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This web page contains current hot topics in the Iowa DNR private well program. The content of this page changes, so check back for the latest updates. Personal computer users can also choose topics from the toolbar to the left of the page, or for mobile device users, the mobile menu button located at the top of the web page.
The holidays bring families and friends together for reflection, festivities, and fun. Holiday gatherings can also mean that guests are consuming water from your private well. Because of this, now is a great time to have your well water tested so you can serve your water with confidence.
When considering well water testing, keep in mind that the contaminants you should test for can vary by well location. Sometimes testing for the basics - bacteria, nitrates, and arsenic - may not be enough.
The DNR has guidance available to help you understand the importance of sampling and testing your private water system. Check out our
Frequently Asked Questions About Private Drinking Water web page.
To arrange water testing, please contact your
local county environmental health office.
Flood waters can present a hazard to your water supply well
regardless if your well is located in the flood way or not.
Hazards include contamination of the well and your drinking water, electrical shock and damage due to floating debris.
The Iowa DNR has information on how flood waters can impact your water supply well and the items that you should consider before using your well during or after a flood event.
Please view our
Wells and Flooding document" for additional formation.
If so, you are located in a Karst area. Constructing and maintaining a well in Karst areas can be complicated. Wells finished in the shallow aquifers can contain high levels of nitrates and other chemicals that may cause health concerns.
The Iowa DNR has basic information that can help you understand how your well may interact with shallow groundwater in these areas. Please see our
Shallow Wells in Karst web page for additional information.
Arsenic is an element that occurs naturally in rocks and soil. Recent concerns about arsenic in drinking water have left many homeowners wondering if they should test their water for the presence of arsenic.
If your drinking water is provided by a city or town, the public water supply is required to perform arsenic testing and inform the water users if the water supply is safe to drink. Because of this, public water supply users do not need to test for arsenic - the water supplier takes care of this for you. Public water supplies must provide an annual
water quality report to their customers which provides information about the system's water quality.
When your drinking water comes from a private water supply well, we recommend that the water be tested for arsenic at least one time. If your arsenic level is near or above the drinking water standard, you may need to perform arsenic testing more frequently so that you monitor the arsenic level and make informed decisions on drinking the water and water treatment.
Voluntary statewide testing of private wells for arsenic started in 2015, but prior studies indicate that arsenic is present in groundwater in many areas. The map included with this topic shows a sample of the locations where arsenic has been found in well water. The blue dots indicate the arsenic is below the recommend maximum contaminant level. The red dots indicate locations where the arsenic is above the maximum contaminant level and the water should not be consumed without proper treatment.
There are treatment options
available for wells that have elevated levels of arsenic. Information about arsenic and water treatment options can be found in a State Hygienic Laboratory information booklet
Well Water Quality and Home Treatment Systems.
Additional information about analysis of your drinking water can be found on the on the State Hygienic Laboratory website found at: http://www.shl.uiowa.edu/env/privatewell/ordering.xml.
Other helpful resources for arsenic information:
Centers for Disease Control and Protection,
The EPA's Arsenic web page
The Water Systems Council wellcare® arsenic fact sheet.
And the Iowa DNR Arsenic in Drinking Water information sheet
Four new information resources are available to private well owners. This series of private well fact sheets touch on the common topics that well owners frequently ask during our correspondence. The topics include:
For additional information on well water testing, please see our Private Well Testing web page at www.iowadnr.gov/privatewelltesting and Private Wells In Karst web page at www.iowadnr.gov/karstcontamination.
Old water supply wells can be a hazard to personal safety and to the groundwater you drink. Abandoned wells that are left standing open and un-plugged pose a risk because they provide a direct vertical pathway for chemicals and contaminated water to enter deeper, currently protected aquifers.
You can help protect your drinking water and the groundwater by having all of your unneeded wells properly plugged. To find out more about well plugging and how you can participate in a grant program that will pay part of your well plugging costs, please visit our
well plugging information page.
