Syst Guide (WQ51)” is a helpful self-guided resource to help protect your drinking water. A copy can be obtained from the MSU Extension Bookstore.