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Well water testing key to protecting health

"For household water well owners who find water testing confusing or difficult, help is available," said the National Ground Water Association, which urges well owners to test their water to protect their health. The Association's website is designed to help simplify the process of water testing by guiding well owners in decision-making regarding:

  • What to test for;
  • How to get a water test;
  • How to interpret water test results; and
  • What to do if a health risk is discovered.
"Significant barriers to well owners testing their water are concerns about the difficulty, inconvenience and cost of water testing,"said the NGWA, based on its research of published studies and interviews with well owner education and testing programs. 

Common questions and answers to well owners testing their water

Why do I need to test?

Testing is important because some substances that present health risks in water are tasteless, odorless and invisible. Two examples are radon, a gas byproduct of radium decay, and arsenic, a poisonous element found in certain types of rock as well as in certain manmade products. Another example of an imperceptible threat is nitrate, which is often found in fertilizer and a byproduct of animal and human waste.

Even if I feel fine?

Believing that there is no health risk because you feel fine can be misleading and risky. Again using arsenic and radon as examples, the health threat posed by these tend to occur over a period of years, and dramatic symptoms may not be evident until much of the damage has been done. Well owners also can have a false sense of security involving bacteria. The presence of bacteria in water should be taken seriously, but, without a test, a well owner might not know that the water has bacteria in it. Even the presence of certain harmless bacteria such as coliform can be alarming because it means the well also may be susceptible to harmful, pathogenic bacteria that could cause serious illness or even death.

What should I test for? provides simple guidance on how to approach water testing. It also links to contact information for every county health department in the United States so that well owners can check with their counties about any groundwater contamination of local concern.

How do I get my water tested?

The water testing page on links to state websites where well owners can find certified drinking water testing labs.

How do I understand the results? provides access to a water test interpretation tool that allows well owners to plug in their lab results to obtain a simple interpretation. Well owners can use the test results and interpretation to get the professional guidance or service they need to address water quality problems.

Where can I get more information? also contains information on well maintenance, groundwater protection and water treatment. Other resources related to water testing can be found at the Private Well Class website operated by the University of Illinois and the Water Systems Council website.

NGWA, the leading worldwide advocate for professionals teaming to provide, protect, manage and remediate groundwater, conveniently and promptly delivers an extensive range of resources contributing to member success through relationships, leading edge and emerging practices, and credible new ideas and solutions.

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