The DNR has new a new high capacity well guidance document available to help potential requirements on developing high capacity wells.
High capacity water supply wells are wells that withdraw 500 gallons per minute or more from groundwater sources. The installation of any high capacity well requires the collection and submission of specific information before a water use permit can be issued and the well put into service. This information includes a detailed inventory of nearby wells, a complete set of borehole cutting samples and a detailed well log from the test well or production well.
The applicant may be asked to conduct a pump test if the department finds it necessary to determine the effects the proposed withdrawal has on other nearby wells. The actual test pumping of the aquifer must be long enough in duration to achieve a stabilized water level in the test well or production well, and in the observation well(s). It can take up to 72 hours of continuous test pumping to achieve a stabilized water level. In addition, one or more nearby wells must be monitored and documented during the test pumping to help determine how much influence the new high capacity well has on neighboring wells. Additional details can be found in
Iowa DNR Technical Bulletin 23.1.
We recommend that you apply for your water use permit before constructing your well. Water Use permits are issued to convey the right to use quantities of water for beneficial purposes. A Water Use Permit is required for any person or entity that withdraws 25,000 gallons or more of water in a 24-hour period. The permit lists the amount of water that can be withdrawn each year by the permittee and is valid for 10 years. A Water Use Permit also requires that a Water Use Report be submitted to the Iowa DNR each year. Typical examples of water use permit holders include, but are not limited to, public water supply systems, power plants, manufacturing and processing industries, agricultural businesses, irrigation users (crop/agricultural, golf courses and turf, truck farms, athletic fields), rock and gravel quarry operations, construction and temporary and permanent dewatering operations, recreational water uses and heating and/or cooling systems. To find out more about Water Use Permits or to apply for yours today, please refer to the
Water Supply Engineering Water Allocation and Use web site.
Approximately 25% of all rainfall in the U.S. becomes groundwater.
Nearly 80 percent of Iowan's obtain their water from groundwater sources - wells are groundwater sources.
For the average household, the largest volume of water is used in the bathroom.
Water wells in Iowa can range from 20 feet to over 2500 feet in depth.
A private well user is responsible for testing their own water to determine if it's safe to drink.
The Illinois State Water Survey and the Illinois Water Resources Center at the University of Illinois are pleased to announce a new nationwide training initiative funded by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) through a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The training will includes classes for those who own or use private water supply wells, and individuals who are just curious about how wells function.
The Private Well Classes are designed to help you understand the basic science of water wells and inform them of best practices to maintain and protect the water supply. These basic tools can help you make informed decisions regarding your water supply. This helps ensure a safe drinking water supply and extend the life of the well.
The classes are part of an online learning experience that includes monthly emails with class lessons that are reinforced by monthly webinars you can - AND - you can attend as often as you wish, even after the emailed class materials have ended.
Click here to find out how the class works.
The course include a Resource Library and Multimedia Learning area to provide specific learning tools. http://privatewellclass.org/library or http://privatewellclass.org/multimedia
Well Drillers - Can drill wells and plug all classes of wells.
Pump Installers - Can install and service pumps and water systems, and plug all classes of wells.
Limited Well Pluggers - Can only plug Class1 and Class 3 wells only. They cannot plug drilled wells.
In Iowa, the installation of geothermal boreholes, water supply wells, and all well pump installation/repair and water system services require that an Iowa DNR Certified Well Contractor be present on-site any time these well services take place.
Make sure you know if the well contractor you call is certified to perform well services in Iowa. Certified well contractors take special steps to ensure your well services are done properly. You should never hire a contractor who isn't certified to perform your well services because they are breaking the law.
You can look-up your contractor on the Iowa DNR Operator Certification database to find out if they are currently certified, or look at the three lists linked near this article.
Private well users - here are a few things to think about.
When was the last time that you had your private water system sampled and tested?
Do you know if your water is safe to drink today?
