Drinking Water and Private Wells

Why it is Important to Know What is in Your Well Water

Do you know where your drinking water comes from or what is in it? 30% of Idahoans have made private well water their primary source of water. Due to inadequate water testing, you may be exposed to ground water contaminants that pose health risks.  How long has it been since you had your well water tested? If you are a private well owner, you are responsible for ensuring that the well water is safe to drink!

A variety of contaminants, both naturally occurring and human-caused, can be found in Idaho’s groundwater. Depending on the contaminant and concentration, there can be short- and long-term health and developmental effects.  Testing your drinking water is the only way to know what’s in your water.  Once you know, then you can take steps to learn what is causing the contamination and determine the best treatment and maintenance options.  Key contaminants that every well owner should look for are:

  • Nitrates (lessens ability of blood to carry oxygen)
  • Bacteria like E. coli (nausea and diarrhea).
  • Arsenic (causes cancer and skin lesions)
  • Fluoride (stained teeth and bone pain/weakness) Fluoride at the optimal level of 0.7 mg/L -1.0 mg/L in drinking water, can prevent cavities and tooth decay. Fluoride more than 4.0 mg/L can be hazardous. 
  • Selenium (hair loss and circulation problems)
  • Uranium (kidney damage)
  • Lead

While your water may appear safe, harmful levels of contaminants occur at such low concentrations that they often cannot be tased, seen, or smelled.  This means regular testing and maintenance are necessary to protect the health of your family.  You should test your well water once a year for bacteria and nitrates and once every three to five years for everything else. Use the Groundwater Quality Near Me map to aid in determining what contaminants to test for. If undesirable levels of contaminants show up in your water, contact The Department of Health and Welfare’s Environmental Health Program at BCEH@dhw.idaho.gov or 1-800-445-8647 to determine the best method to fix the problem and if you have questions about your well water testing results.

Is my well water safe?
Drinking water resources
Private wells

Private wells can be a safe and reliable source of drinking water. In Idaho private well owners are responsible for ensuring their water is safe to drink. All private well owners should test their drinking water to ensure that it is safe to drink and regularly maintain their wellhead.

Some private wells may have high levels of contamination from bacteria, naturally occurring, or man-made chemicals that can be harmful to your health. Use the resources below to find out what to test for, how often to test, and how to keep your water safe. To learn the best ways to take a water sample, please review the videos below.

Private Well Water Sampling Video

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Lead and Copper Water Sampling Video

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Pruebas de Agua de Pozos Privados

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Pruebas de Plomo y Cobre en el Agua

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