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Understanding and Protecting Your Drinking Water

The Groundwater Section wants to help Hoosiers better understand the range of factors that go into ensuring that your drinking water is safe to drink regardless of where they obtain their drinking water.

Private Water Wells

How to Protect a Private Water Well

Private water well quality is not regulated, and it is the homeowner’s responsibility to ensure they have safe drinking water. Learn how to protect your private water well from contamination by using best management practices. Information for what homeowners can do to protect their drinking water can be found at:

Contaminants of Concern for Private Water Wells

While private water wells are not regulated it is still important to be aware of heath based recommendations for the Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL) and Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLG) for contaminants in drinking water. The U.S. EPA regulates drinking water standards through the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations. The drinking water standards include a list of drinking water contaminants of concern and a MCL for each contaminant. As a private water well owner you can use the MCLs as guidance to understand your drinking water test results and to determine if you need to add treatment.  Adding treatment to your water system can become involved and complicated depending upon your situation, and hiring a water treatment professional to install a treatment system should be considered.  

IDEM manages a State Wide Groundwater Monitoring Network that is working to identify contaminants of concern in the state based on hydrogeological settings.

When testing your private water well some analytes or contaminants of concern to test for include but are not limited to the following:

Additional contaminates of concern are covered on the following sites:

Sampling Private Well Water

It is important know the risk associated with your water by sampling (testing) your water if you currently have, drill a new, or are planning on purchasing a property with a private water well. We recommend sampling you private well water on a routine basis because groundwater conditions change over time. The sampling frequency depends on the analyte and your specific circumstances. In general we recommend sampling annually.

If a treatment system is installed both the raw and treated water should be sampled on a regular basis to see if the treatment is effective. Using the manufactures maintenance and routine testing recommendations can help make a maintenance schedule that is tailored to your water quality and chemistry. Without proper maintenance the treatment system may not be effectively treating the contaminants of concern.

How to Sample

Contact a certified drinking water laboratory for more information on what to test for and how to collect water samples based on what you would like to test for. The laboratory you select will then provide you more information based on what you are testing for including how to order sample bottles, where and how to collect samples, and the time frame and method of returning the samples to the laboratory for analysis.

  • ISDH: Well Water Quality and Testing: ISDH Health Laboratories offer state wide testing for Bacteriology, Total Nitrate-Nitrite, Arsenic, Lead-Copper, and Fluoride. ISDH also lists resources to help you understand your results. ISDH is also available to help answer questions you might have regarding water sampling or water test results.
  • Certified Drinking Water Laboratories: There are also many private laboratories that can test your well water to determine if there are contaminants present.
  • Local County Health Department: Contact your local county health department to see if they are able to sample your private water well, or able to coordinate with ISDH laboratories.
  • Ohio Watershed Network: Know Your Well Water Tool: If you have had your well tested, and need assistance in understanding the results, this tool contains useful information that may help you interpret your water quality results.

Disinfecting a Private Water Well

Testing a private water well for bacteriological contamination on an annual basis is recommended for homeowners, and highly recommended if you notice a change in your water quality or after any flooding event that may have resulted in floodwater reaching a well. Disinfecting a private water well would be necessary if sampling results showed positive (present) results for Escherichia coli (E. coli) and/or total coliform following a flooding event or other circumstances impacting a well and/or a home’s piping system to provide safe drinking water.

To disinfect a private water well, follow the Instructions for Disinfecting a Private Well [PDF]. The Indiana State Department of Health also has a rule that addresses well disinfection, 312 IAC 13, Rule 9 Well Disinfection.

Water Treatment

Test your water before installing a treatment system. Water treatment depends on the contaminants that you are targeting, the chemistry of your water, and the presence of competing constituents. There is not a one size fits all treatment system. Make sure that the treatment system you choose is certified by the National Sanitation Foundation to treat the contaminants you are targeting.

Adding treatment to your water system can become involved and complicated depending upon your situation, and hiring a water treatment professional to install a treatment system should be considered. Obtain at least two quotes before selecting a treatment system. The quote should describe all installation, water testing, and ongoing maintenance costs. A service contract may be necessary for some systems, so it is important to compare all costs for installation and long-term maintenance.

After a treatment system is installed, do regular (example: quarterly, annual) sampling of both the untreated and treated water to check that the system is treating/removing contaminants of concern. Perform all maintenance required by the manufacturer. Without proper maintenance you put yourself and your family’s health at risk because the treatment system may not be effectively removing the contaminants of concern.

