Celebrate (and check) your drinking water in May
National Drinking Water Week is held in May each year to bring attention to important water quantity and quality issues and their relationship to drinking water supplies. The attention to drinking water during that week provides an opportunity to learn more water resources in general and also serves a reminder to think about where your water comes from.
If you have your own drinking water well, one of the best ways to observe National Drinking Water Week is to use it to have your drinking water quality tested. May in Nebraska means warming soil temperatures, rain storms, greening grass and more outside activity. Warming soil temperatures also signal one of the most opportune times to get the best idea of your drinking water quality.
Private water supplies should be tested for total coliform bacteria and nitrates each year. Both substances can result in serious health complications. The only acceptable level of total coliform bacteria in your drinking water is no (zero) total coliform bacteria. The maximum contaminant level (MCL) for nitrate is 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L)—which is sometimes stated as parts per million (ppm). As nitrate levels approach or pass that MCL, well owners should consider treatment options.
As a private well owner you should also test your drinking water if:
- your well has been inundated with storm water or other runoff,
- you have noticed any significant changes such as color, odor, taste or staining of household fixtures or linens,
- cracks in the well casing or well cap, or other issues with your well itself have been observed,
- land use around the well has changed, or
- significant spill of chemicals within the area
You may also have it tested if you hear from neighbors, local government or your water well professional that there are water quality issues in the area.
Water quality tests should only be done by the Department of Health & Human Services State Public Health Environmental Lab or labs that have been certified by the Department of Health & Human Services. Information on obtaining sample kits as well as a list of certified labs can be found at: http://dhhs.ne.gov/publichealth/Pages/lab_index.aspx. Local Natural Resources Districts also often assist with drinking water tests. Your water well professional can also assist you with the sample as well as periodic inspection of your well components.
Here are some other ideas to help you learn more about and protect your drinking water:
- Take time to walk around your wellhead and make sure that nothing on the wellhead is damaged or potential contaminant sources are too close to your wellhead
- Make sure you are performing regular maintenance on your onsite wastewater system and following all operating guidelines
- familiarize yourself with the wealth of information on the Nebraska Extension water website: water.unl.edu.
- If you receive your water from a public supply, take time to look through their information on quality, quantity and other related programs.
Knowledge of your drinking water and the critical water resources across our state is essential to help protect your health and the quality and quantity of water available for people, agriculture, wildlife and the environment.
This article was reviewed by Bruce Dvorak