How Often Should Well Water Be Tested?

Many rural or suburban homes get water from a private well rather than a municipal water system. It is the responsibility of the homeowner to have the water tested regularly and to deal with any impurities or contaminants revealed by the testing. Commercial laboratories and some government agencies can perform the tests. Sampling is commonly done from a standard faucet within the home.

New Wells

While most wells don't use a bucket they should be tested regularly for contaminants.

New wells, or wells without a known history of tests without contamination, should be tested twice.  Perform the first test as soon as the well is cleared after drilling and the second about six months later. These tests will check for the common contaminants of bacteria such as coliform and nitrates, associated with mining or agriculture. 

Maintenance Testing

Test every private well at least once a year for the presence of bacteria or other contaminants.  Test immediately if the quality of the water, taste, odor or color, changes noticeably. Add particular tests for radium, boron or farm pesticides every 5 years if the tests are not conducted as part of the annual routine test. 

Special Conditions

Properties close to landfills, animal feedlots, fertilized farm fields or that has an oil or gas odor should be tested annually.  These conditions are often found in rural areas and effect many wells. Confirm the tests include nitrates and boron in the results.  Test for copper if new copper pipes are installed. Copper is also most likely to be found in areas with soft water.  Symptoms of copper contamination include diarrhea or nausea. If these symptoms suddenly present a test for copper in the water may be indicated.  Perform a full slate of tests when placing the property for sale. Make the lab report available to perspective purchasers.  In many situations the purchaser of the property is required to have water samples tested as a requirement to get a loan.

Family Situations

Some tests are indicated when the woman of the house is determined to be pregnant or gives birth.  Test for nitrates before the pregnancy. Test for nitrates and fluoride at the time of the birth Test for fluoride in any new well that will be used by children under the age of six years old.  Test water used for baby formula for copper to prevent abdominal distress.

About the Author

Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.

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