Water Quality

Section I. How Safe is Your Well?

If your drinking water comes from a public water supply, go to Section II.

  1. Do you have a well less than 50 feet deep?
  2. Do you have a dug well or driven well (rather than a drilled well), or is your well more than 50 years old?
  3. Does your well casing extend less than 12 inches above ground level or can you see any cracks or holes in your well casing?
  4. Are there any potential sources of contamination uphill from your well (i.e., confined or grazing animals, fertilizer or pesticide storage areas)?
  5. Are there any abandoned wells on your property that have not been properly sealed?
Well water pump

Survey: What's the risk to your well water?

Fact Sheet: How to protect your well water?

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 groundwater. 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 groundwater, and to prevent contamination movement from one aquifer to another.

Wells which are used for irrigation or animal watering only still need need to be protected, because contamination that enters may pollute a neighboring well.

Additional Well Information:

Section II. Risks From Pesticides and Fertilizers

If you do not store or handle pesticides and/or fertilizer, go to Section III.Fertilizer

  1. Do you mix, apply, or store pesticides or fertilizers within 100 feet of any water supply system, stream or lake?
  2. Do you do any of the following?
  • Fill your sprayer tank with a hose that does not have an anti-backflow device.
  • Put the hose in the tank so that it is below the waterline during filling.
  • Leave the sprayer tank unattended while filling.
  • Rinse your sprayer tank near your water supply.

Fertilizers as common pollutants of concern:

Proper storage, handling and application of fertilizers on farmstead 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 groundwater. 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.

Pesticides 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.


Fact Sheets:

Section III. Risks from Fuels

If you do not store or handle petroleum, go to Section IV.

  1. Are there underground fuel storage tanks on your farm or acreage?
  2. Are any of your above ground or underground fuel storage tanks 3.located near a water well or surface water body?
  3. Are there signs of spills or leaks around any fuel tanks?
  4. Do you have any fuel tanks that are not located on a containment structure or spill pad?
Gas can

Petroleum products as potential water 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 expensive. It is best to take precautions to ensure that spills or leaks do not occur.

Section IV. Risks from Hazardous WasteGarden Chemicals

  1. Do you use products without following the directions on the “warning “or “caution” labels?
  2. Do you ever pour hazardous substances such as antifreeze, oil, paints, stains, polishes or solvents down a sink drain or storm drain, in a ditch, or on the ground?
  3. Do you burn plastics, batteries, chemicals, treated lumber, or other hazardous items?
  4. Have you disposed of hazardous waste in an area other than a designated disposal facility?

Survey: What's the Risk to Your Water from Hazardous Waste?

Fact Sheet: How to Protect Your Water from Hazardous Waste

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

Section V. How Safe is Your Septic System?

If your household is on a public sewer, go to Section VISeptic tank diagram

  1. Is your septic system less than 100 feet from your well or surface water?
  2. Has it been longer than three years since you had your septic tank inspected or cleaned out?
  3. Do you pour grease, oil, or leftover household chemicals down your drain?
  4. Do you ever see evidence of standing or “smelly” water that may have come from your septic system?

Survey: What's the Risk to Your Water from Your Septic Systems?

Fact Sheet: How to Manage Your Septic System and Protect Your Water.

Section VI. Managing Livestock

If you do not have livestock, skip to the end.

  1. Does runoff from your barnyard or manure collection area flow into streams or other surface water?
  2. During rain events, is runoff from your roof or yard allowed to come in contact with the manure?
  3. Are your manure storage areas located less than 100 feet or uphill from your well or surface waters?
Standing water
Fenced-off river


Fact Sheets: