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Well Water Quality and Testing

Private Well Water

Safe, clean drinking water is the most essential building block to a healthy life. Understanding the risk associated with the quality of your well water is important. Because the body requires ample water, removing pollutants and hazardous substances before drinking is important.

Private well water is unregulated by both the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Environmental Protection Agency. Well owners are responsible for their own safety when drinking from a private water source.

Know Your Risk

Knowing the risk associated with your water is the first step to achieving healthy, clean water. Often times well water pollutants are colorless, odorless molecules making detection at home difficult. Water with discoloration or odor may be safe to drink, yet clear, tasteless water may have an elevated risk.

Bacteria & Nitrates

- Typically found in human and animal waste
- Released from failing septic systems, large herds of animals
- Other sources: sanitary and garbage landfills

Flooding and Natural Disasters

- Sanitization may be needed to eliminate disease growth in wells after flooding events
- Extreme drought may concentrate contamination and limit water production

Fertilizers & Pesticides

- Used to promote agriculture growth, minimize insect damage, and reduce weeds

Lead & Heavy Metals

- Water with pH issues may strip metal from plumbing fixtures
- Information is available on Arsenic, Cadmium, and Mercury

Household Wastes

- Improper disposal of used motor oil, paint, cleaning solvents, soaps, and detergents

Industrial & Hazardous Wastes

- Factories and small businesses, gas stations, and dry cleaners
- Leaking underground tanks and piping
- Mining and construction by-products
- Chemical and petroleum production sites
- Brownfields, abandoned industrial areas


- Glacial deposits of arsenic exist throughout the State of Indiana


- Naturally occurring deposits of methane exist throughout Indiana

Sulfate/Sulfide -Part of naturally occurring minerals that influence the chemistry of groundwater in Indiana

Test Your Water

Test your water every year to know you are drinking safe, healthy water. Because of the changing status of water quality, the Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) recommends, at minimum, annual testing of private wells. The IDOH Health Laboratories manages the certification of drinking water laboratories that specialize in testing for pollutants.

Determine what testing your water needs

Based on the risk identified, unique testing may be required. Contacting the IDOH Certified Drinking Water Laboratory in your area is the best way to make sure you understand the proper analysis and method to collect your water sample, how long it will take the laboratory to return test results and the total cost for sample analysis. Specialists at the testing laboratory will provide details including the sampling container, the volume of water to send, and additional important information.

IDOH Health Laboratories offers testing for:
* Bacteriology
* Total Nitrate - Nitrite
* Arsenic
* Lead and Copper
* Fluoride

More Details

Understanding your Results

Your private well water is unregulated, yet there is plenty of support to answer questions, provide guidance, and help understand testing results. Mastering your water quality is no easy task and many free resources are available to help you. The following organizations are available in your community to help provide guidance in maintaining clean, healthy drinking water from your private well:

Positive Test Results

When a private water source has elevated levels of contamination, the individual using the water source is responsible for taking action. If results from water testing are positive for contamination, bottled or filtered water may be used as a short-term solution. In some cases, boiling water and sanitization of a well may provide a solution. Long-term clean water can be achieved through different means including treatment and sanitation, switching water supplies to municipal water, or constructing a new well. Understanding the results of a water test, potential health impacts, and recommendations for treatment solutions is made easy with this tool from The National Groundwater Association's Well Owner website:

Is your drinking water regulated?

The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 (SDWA) is the federal law that protects public drinking water supplies throughout the United States. This regulation allows for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to maintain oversight of drinking water supplied as a utility in communities both large and small alike.

The SDWA does not regulate private water from wells serving fewer than 25 individuals or 15 service connections.  Through the SDWA, chemicals and other materials are regulated based on the associated risk to human health. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and the EPA are responsible for insuring water utilities supply clean, healthy water to all Hoosiers paying for service.

More details from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention