Using Private Wells: A Drinking Water Safety Guide

Using Private Wells: A Drinking Water Safety Guide


Nearly one in seven Americans get their drinking water from private wells. Federal and state governments set legal limits for contaminants in public water systems, but those laws don’t cover private wells. If you’re one of the 44 million people relying on a private well for drinking water, here’s what you should know and do to make sure your water is safe.

Should I be worried about contamination in my well?

In 2009 the U.S. Geological Survey released a report based on studies of thousands of private domestic wells, finding that almost one-fourth contained contaminants – such as radioactive substances, metals or fluoride – at potentially harmful levels. Agricultural chemicals, such as fertilizer and pesticides, can also harm the groundwater that supplies most private wells. Public systems are required to treat water to lower the level of regulated contaminants, but private well owners are on their own.

Shouldn’t the government require testing of private wells?

Some states and localities require private well owners to test for arsenic or other contaminants during home construction and real estate deals. But there is no nationwide requirement for well owners to test their water. Well owners may not know their groundwater could be contaminated or how to test it. They may think it’s too expensive or just not think water contamination is anything to worry about.

recent analysis in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives called for universal testing for drinking water contaminants in well water. Researchers said states should require testing on new homes and for real estate deals that include private wells to raise awareness and community engagement on groundwater contamination. They also called for subsidies to help lower-income communities and well owners meet the cost of testing.

What contaminants are a concern in private wells? What are the health effects?

Substances found in groundwater and surrounding mineral deposits include:

  • Radioactive elements such as radium or uranium. Different types of radioactive elements are associated with different health effects, but all of them increase the risk of cancer. The latest research also finds that radioactive substances may damage the nervous, immune and endocrine systems.
  • Metals. Arsenic, a known carcinogen, is commonly found in groundwater, particularly in the West, Midwest and Northeast. The U.S. Geological Survey found that nearly 7 percent of private wells across the country have levels of arsenic above legal limits.
  • Fluoride. It occurs naturally in surface water and groundwater, and many public systems also add it to tap water. In 2015, the Public Health Service recommended no more than 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water. Exposure to high levels of fluoride causes tooth and bone damage in young children, and may increase risk of osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that if infant formula is mixed with water containing fluoride, the baby’s teeth might be affected by dental fluorosis, which appears as white spot markings on the teeth.

Groundwater contaminants from human sources include:

  • Nitrate, a fertilizer chemical, which frequently contaminates drinking water due to agricultural and urban runoff, and discharges from municipal wastewater treatment plants and septic tanks. Infants and children exposed to high levels of nitrate in drinking water may not get enough oxygen in their blood. Nitrate is also linked to increased risk of cancer and harm to developing fetuses.
  • Toxic pesticides, which commonly migrate into groundwater in agricultural areas.
  • Industrial products and wastes, which can contaminate groundwater from improper disposal, leaks from underground tanks, or leaching from landfills or waste dumps. Carcinogenic volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, can pollute private water wells near industrial sites or landfills.
  • Lead and copper, which can leach from pipes and plumbing fixtures due to the presence of corrosive compounds such as acids in groundwater. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes. If your water has a pH value of less than 7, or has other indicators of corrosive water, metals such as copper and lead can easily leach from pipes into water. To address this problem, private well owners can install a treatment system to balance the water’s chemistry.
  • Microbes such as bacteria, viruses and other parasites, which can contaminate wells from both natural and human-related activities. Water contaminated with infectious microbes can cause gastrointestinal illnesses, and in more severe cases, long-term infections may follow. This particularly affects private well owners who live near large animal feeding operations. Boiling water to kill microbes offers an immediate remedy, but in the long term, the only effective solutions are finding a new source of water, building a new well, or requiring polluters to prevent runoff of manure and other contaminants.

How can I find out what contaminants are in my well?

The only way is to have it tested by a certified laboratory. This Environmental Protection Agency website will help you find a certified lab in your state. Local health departments may also have programs to test private well water.

When should I have my water tested?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend regular mechanical maintenance and testing your well every spring. Regular testing is recommended because contaminant levels can change over time. You should also test your well:

  • Before you use it for the first time.
  • If someone in your household is pregnant or nursing.
  • If there are known problems with well water in your area.
  • If your household plumbing contains lead.
  • If there has been flooding or other land disturbances in your area.
  • After you repair any part of your well system.
  • If you notice changes in the taste, color or odor of your water.

What should I do if contaminants are detected?

