Rural Land Owners and Producers
PROTECT YOUR WATER
Water in the Intermountain West is scarce and it is up to everyone to help keep it clean. Below are things to consider in maintaining good water quality.
NON-DRINKING WATER WELLS
If you have a well that is no longer being used, you should consider closing it 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.
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 you 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. Also see our Managing Pesticides page for more information.
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. Clean up 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.
Animal waste that is introduced directly into a stream or pond or runs off the land in stormwater or irrigation 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 overgrazing 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, but also may threaten downstream waters and neighboring wells.
For information on reducing pollution from animal manure and other impacts of domestic animals visit USU Extension Ag Waste Management.
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. Also see our Managing Fertilizer page for more information.
MANAGING SEPTIC SYSTEMS
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.
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.
Some common hazardous materials found around the home and farmstead or acreage are:
- solvents, spot removers, and dry cleaning fluids
- oil and lead based paint, turpentine, stains, finishes, paint strippers, and wood preservatives
- tires, car batteries, and 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
TEST YOUR WATER
There is a potential for different types of contaminants in your water supply, whether it is your drinking water well or irrigation canal that may affect your ability to irrigate crops or provide water to livestock. It is often the responsibility of the landowner to test their own water. For helpful questionnaires and assessment tools to test your own water, click here.