Can you or your family consume the water without worries of illness and chronic long term exposures?
Did you know health organizations recommend you test your private water supply at least once each year?
If the questions above leave you uncertain about the safety of your drinking water, you should keep reading this web page.
How about this fact - did you know residents in most of Iowa's counties can take advantage of a program that provides free water testing for private well owners and users? It's true!
The Iowa Department of Public Health manages a private well testing program called the "Grants to Counties Well Program". This program provides free water testing for private well owners and users. This service will help you understand the safety of your drinking water. You can contact your
local county environmental health department to arrange your free water test.
Remember, no matter what type of water supply you use - public or private - you can make a difference in the overall water quality where you live.
The great thing about you doing your part is that it's easy - just be considerate on how you handle potential contaminants so they don't become part of our groundwater and your drinking water. Remember - If you dump it, you drink it!
Old, unplugged wells are a threat to your current well and neighboring wells because they can allow surface and shallow groundwater rapid access to deeper, protected aquifers. Wells can easily be plugged and there is a grant program that can help pay for a portion of your well plugging cost. See our Well Plugging web page for additional information.
Did you know that 99 percent of all available freshwater comes from aquifers located underground? In fact, nearly 80 percent of Iowans are served by groundwater.
Because of this, groundwater protection is something that everyone should think about. There is a real need to maintain the quality and quantity of this precious resource.
Poor quality groundwater affects all of us by creating long term health concerns and by increased cost to install and maintain water wells and water treatment devices. When you add it all up, being a good steward of groundwater just makes sense because it is the right thing to do and it saves money in the long term.
Nearly all things that can be dumped on the ground surface can impact your groundwater. One of the realities that we face is that many of our surface water bodies are connected to our groundwater systems. This means that contamination found in surface waters can make its way into the groundwater. Please remember that all drains eventually flow to surface waters that recharge groundwater sources. Whatever you dump down the drain will eventually end up in the water supplies that we all need. Think of it this way - If you dump it, you drink it.
Almost everyone knows about public water systems and what they stand for - monitored, safe drinking water. Most of Iowa's public water systems obtain all or part of their water supply from groundwater sources. Because of this, when you protect the groundwater where you live, you help protect the valuable water resource used by many. It also helps reduce future water treatment costs for each of the users. For those who live outside of the reach of public water mains - the private water well users - when you actively protect the groundwater resource, you help reduce the future cost of constructing and maintaining your well, as well as potentially reducing your future cost of removing contaminants that may reach the aquifer.
The bottom line is this - when all of us exercise care in handling, use and disposal of products that can contaminate our water supplies, it helps protect the our groundwater. Together we can make a difference!
Well Water Testing
Shallow Well Water Quality Concerns
Well Construction Permits
Well Contractor Certification
Geothermal Heating and Cooling
Forms and Publications
Before examining what you can do to protect groundwater, you
should know that sometimes the quality and safety of groundwater is affected by substances that occur naturally in the environment. Contaminants are normally found through sampling and testing of the water. Visit our
water testing web page for additional information.
The answer is yes, at least one time - unless you change your water source or the manner in which you treat your water - then retesting is recommended. Water testing and analysis for lead is the only way you will know if your drinking water contains any lead.
EPA reports that up to 20% of a person's lead exposure comes from drinking water. Infants who consume mostly mixed formula can receive 40 to 60 percent of their exposure to lead from drinking water. Drinking water lead testing is relatively inexpensive and can provide you with the knowledge you need to protect your own health and the health of your family.
Although groundwater can contain lead, the more likely source for lead exposure is though corrosion of your home's plumbing.
Over the last two decades, there have been steps taken at the federal level to help reduce potential lead exposures due to plumbing components manufactured for drinking water uses. But because many components still contained lead until 2014, all ages of homes can be at risk for increased lead levels when the water is corrosive.
When corrosive water sits idle in the pipes for hours, it can leach lead from piping components. The longer the water sits in the pipes, the higher the potential for increased lead levels.