The following resources have more in depth information about water treatment.

In some cases there may be an alternative to installing a water treatment system.

  • Connecting to a municipal water supply line (city water / community public water supply). While this may seem like a larger cost than treatment at first, be sure to factor in the cost and time involved with installing, regularly maintaining, and routinely testing a treatment system. Contact the community public water supply to see if they have financial assistance available.
  • Purchasing water from a bottled water or a water cooler service. This is a good short term solution for people while they decide what steps to take next.
  • Drilling a new well is sometimes an option, but depending on the circumstances it may not result in better quantity or quality of water. If you aren’t sure if this will help, reach out to the IDNR Water Availability / Use / Rights Section for questions about quantity of water and IDEM Groundwater Section for questions about quality.

Financial Assistance

If you are not able to afford a well water treatment system or a water well related expense reach out to the contacts below to see if you qualify for their programs.

Private Water Well Construction

A list of private well drillers and contractors can be found at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water - Licensed Well Drillers.

Additional information about private wells and their construction can be found on the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Ground Water/Wells website.

To learn more about the construction of your private water well you can look at your well log. Well logs can be found online at Indiana Department of Natural Resources Water Well Record Database. If your well log is not in the database then you can contact the well driller that drilled your well to see if they have a copy of your well log on file.

Inspect your well regularly to make sure that it is operating properly. As a homeowner you can perform a visual inspection. If you would like to learn how to inspect and assess your well RCAP offers free Private Well Assessments. Contact the Water Rights and Use Section of the Indiana DNR, Division of Water if you have well construction or inspection questions.

Well Abandonment

In order to protect drinking water sources and the safety of Indiana residents’ wells that are no longer being used need to be properly abandoned, sometimes called pugging or sealing. Abandoned wells provide a route for contaminants to enter the ground water as well as being a hazard to children, adults, and animals that can fall into the opening therefore wells should be properly abandoned.

Educational Information about Private Water Wells

If you are interested in learning more about private drinking water wells here are some great resources that were made for private well users. These free resources cover a range of well water related topics in more detail than the information covered above.

State government agencies that work with private water wells:

Local groups that work with private water wells:

Other Drinking Water Sources

How to Protect Drinking Water Sources:

Additional resources are available.

Public Water Supply Customers

Do you get your water from a public water supply? If so then you can use the Drinking Water Watch to learn more information about your water such as where your water comes from, sampling results, and who to contact at the public water supply if you have questions. Each community public water supply also publishes a Consumer Confidence Report (Recursos e información sobre el CCR para los consumidores) that is available to the public. A community water supply is defined as one that has at least 15 service connections, or serves 25 or more people year round. Consumer Confidence Reports can be found via your water provider or through the Drinking Water Watch.

Some customers may be interested in taking additional steps. You are able to sample your own water, for example if you want to know if your premise plumbing is impacting your water quality. Additionally, if you are curious about the water treatment process at your public water supply, you can contact them to learn more; they may also mention the treatment process in their consumer confidence report.

If you would like to become more involved with protecting your water sources reach out to your public water supply to see if there is a local planning team for their Wellhead Protection Area that you can join or work with to better protect your community’s water source. Another way to get involved is to join or work with your local watershed group(s).

Purchased Water Customers

Do you get your water from bottled water or a water cooler service? These sources are not regulated by IDEM or the U.S. EPA. The FDA regulates bottled water however the standards may differ from the U.S. EPA’s standards. Contact the company that provides the water for water quality test results.

Other Water Sources

If you use a spring, cistern, or rain water for drinking water it is important for you take steps to prevent contamination, sample for contamination, and maintain the water source. Like private water wells, these sources are not regulated, and it is the homeowner’s responsibility to ensure they have safe drinking water.

Getting Involved

Additional resources are available.

Complaint Response

The Private Well Complaint Response Program receives complaints, investigates, and samples at-risk private water wells which are suspected of being contaminated by man-made contaminants.

How to File a Complaint

If you have a private well or other type of environmental complaint, you can submit the complaint to IDEM. All complaints go through IDEM’s Compliant Coordinator to ensure that they are directed to the appropriate individual.

To report an environmental emergency, contact IDEM's Emergency Responders.

Questions

For additional assistance, contact the contact the Groundwater Section in the Drinking Water Branch.

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