As we all look forward to winter giving way to warmer days, we often think about spring cleaning projects around the home. Is testing your well water one of those projects? If you have a private well, it’s up to you to make sure your water is safe to drink. Testing your water is an easy task to forget, so why not put it on your spring-cleaning to-do list?
What Should You Test For?
The University of Maryland Extension recommends that you test your well annually for nitrate and coliform bacteria to ensure that animal waste is not contaminating your water. We recommend annual testing because the quality of groundwater—the source of your drinking water—can change over time. When rainwater falls, it can come in contact with numerous sources of contamination before it percolates down through the soil to recharge your aquifer. Once underground, gravity and pressure direct the flow of groundwater, bringing any contaminants with it. Aquifers span great distances, so while groundwater flow is relatively slow, contamination from activity far away can eventually impact your well. Testing annually for nitrates and coliform bacteria allows you to track any changes in water quality.
If it’s been several—or even just a few—years since you last tested your water, make sure to also include copper, E. coli, hardness, lead, pH, total dissolved solids and sulfates. You can check with your county health department for their recommendations on any contaminants of local concern to test for.
How Can You Get Your Water Tested?
Testing is relatively simple. Refer to our website or contact your county health department to get recommendations for certified water testing labs. Every lab offers different packages, so check online for pricing. Once you’ve made a selection, the lab can send you sample bottles with sampling and mailing instructions. The lab will send you an analysis that reports your specific test results, including indications of any parameters that exceed the EPA guidelines. If any of your results exceed the EPA guidelines, you should contact your county health department or Extension office to identify what treatment, if any, is warranted. You can also use this online interpretation tool to better understand what your report is telling you.
Testing is the only way to know the quality of water you and your family are drinking. An annual check-up for your well water is a wise investment in protecting your family’s health. So, remember to include drinking water testing to your spring cleaning chores!