Contact your local or state health department for more information and to discuss the test results. You can also compare your results to EWG’s Drinking Water Standards, which reflect the best and most current science about health risks of contaminants, instead of government regulations that are often based on political and economic compromises or outdated studies. In-home water treatment will remove some chemicals, but different types of devices remove different pollutants.

How can I keep my well safe?

  1. Have it tested annually. You don’t know what’s in the water if you don’t test.
  2. Remain aware of potential sources of contamination near your well, such as livestock operations, septic tanks or fuel spills.
  3. Practice regular maintenance of your well. Look each month for cracking, corrosion or a missing well cap. Keep records of testing and maintenance.
  4. Hire a certified well driller for any new construction or modifications.
  5. After a flood, have your well inspected and cleaned by a professional. Do not turn on the pump until after inspection.

Where can I find additional resources?

  • The EPA’s list of state resources and programs.
  • The EPA’s factsheet “Drinking Water from Household Wells.”
  • The CDC’s “Guide to Drinking Water Treatment Technologies for Household Use.”

Groundwater at Nye County Gold Mines Impacted By Cyanide Contamination


In doing some research we discovered the report that is featured below with a link. Note the mines in Nye county. The mission statement of the Nye county water district is to protect and preserve the water in Nye county . You will have to copy and paste the link in your browser to bring up the report or simply type into your search engine the name of the report.

The Track Record of Environmental ImpactsResulting from Pipeline SpillsAccidental Releases and Failure to
Capture and Treat Mine Impacted Water
U.S. Gold Mines
Spills & Failures Report


Climate change blamed for drying of Great Plains streams, but it’s actually caused by groundwater pumping for irrigation

Climate change blamed for drying of Great Plains streams, but it’s actually caused by groundwater pumping for irrigation

(Natural News) Streams and rivers in Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and other parts of the central Great Plains are drying up as farmers continue to pump groundwater to irrigate their crops, a new study found.

Though climate change often gets blamed for turning creeks into dry riverbeds, the water needed to irrigate one sixth of the world’s grain production comes from the High Plains Aquifer, also known as the Ogallala Aquifer.

Irrigation of crops accounts for 90 percent of the human global use of water. Groundwater from the High Plains Aquifer is the single greatest source of groundwater in North America and the lifeblood of  Great Plains agriculture. As farmers increasingly pump more water, nearby creeks and riverbeds are vanishing at a rapid pace. As their habitat diminishes, native fish species are disappearing too.

“What we’re losing are the fishes that require habitat found only in the rivers and large streams of the region, and replacing them with those that can survive in the small streams that are left,” said Fausch, a Colorado State University (CSU) professor. “We are losing whole populations of species from rivers in that region because there’s no habitat for them.”

Since the first surveys were done in the 1940s, seven of the 16 native fish species — including small minnows, suckers, and catfish — that were once found in the Arikaree River have disappeared.  Nonetheless, these fish are not among those that are currently federally endangered or threatened. Therefore, little regulatory authority is in place to preserve the habitats of these native fish.A finite resource of water that is not being recharged

The CSU researchers warned that these habitats and the fish populations will continue to shrink if pumping practices are not modified. According to Professor Fausch, about 350 miles of streams disappeared in eastern Colorado, southwest Nebraska, and northwest Kansas in a 60-year span. If nothing changes, the team’s models predicted another 180 miles could vanish by 2060.

Fausch noted their results are sobering, adding that if we keep pumping groundwater to feed a growing human population of more than 7 billion people, the Arikaree River in eastern Colorado, which used to flow about 70 miles, will dry up to about one-half mile by 2045.

As more water is being pumped out every year, only a small amount flows back into the aquifer from rain and snow. As reported by Science Daily, nearly as much water as what exists in Lake Erie, or about 100 trillion gallons, has been extracted from the aquifer since the 1950s and only a small amount has trickled back into the reservoir.

A grim future for the generations to come

If we don’t tackle the problem and keep pumping groundwater at this pace, farmers are not only thoughtlessly jeopardizing the streams and fish, but also the future of the next generation of farmers. Without the rivers and streams, these farmers will be unable to continue to work on the land. They will have no water for their cattle and the cottonwoods that provide shade, Fausch explained.

“They also lose the grass that grows in the riparian zone, which is critical forage for cattle in summer. Some of that’s your livelihood, but it’s also the place you go for picnics, and to hunt deer and turkeys. If you lose the river, you lose a major feature of what that landscape is,” he added.