If your current water system tests lead free, but you need to alter the water source - like replacing your well with a new well, or when you change the way you treat your home's water before using it, you may create an environment where the water becomes more corrosive. The more corrosive the water, the more likely it is the water will cause leaching of lead from the plumbing.
The only way to determine if your water has lead issues is to test the water. To help troubleshoot the system, you should test the raw water from the well and the treated water from the taps where you obtain consumable water. Comparing the results will indicate if lead leaching is an issue and may help pinpoint the source - the well, the plumbing, or both.
If water testing indicates that lead is present and at unsafe levels, you should stop consuming water from the water and make a decision on how you will manage your drinking water. You can use an alternative known safe source for consumable water, like a another well you know test safe for all contaminants or bottled water, or install a water treatment device that removes the lead at the levels you find.
To learn more about lead in private water supplies, please read information from: The State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa Lead in Drinking Water web page, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
"Lead and Drinking Water from Private Wells", the Water Systems Council publication "Lead in Drinking Water", or the National Sanitation Foundation "Lead in Drinking Water" web page.
Corrosion in house plumbing can be described as a dissolving or wearing away of metal caused by a chemical reaction between water and your plumbing. There are a number of factors involved in the extent to which lead enters the water, these include:
Older homes are more likely to have lead used in pipe fittings and pipe solder.
The only way to know what's in your private drinking water supply is to test the water for potential contaminants.
Private well toolsdeveloped by the National Groundwater Association
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The Iowa DNR Private Well Program provides regulatory
oversight on a number of different types of vertical boreholes and borings that meet the legal definition of "well" in our state.
These well structures include:
The Private Well Program rules only apply to water supply wells and systems that serve fewer than 25 individuals on a daily basis. If a water system serves water to 15 or more service connections (like campground spaces or condos) or serves at least 25 individuals, the system requires management under the public water supply rules. Examples of smaller water systems that meet the Public Water Supply definition includes but is not limited to:
Public Water Supplies have specific federal requirements to help protect the health of the water users and the integrity of the water system. These requirements address the design of the water well and water treatment systems as well as the storage and distribution systems. The design and construction of these facilities must follow approved specifications and standards as determined by the Iowa DNR Water Supply Engineering section. In addition, a
Public Water Supply must manage and monitor the water system according to an operation permit issued by the Iowa DNR Water Supply Operations section. These steps help ensure that the water available and used by the public is safe for consumption. To
find out if you are a Public Water Supply or for more information regarding
Public Water Supply requirements, contact the IDNR
Water Supply section at 515-
The Private Well Program provides administrative oversight of the statewide private well program. This includes rule development and interpretation, working cooperatively with local county
governments to administer the private well program at a local level, working with well contractors regarding minimum and appropriate standards for well services, and
providing guidance to private well owners and other citizens.
The goals of the Iowa DNR Private Well Program are to:
The program goals are to have all wells constructed to appropriate minimum standards and that competent Iowa DNR Certified Well Contractors are on-site in direct control of each well service provided.
To help achieve the program goals the Private Well Program works with local county environmental health staff to issue private well construction permits at the local level. This relationship is an important part of the program and helps to ensure that there are local contacts to help local residents with permitting and construction information needs.
The Iowa DNR private well construction permit is issued by your local county on a web based private well permitting system known as the
Private Well Tracking System or PWTS. This system electronically records well permit information as well as record and track well water testing reports, well renovation reports and well plugging reports.
The Private Well Program also works with the Iowa DNR
Operator Certification Section to help Certified Well Contractors with their certification questions and testing, and helps training providers determine if a training event will qualify for continuing education units (CEUs) or "contact hours" for Iowa's well contractors.
You will find additional private well related topics in the left hand column or menu area of this web page. There are also useful links at the bottom of each web page for common private well topics. If you cannot find the information you are looking for, please contact us using the information at the bottom of this page.
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For more information, contact: