Well Water Sampling

There are thousands of farms and households that depend on a private well for their drinking water. Water testing and treatment is usually not required by law so it’s up to the well owner to make sure the water is safe. Sometimes you’ll notice an issue, and some contaminants require testing to detect them.

Karen Mancl is an Extension water quality specialist at the Ohio State University. Testing for every contaminant is inconvenient and can get expensive, but at the very least, she says there are four things you should test for every year.

"Bacteria, and right now most of the labs will do E-coli bacteria. Test for nitrate, pH, and total dissolved solids. Sometimes the lab will test for conductivity, which is an equivalent test, so either total dissolved solids or conductivity," says Mancl.

Sometimes water can be safe to drink but unpleasant to use due to a funky odor, taste or color. Mancl recommends checking the levels of specific metals before you buy water treatment equipment.

"So, things like iron, which causes the water to be red or brown, manganese which would create a black color, a black staining. And another one is copper," she says. "Copper would give you a greenish or bluish color to the water or stains."

Have your well water tested by a certified lab, and use the container they give you to collect the sample. It’s important to save records and keep track to see if the numbers are similar every year. If there’s a dramatic change or a trend is noted over time, you may need more extensive testing.

Learn more about private well water testing, what to look for, and how to do it.