Risks to Your Water

YOU MAY NOT HAVE VISITED THESE PLACES...BUT YOUR DRINKING WATER MAY HAVE
chem_spill corral_polluted

cows

horse_pond

As the owner of a small acreage, water is important to many of your activities.  If you have a private well, then you may use groundwater for  drinking  and other household needs, for watering your animals or irrigating your land.  If you have water rights for  surface water, then you are able to irrigate your pastures,  gardens or lawn.  If your land has running water, ponds or wetlands, you may use this water for your animals, for fishing and other recreation, or just for the aesthetic pleasures that water can bring.  With these benefits comes the responsibility to protect the quality of this water.  Protecting water quality not only benefits you and your family by preserving healthy drinking water and a healthy environment, but it also protects those water users downstream. Complete this short worksheet to help identify activities on your property that may be contaminating your water.

What Now?
If you answered “Yes” or “Don’t Know” to any of the worksheet questions, water from your property could potentially threaten your family’s health, the value of your property or the health of people downstream. To find out more, please review the following fact sheets and surveys below.  If you are concerned about your the potential risk and need more help, contact your local extension office.         

            

"Risks to Your Water" Surveys and Fact Sheets 

Surveys Factsheets
Risks to Your Well Water How to Protect Your Well Water
Handling and Storing Pesticides Handling and Storing Pesticides
Handling, Storing, and Applying Fertilizers Handling, Storing, and Applying Fertilizers
Handling and Storing Fuels Handling and Storing Fuels
Hazardous Waste Hazardous Waste
Septic Systems Septic Systems
Storing and Handling Livestock Manure Storing and Handling Livestock Manure
Managing Livestock Yards Managing Livestock Yards

          Simple tips on how you can be part of the solution to pollution

              

Drinking Water and Well Water Protection

A source of clean drinking water is critical for human health.  If you get your drinking water from a private well, it is YOUR responsibility to assure that your water is safe to drink. Test your well water periodically to assure that your water is safe to drink.  For more information on testing your well water, click here. Help in interpreting water tests is easily available through our online water quality tool kit.

Common drinking water pollutants:


If your water is contaminated, you must identify the source of contamination and remove it, or your water will become contaminated again!  Even if your tests do not show contamination of your well, it is wise to check your land for any activities that may put your water at risk.  Locating and controlling sources of pollution to groundwater can be challenging, but is far preferable to the cost and difficulty of cleaning up contaminated groundwater.  Ironically, wells are often the most direct route for pollutants to get into our groundwater. Learn how to protect your home with these drinking water treatment systems.

For information on how wells work, how to test drinking water, and how to protect well water equipment (including wellheads) download Protecting Household Drinking Water as a powerpoint presentation or pdf.

Wells that aren't used for drinking water:

If you have a well that is no longer being used, you should consider closing the well to avoid any contamination of ground water. Well closing recommendations include:

  • Remove pump, piping and any other obstructions from the well.
  • Close the entire length of unused wells with approved materials such as a slurry of neat cement or bentonite clay.
  • The well should be chlorinated before it is sealed. The entire length of the well should then be sealed to prevent surface water from entering the ground water, and to prevent contamination movement from one aquifer to another.

Protect your wellhead! Fence your well out  of your pasture or holding area.

Managing Your Septic System
Many homeowners in Utah treat household wastewater with a septic tank system.  Proper management of these systems can protect your family from possible health impacts, reduce the need for expensive repairs, and protect water resources.

For information about managing your septic system download Septic Systems: Out of sight and out of mind...until you smell them! as a powerpoint presentation or pdf.

Managing Animals to Protect Your Water
Animal waste that is introduced directly into a stream or pond or runs off the land in stormwater or irrigation water can pollute the water with nutrients, sediments, and disease causing organisms. In addition, animals can damage streams and other water ways directly by trampling stream banks or over grazing the stream banks. This can lead to increased erosion, flooding problems, loss of pasture land and increased pollution. Activities on your land can threaten the quality of your well water and waterbodies on your land, but also may threaten downstream waters and neighboring wells.

For information on reducing pollution from animal manure and other impacts of domestic animals download Managing Manure from Domestic Animals to Avoid Negative Impacts as a powerpoint presentation or pdf.

Click here to use a manure and nutrient quantity calculation sheet to help you determine how much nutrients your livestock produces.

Fertilizers as Potential Pollutants
Proper storage, handling and application of fertilizers on farmsteads or acreages are essential to protect water sources from chemical contamination. Excessive application rates, spills in storage areas, and seemingly insignificant spills during mixing and loading can lead to fertilizer movement into surface or ground waters. If contamination reaches drinking water sources, nitrates in the fertilizer can pose serious health risks--especially for infants and young livestock. In addition to health concerns, laws governing nutrients in surface water are being more strictly enforced than in the past, in part because fertilizer runoff into surface water can cause excess algae growth and result in fish kills.

Pestcides as Potential Pollutants
When handling and storing pesticides on your farmstead or acreage, you should always have a strategy to prevent contamination of water resources. Accidental pesticide spills around wells can, and do, lead to contamination of groundwater, which can affect your and your neighbor’s wells. Contaminated surface runoff creates a threat to streams and lakes, and pesticide contamination can make the sale or transfer of land difficult. Managing your pesticides to reduce risk of water contamination does not require a major investment of money or time. It does, however, require responsibility and the will to take action. Taking precautions with your pesticides is considered the best action to reduce risk of water contamination.

Household Chemicals / Hazardous Wastes
Waste products are an inevitable result of daily living. While some types of waste are harmless, a significant number are potentially hazardous to our health and the environment. Waste products are hazardous if they are toxic, corrosive, flammable or explosive. The federal government identifies over 500 specific materials as hazardous wastes. Even a small amount of these materials can contaminate ground or surface water and can be very difficult to clean up.

Below are some common hazardous materials found around the home and farmstead or acreage.
  • solvents, spot removers and dry cleaning fluids
  • pesticides
  • oil and lead based paint, turpentine, stains, finishes, paint strippers and wood preservatives
  • tires and car batteries, used oil filters
  • household cleaners
  • ash from burned trash and sludge from burned waste oil
  • gasoline, antifreeze, and used motor oil
  • flea powder and veterinary waste
  • photography chemicals
  • asbestos

Fuels as Potential Pollutants
Fuel spills and leaks pose a serious threat to human health and environmental quality. One gallon of gasoline can contaminate up to 1 million gallons of water. Cleanup of fuel-contaminated soil and water can be extremely difficult and expensive. It is best to take precautions to ensure that spills or leaks do not occur.