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Nearly half our nation’s population receives all or part of its drinking water from the ground, yet for most people groundwater is a bit of a mystery. This lack of knowledge can be a problem, particularly for the owners of private household wells, who bear responsibility for maintaining their own water quality.
To help the public better understand these issues, the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) sponsors National Ground Water Awareness Week, which takes place March 12 to 18, 2006.
This year’s theme is “Get Your Annual Water Well Checkup.” Not only is this NGWA’s recommendation, but it is shared by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. EPA. Checking well water at least annually—and more often if symptoms indicate—is prudent to ensure water is safe.
Changes in water quality can be caused by new sources of contamination but not always. Sometimes a construction defect or maintenance failures within the well system can permit contamination to enter the well. A common problem, for instance, is improper grouting around the well casing, which allows surface runoff to trickle into the well.
That is why NGWA recommends a well maintenance check-up as well as water testing. A maintenance check can sometimes catch problems before they affect water quality. A typical well maintenance checklist should include:
* A flow test to determine system output, including a check of the water level before and during pumping (if possible);
* A check of the pump motor performance (amp load, grounding and line voltage), pressure tank and pressure switch contact, and general water quality (odor, cloudiness, etc.);
* An inspection of well equipment to assure it is sanitary and meets local code requirements;
* A water test for coliform bacteria and nitrates, and anything else of local concern; and
* A concise, clear, written report delivered following the checkup that explains results and recommendations, and includes all laboratory and other test results.