Test Your Well: Protect Your Family's Water

A copy of Test Your Well: Protect Your Family's Water in English and Spanish is available in PDF.

Take steps to make sure the water from your private well is suitable for drinking, preparing food and all household uses.

Germs and chemicals can enter your drinking water from runoff and natural changes in the water that serves your well. The use of contaminated water for drinking, preparing food and making ice can make you, your family and your pets sick. Babies, children, pregnant people, older adults and people with health conditions are most at risk of health effects from consuming contaminated water.

Tips to Protect Your Family's Water

  • Test your well water at least once a year for bacteria and for other contaminants every 3-5 years.
  • Test your water for E. coli and coliform bacteria after you disinfect and flush your well, or perform maintenance on your system to make sure problems are addressed.
  • Regularly check and maintain the well, system components and area surrounding the well.
  • Test your water if you notice changes in how your water looks, smells or tastes, after floods, changes in land use or concerns about local contaminants.
  • If you suspect your well could be contaminated by gasoline, heating oil or chemicals, contact your health department and the DEC Spill Hotline at (800) 457-7362.
  • Keep records of maintenance activities and water testing.
  • Contact your health department for advice on maintaining, testing, disinfecting and flushing your well.
  • Take steps to get connected to a public water system, if you have the opportunity. Public water is the best option for household water because it is regularly monitored and managed by a certified water operator.

Regularly Test Your Water

Testing your drinking water is the only way to make sure that your water remains suitable for household uses. Test your water at the tap at least once a year for bacteria and every 3-5 years for the other contaminants listed to the right. The best time to test your water is in the late spring or early summer. Your lab will provide instructions and bottles. Find a certified lab. Contact your health department for advice.

Testing Schedule

Test For Why How Often
E. coli & coliform bacteria indicate fecal contamination that can cause symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting Each year
Lead harmful to many organs and systems in the body and most harmful to developing babies and young children Every 3-5 years
Nitrate & Nitrite most harmful to babies; associated with infant blood problems Every 3-5 years
Arsenic long-term exposure is associated with nerve and liver damage, cancer, high blood pressure and damage to blood vessels of the heart and brain  Every 3-5 years
Sodium  concern for individuals on restricted sodium diets due to high blood pressure or other medical issues Every 3-5 years
Iron & Manganese cause rust or black staining of fixtures or clothes Every 3-5 years
Turbidity (cloudy water) interferes with chlorine and UV-light disinfection Every 3-5 years
pH causes lead and copper pipe corrosion and metallic-bitter taste Every 3-5 years
Hardness causes mineral and soap deposits on fixtures; reduces detergent efficiency Every 3-5 years
Alkalinity interferes with chlorine disinfection and causes metallic-bitter taste Every 3-5 years

Also Consider Testing If ...

  • You notice changes in how your water looks, smells or tastes.
  • There are changes in your household/family, such as pregnancy, new babies or changes in someone’s overall health.
  • You or your health care provider suspect your drinking water could be causing symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting
  • You have made repairs to your well, pipes or home structure or have changed your drinking water system.
  • You notice changes in land use, such as construction or farming, that could cause runoff to enter your well.
  • You have concerns about local contaminants, such as radon or those from nearby industrial or waste sites.
  • Your well was recently flooded or damaged by extreme weather.
  • The well runs dry or the amount of water flowing from your fixtures changes.

Contaminants in Your Water?

Stop using your water and use bottled water for drinking, preparing food or making ice if water tests show contaminants in your well water or if you suspect your well could be contaminated.

Follow these steps from Restoring Your Private Well:

  • Check the well and area around the well for damage.
  • Repair and flush your well.
  • Disinfect your well water to address biological contamination.
  • Test your water to assure suitable quality for all household uses.
  • Contact your area health department for help.

If you suspect your well could be contaminated by gasoline, heating oil immediately contact your area health department and the DEC Spill Hotline at (800)457-7362. Resume using your water after contamination is addressed and water tests confirm your water is suitable for household uses.

Inspect & Maintain Your Well and Water System

Have a DEC registered well contractor inspect your well at least once a year to stay ahead of maintenance issues. Regular inspections help prevent contaminants from getting into your tap water from a poorly maintained well.

Use the Well Maintenance diagram to keep an eye out for problems. If you suspect issues and need help, contact a professional. Stop using your tap water for drinking, preparing food and making ice, and switch to bottled until your water is tested and the problem is addressed.

Inspect & Pump Out Your Septic System

Have a DEC-permitted waste transporter inspect and pump out your septic system every 2 to 3 years to avoid potential well contamination from a failing septic system. Learn more at Septic System Operation and Maintenance.

Maintain Water Treatment Equipment

If you have water treatment systems, follow manufacturer recommendations for maintenance and testing and work with a water treatment professional to develop a plan to evaluate and maintain you system. Systems that are not regularly maintained can result in failure of water treatment and loss of water pressure.

Avoid Electric Shock Risk: Before Making Any Repairs

  • Shut off power to the pump and water system.
  • Examine for broken wire insulation or missing wire nuts and repair as necessary.
  • Wear waterproof, rubber soled shoes or boots.