If flood water came near your private drinking water well, your water supply may have been contaminated with pollutants carried in the flood water. In addition, wells can be contaminated by surface water runoff even if the surrounding area is not flooded. Wells at greatest risk of contamination from flood water or surface water runoff include:
- Wells located in well pits.
- Dug wells or any wells that do not have a watertight casing.
- Wells that do not have watertight caps.
- Wells that lack a grout seal in the annular space.
- Wells that were submerged with flood water or surface water runoff.
If you think your private drinking water well was impacted by flood water:
- Do not use the water for cooking, drinking, or brushing teeth until laboratory analysis confirms it is safe.
- Contact a licensed well contractor. The contractor should:
- Inspect the well.
- Clean out any debris or sediment that entered the well.
- Disinfect the well with shock chlorination. The system must be flushed (3-4 hours) after the disinfectant has been retained undisturbed in the system 6-8 hours to remove any debris and flush contaminates from the water system before testing for drinkability.
- Then, contact a certified testing laboratory and tell them you want to have your private water supply tested for bacteria. They will provide a test kit with detailed instructions.
- Don't use the water from your well until the laboratory has informed you that it is safe, and free of bacterial contamination. It may be necessary to repeat the disinfection and testing process several times before the well is free of contamination.
If flood water came close to your well (100 feet or less) but did not reach the well, have your water tested as a precaution.
Water is an essential nutrient. Without it human life cannot survive. Water serves as the body's transportation system, it is a lubricant, it is vital to the body's biochemical reactions, it helps defend the body against shock, and it regulates body temperature. Maintaining a healthy water balance is critical.
All water from natural sources contains dissolved substances. But drinking water does not need to be pure to be safe. The only way to know if drinking water quality is acceptable is through water testing. Water from a public or municipal supply is tested regularly and must meet federal and state guidelines for quality. Private drinking water testing and quality are not regulated by federal or state guidelines, but local county or city requirements may exist.
Situations in Nebraska such as tornadoes, floods, and winter storms can reduce or eliminate the availability of safe drinking water. It's a good idea to store an emergency drinking water supply.
Water use and conservation in the home varies, but most people use 70 to 100 gallons per person per day. You can become a more efficient water user by changing some simple practices and selecting efficient appliances and equipment.
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Information presented within the drinking water section of this Water Web site has been reviewed by University of Nebraska - Lincoln Drinking Water Team members Bruce Dvorak, Sharon Skipton, Wayne Woldt, David Shelton, Rachael Herpel, and Jan Hygnstrom.
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Cost of Testing a Private Drinking Water Supply
There is no single test to determine the safety of drinking water. It would be costly, and in most cases unnecessary, to test a private water well for the nearly 100 contaminants for which public water supplies are required to test. For example, the price for a complete water analysis at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services laboratory is currently $3,827.00. Users of private drinking water wells must decide which contaminants to test for and must order tests accordingly. A water-testing laboratory will only test for contaminants specifically requested.
At the very least, have the water tested for bacteria and nitrate. Keep in mind that tests for bacteria and nitrate do not guarantee the water is safe or desirable for domestic use, as other contaminants could be present. Have tests conducted for other substances when specific contaminants are suspected. Some laboratories offer multi-parameter packages that include tests for the most common contaminants of concern. In many situations, these can be good options.