While the future looks grim, Fausch said that there are some signs of progress. Meters are being installed on wells to ensure that farmers pump only the amount of water allowed under their permits. Furthermore, farmers are looking for ways to optimize their water usage with new technology to slow down the declining groundwater levels.

“When we lose these rivers, we will lose them for our lifetime, our children’s lifetime, and our grandchildren’s lifetime,” Fausch noted.

Video 6 – The final hookups, adjustments and completion of the well — Educational

Video 6…completing the hookups. We're done!

Posted by Dwight Lilly on Friday, July 28, 2017

Video 5 — wiring and lowering the new pump in the well and flushing the system – Educational

Video 5…Pump install at well head

Posted by Dwight Lilly on Friday, July 28, 2017

Video 4 — Pump installing, preparing electrical hookup to well head – Educational

Video 4 …Well pump static test and pump install.

Posted by Dwight Lilly on Friday, July 28, 2017

Video 3 — Static Water Test and preparing to install the new water pump – Educational

Video 3 …Well pump static test and pump install.

Posted by Dwight Lilly on Friday, July 28, 2017

How Safe Is Pahrump’s Drinking Water? More Testing From A Larger Sampling Is Needed—Let’s Not Get Trapped Like California Residents Are

Unlikely Allies Push Bill to Solve California Drinking Water Crisis

Agriculture and environmental justice advocates are supporting legislation to create a fund for clean drinking water projects. But disputes over key components of the bill could derail it.

State senator Bill Monning addresses a rally in July in Sacramento in support of legislation he authored, Senate Bill 623, which would create a fund for clean drinking water projects.Tara Lohan

SACRAMENTO – As the summer sun was warming up on a July morning, a crowd of nearly 100 people gathered on the north steps of the California Capitol, many having arrived stiff-legged after a four-hour bus ride.

They held signs with the names of their communities: Poplar, Seville, Yettem, Tooleville, East Orosi and waved blue flags that read “Agua Limpia” and “Clean Water.” Most were San Joaquin Valley residents, including children as young as 5, who woke up before dawn to travel to the state capital to voice their support for Senate Bill 623, the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund.

Some 200,000 people in such low-income, primarily Latino towns in California’s farm belt are saddled with water supplies chronically contaminated with agricultural pesticides, arsenic and other toxins. The bill, introduced by state senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel), is backed by the unlikely alliance of environmental justice groups and agriculture – two sides that have often sparred over environmental regulations. On this day, the state Assembly’s Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee was set to vote on the legislation.

If signed into law, SB 623 would establish a new funding source for communities that are unable to obtain safe drinking water. Unlike other funding mechanisms such as bonds, the fund could be used to pay for the operation and maintenance of water treatment plants, and not just for their construction. It would also prioritize assistance to low-income communities and low-income residents who rely on private wells.

SB 623 is the culmination of years of work to secure safe and affordable drinking water for all Californians,” says Veronica Garibay, the co-founder of the nonprofit Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability in Fresno, one of the bill’s backers. Advocates for the bill have called it the missing link needed to close the gap on the state’s drinking water crisis where over 1 million Californians don’t have access to safe drinking water, with small, rural communities in the San Joaquin Valley particularly hard-hit.

“It’s a drinking water crisis that is brought about in large part because there is a gap in the funding regime in terms of how we fund safe drinking water,” says Jonathan Nelson of Community Water Center, another group supporting the bill. “We have funding to do things like build a treatment plant for those that need it, but there is no funding to be able to operate it and maintain it, which means those communities that typically need drinking water treatment the most, often are the hardest pressed to afford it or simply can’t afford it at all.” He noted there are also an estimated 2 million people in the state who either rely on private wells or very small water systems that are not regulated closely or at all.

Tim Johnson, president of the California Rice Commission, whose group supports the bill, called the legislation an “audacious act” because of the coalition of agricultural and environmental justice supporters. “We’ve all met, we don’t agree on everything, but we do agree on this,” he says.

But the bill is not without its opponents. The Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), which represents public water agencies, and 20 of its member agencies oppose the bill in its current form. They object to the legislation’s inclusion of private wells and county-regulated small water systems, and a possible plan to raise money for the fund by assessing a fee on water bills – a detail that’s not yet in the legislation but could be added soon.

