Well Water Test: Is Our Well Water Safe to Drink?

Reader Contribution by Jennifer Kongs

The Small Home, Big Decisionsseries follows Jennifer and her husband, Tyler, as they build a self-reliant homestead on a piece of country property in northeastern Kansas. The series will delve into questions that arise during their building process and the decisions they make along the way. The posts are a work in progress, written as their home-building adventure unfolds.

We had our well drilled by a licensed professional, the water line connected to our house, the pressure tank, filter and softener hooked up, and water has been running successfully through the faucets. It was time to test the water to be sure we didn’t have any dangerous bacteria or nitrates — in short, we needed to know if the water is potable, for us, our animals and our plants.

The first step was to disinfect the system with Clorox bleach. (You can find a formula on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s website to estimate the amount of bleach needed to accurately perform this process.) Our contractor poured the bleach into our well, and then we ran water through the lines, those inside and outside of the house, to clear the bleach out. This way, we were sure that the pipes and faucets were sterilized, so that when the water was tested we’d be getting a clean sample that’s not picking up any contaminants from the lines.

When the bleach was run through the lines and the smell of bleach was gone, we called our county’s health department, which has an environmental health department that handles the testing of private water wells in our area. Most counties have their own local office that handles private well water testing. A representative came out a couple of days later and took a water sample from our kitchen sink. Forty dollars and 24 hours later, and our test results came back: Our well water is safe to drink, completely free of detectable levels of bacteria and nitrates.

For drinking water, we plan to purchase a Berkey Water Filter system to use in addition to the whole-house filter. While the water doesn’t have a red tinge (sign or iron) or bacteria, it does still leave hard-water spots on metal and glass surfaces, even with the water softener in place. So, for taste reasons and to protect ourselves and our pots, pans and other dishes, we feel an additional filter for drinking and cooking water is worthwhile.

Next up, we cover our three moving days — two for us and one for our first homestead animals!

Photo by Fotolia/kazoka303030.

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Jennifer Kongsis the Managing Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. When she’s not working at the magazine, she’s likely in her garden, on the local running trails or in her kitchen instead. You can connect directly with Jennifer by leaving a comment below.