The fiercest opposition has come from another wing of the environmental community. Several organizations that are part of the California Coastkeeper Alliance, a coalition advocating for clean water for communities and the environment, as well as the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance fear the environmental justice community gave away too much in collaborating with agriculture on the bill and set up a “pay to pollute” scheme to get agriculture’s buy-in. The bill would limit enforcement by water boards against agricultural operations for contributing to excessive nitrate in groundwater if the operation meets mitigation requirements, including paying a fee into the fund.

The bill breezed through the state Senate this spring, but a key component of SB 623 – how the fund will raise revenue – is still being negotiated and will determine whether the legislation makes it to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.Communities in Need

Sandra Meraz (left) traveled from Alpaugh to Sacramento in July to lend her support to Senate Bill 623, which would establish a fund for clean drinking water. (Tara Lohan)

Sandra Meraz has lived in Alpaugh since 1957. A speck on the map on the southwestern edge of Tulare County in the San Joaquin Valley, Alpaugh has just 1,000 residents, half of whom live below the poverty line, and a commercial district with little more than a Mexican restaurant and a grocery store.

Meraz lives on nearly an acre of land but the only thing growing in her yard is a single tree. “No grass, no flowers,” she says, adding that the town looks dead, in part because people are struggling to pay for rising water costs.

Alpaugh’s water supply has chronically violated limits on arsenic contamination for years. But the Alpaugh Community Services District has received a state grant to build a treatment system set to go online by May 2018. To prove the community can pay for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the facility, water rates are being increased 10 percent in 2017 and another 10 percent in 2018, followed by a 3 percent hike in 2019 and again in 2020. The cost also rises with water usage. Smaller households that use 10,000 gallons a month will be paying $60 a month this year, while those using 15,000 gallons will be paying $78 monthly.

“They have to raise it – we understand it,” says Meraz. “We need safe, clean water, but we also need assistance.” She says some community members, especially those with children, are struggling to pay new water rates. “We don’t want people moving out and we don’t want people shut down because they can’t pay the water.”

Bruce Howarth, general manager of the Alpaugh Community Services District, acknowledged that rates were a concern for some. “We had discussions about trying to set some internal process and funding to help out hardship cases,” he says.

Meraz says she traveled to Sacramento for the SB 623 hearing because she believes communities like Alpaugh would benefit if the legislation is passed.

The state has estimated there are about 300 communities with persistent water contamination.

The Fresno County town of Lanare’s experience is often spoken of as a cautionary tale. A disadvantaged community of less than 600 people an hour north of Alpaugh, Lanare received a federal grant of $1.3 million to build an arsenic treatment plant that went online in 2007. But Lanare’s Community Services District, which was responsible for the water system, could only bear the expense of it running for less than six months.

“The community can’t afford to clean the water,” says Isabel Solorio, a resident of Lanare who also made the trek to Sacramento for the SB 623 hearing. “And rates have gone up.”

Not enough work had been done to analyze the community’s water use and ability to pay to keep the plant operating, explained Amanda Monaco, a policy advocate with the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.

The community still has arsenic-contaminated water and now also a shuttered plant and higher water rates due to debt incurred to pay for the ill-conceived project, despite grant funding.

SB 623 is an attempt to try and fill these gaps in funding so we are making sure all communities in California can afford safe drinking water and that we are not having anyone fall through the cracks,” says Nelson. “So when we are talking about trying to achieve the human right to water here in California, we are doing it at the macro or community scale, but also at the individual level, even down to the most remote domestic well in the farthest corner of our state.”

The bill would create a fund managed through the State Water Resource Control Board’s Office of Sustainable Water Solutions. Currently, there is no dollar amount attached to the bill, but Nelson says clean water advocates have estimated the need is around $140 million to $150 million annually.

The money could be used for a variety of purposes, such as for operation and maintenance costs, for short-term fixes like bottled water, or long-term solutions to plan and construct systems to treat or blend contaminated water, or to consolidate water systems.

Devil Is in the Details

Supporters of Senate Bill 623 wait to speak before the California Assembly’s Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee in July. (Tara Lohan)

On the fourth floor of the Capitol building, dozens of SB 623 supporters who had previously gathered on the steps outside for a brief rally took turns filing into the packed hearing room to officially voice their support for SB 623 in front of the Assembly’s Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee.

But as Monning, the bill’s author, told the committee when it was time for its members to ask questions about the legislation, “The devil is in the details.”

While the vision of the bill – to provide a fund for safe drinking water – is broadly supported, some key details of how that happens are not.

“We agree with the intent of the bill,” said Cindy Tuck, deputy executive director for government relations at the Association of California Water Agencies. But the organization opposes the inclusion of language that would require testing of private wells and small water systems (which have less than 15 connections) for water contamination.

Private wells currently are not required to be tested for water contaminants and county-regulated small systems have less stringent water quality requirements, so “data is lacking to support a credible needs assessment,” according to the association. “We think this is an important area to be looked at but there are some big questions that should be looked at before they jump right in with the testing,” says Tuck.

The group and its allies also contend that the fund should not be used for capital improvements like constructing treatment plants, which already have existing funding sources. Instead, they say, it should focus on operations and maintenance costs which are hard to fund through bonds.

But Monning countered in the hearing that supporters believe the fund should be as flexible as possible to invest the money in ways that will result in the most impact. “We are not prepared to remove capital improvements,” he says. “There is not enough [existing] grant money to serve all communities.”

The biggest stumbling block comes from the way in which money will be raised for the fund.

The bill does not yet contain specific language, but part of the money is expected to come from contributions from water ratepayers.

“In California and many states, we pay a very small surcharge on our monthly bill for things like energy to guarantee universal access to that utility,” says Nelson. “But for this most basic and fundamental of utilities, drinking water, we don’t do that. This is a pathway we are seriously considering.”

Fees on water bills, he says, would be extremely modest, “in the cents every month,” and there would be a low-income exemption.

ACWA opposes that potential funding mechanism as “highly problematic and not the appropriate response to the problem.”

“This is a social issue for the state of California, and the General Fund is the right funding mechanism,” says Tuck.

Part of the money for the fund would also come from a fee levied on agricultural producers, and stakeholders from the agriculture industry are determining the best method for raising those fees, says Johnson of the California Rice Commission.

That is meant to address groundwater contamination in some parts of the state, particularly the Salinas Valley and the San Joaquin Valley, where nitrogen-based fertilizers and animals waste spread on farm fields have leached unsafe levels of nitrate into groundwater. A report from the University of California, Davis, found that 254,000 people in those regions are at risk from having nitrate-contaminated water.

“It’s important that dischargers who have been contaminating our groundwater are paying into a fund that would help clean up the groundwater,” says Garibay of the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.

But the legislation would also limit enforcement for the next 15 years by the state or regional water boards against farms for contributing to excessive nitrate in groundwater if agricultural operations meet mitigation requirements, including paying into the SB 623 fund. After 15 years the amount of money agriculture would contribute to the fund would be reduced.

Steve Shimek, who heads Monterey Coastkeeper and also serves as chief executive of the Otter Project, two groups focused on protecting watersheds and coastal ocean areas, says that their lawyers read this and other language in the bill as a “pay to pollute” scheme.

“For the first time a single industry is given immunity for ongoing pollution,” said Shimek at the hearing. “We support the intent, we support the human right to water and we support a general obligation to pay for this. We cannot support blowing a giant hole in California’s water code and condemning a future generation while you provide water for people today.”

Monning refutes this interpretation, saying that the bill provides “no protection from people discharging above the limit and it does nothing to restrict the enforcement powers of the regional water board.”

Regional water boards in the Central Valley and Salinas Valley have established programs, known as “ag orders” to limit nitrate in groundwater by requiring operations to use best practices to limit the application of nitrogen to what is needed for plant uptake to reduce excess nitrate infiltrating into groundwater.

But Shimek believes those existing orders are too weak. “I think many of the proponents think they are solving the problem, I do not agree at all,” he says.

On July 11, the Assembly’s Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee voted 5 to 1 to pass the bill to the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee, which will likely hear it near the end of August. If it passes there, the bill will go to the full Assembly floor for a vote, and possibly back to the Senate. It would need to clear any remaining legislative hurdles by Sept. 15 to reach the governor’s desk. Nelson says clean water advocates feel good about the bill’s prospects with Gov. Brown and that his office understands “the gravity of crisis” and wants to find solutions.

SB 623 won’t solve all the issues, but it moves us one step closer to making sure that all Californians have safe and affordable water,” says Garibay.

Video 2 of deepening a private well in Pahrump Nevada (after the drilling) – Educational

This is the result of the well drilling portion of the earlier video.

Posted by Dwight Lilly on Thursday, July 27, 2017

Video 1 of well deepening in Pahrump – Educational

I thought some of you would find this educational. Deepening my well.

Posted by Dwight Lilly on Thursday, July 27, 2017