Private Well Program Hot Topics

Image of NGWA Groundwater Week BannerAttention Iowa Certified Well Contractors

You can check out the available CEU contact hours at the upcoming National Groundwater Assocation Groundwater Week taking place in Las Vega December 3 - 6, 2018.

Just click on the following link to open a PDF of the agenda.

Agenda and CEU listing for NGWA's Groundwater Week

Map of proposed Protected Source Area - click on image to open larger view.The Iowa DNR is proposing a new Protected Water Source Area for small portions of Des Moines and Lee Counties. The Area is needed because of local groundwater contamination classified as Royal Demolition Explosive or RDX.

Protected Water Source areas are described in rule within 567 Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 53. They are only proposed and created when there is a need to ensure the long-term availability of the water sources and to preserve public health and welfare.

A PDF that shows the proposed boundaries of the Protected Water Source Area can be found by clicking on the map near this text, or at the following link: Map of proposed Protected Water Source Area.

The Area is currently defined as follows:

In Des Moines County, T68N, R3W, the West ½ of Section 1, all of Section 2, the NE quarter of Section 3, and in T69N, R3W, the east ½ of Section 34, all of Section 35, and the west ½ of Section 36.

In Lee County, T68N R3W, All of Section 1 and all of Section 2.

Under the current proposal:

  • Private water supply wells in The Area will no longer be permitted through local county environmental health departments - Iowa DNR will be the only permitting authority within the proposed area.
  • Well water use must not cause movement of contamination or an increase in contaminant levels.
  • The well construction standards must be approved by Iowa DNR prior to construction, and provide redundant protections of the deeper, currently protected aquifer(s).
  • Additional water quality monitoring will be required to track water quality in the aquifers.

These steps are intended to help ensure that well installations will not expose well users to RDX contamination, and the deeper currently protected aquifers are not impacted by the contaminant due to improper well construction and unauthorized water use.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency Click to view US EPA Fact Sheet on RDX Contamination.(USEPA) has a fact sheet that discusses RDX contamination. The doucment can be viewed by clicking on the image on the right of this text or on the following link: EPA Technical Fact Sheet on RDX.

This notification area will be updated as rulemaking activities progress. You can use the contact information below to inquire about the Proposed Protected Water Source Area or to provide comments about this activity. Russ Tell, phone 515-725-0462, or by email at russell.tell@dnr.iowa.gov, or by US Postal Service mail addressed to Russ Tell, Iowa DNR Water Supply, 502 E. 9th Street, Des Moines, IA 50319.

Preliminary comments should be received by the Department by November 12, 2018. There will be additional opportunities for public comment as the proposed rule moves through the processes of rulemaking.

Serve safe water during the Holidays

The Holiday season is quickly approaching. This is a time for family, friends, and making wonderful memories. Don't let last minute private water system issues create last minute stress. Get ahead of the season and have your private water supply inspected and the water tested before the sesason so you have time to make any needed improvements before your events. This will help ensure that you and your guests will remember the season fondly.

The DNR website 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 learn how you can qualify for free basic water testing, please contact your local county environmental health office and ask to participate in the Grants to Counties Well Testing Program.

Karst Map

Water Quality should be on the minds of all private well users. Local water quality is a product of the geological setting your well is located in, the well's construction, and land use activities in your region and water shed.

The information below will provide a basic understanding on the topic of well water quality for the contaminants commonly tested for in private water supplies.

Nitrate

Nitrate in well water can be an issue with shallow water supply wells no matter where you live in Iowa. But did you know that there are places where deeper wells can also have high levels of nitrate?.

If you live in one of the red or green shaded area of map included with this topic, you are located in a Karst area. Constructing, maintaining, and using a well in Karst areas may be complicated by water quality issues. Wells finished in the shallow aquifers may contain high levels of nitrate and other chemicals that may cause health concerns. The only way to determine the quality of your well water is to have the water supply sampled and the water tested at a certified drinking water laboratory.

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 and our Private Wells in Karst Areas fact sheet for additional information.

Bacteria

Each day, we come into contact with millions of bacteria. Nearly all of them are harmless. But, some of these organisms are responsible for waterborne illnesses.

Total coliforms are a group of bacteria that are mostly harmless and found in soil and water, as well as the intestines of warm blooded animals. The presence of total coliforms in drinking water that comes from a water supply well can indicate that more dangerous bacteria - particularly fecal coliforms - have a pathway into the well and may also contaminated the water system..

Disease-causing bacteria, such as E. coli, can cause gastrointestinal illnesses, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe dehydration. It can also be life-threatening for infants, children, the elderly, and anyone who has a compromised immune system. Water that contains E. coli should never be used for any purpose where human contact or ingestion is a posibility.

Arsenic

Arsenic is an element that occurs naturally in rocks and soil. Recent concerns about arsenic in drinking water have left many private well users wondering if they should test their water for the presence of arsenic. This article provides you with information about areas where arsenic testing has been completed on private wells, how you can obtain testing of your water, and what to do if you find your water is high in arsenic.

The Iowa DNR's Arsenic testing recommendation. We recommend that all private well users have their well water tested for arsenic at least one time. If your arsenic level is elevated or high, you may need to perform arsenic testing more frequently. This allows you to monitor the level of arsenic and make informed decisions, like when to install a water treatment system to remove the contaminant, or when to stop drinking the water.

Where is Arsenic found in Iowa's groundwater? Prior studies indicate that arsenic is present in the groundwater at some level in many areas of our state. Voluntary statewide testing of private wells looking for arsenic began in 2015. This information has provided us with a better understanding on where arsenic may be a problem, but many areas of the state have not been tested. Further testing will help inform more well users of potential risk, increase our knowledge regarding which aquifers are affected, help well owners and well contractors predict where arsenic may be a problem, and potentially develop strategies on how to construct wells so they have lower levels of arsenic.

The map below indicates where arsenic testing has been done through March 20, 2017 and the approximate level of arsenic found in the water.

Web_Arsenic_4_11_17

How to use the map. Look for your area and then look for a colored dot nearest to your location.

  • A green dot indicates a well was tested near this location and no arsenic was detected the well water - this means there is no arsenic risk at this time. When your well doesn't have any arsenic present, we recommend that you retest for arsenic every 6 - 10 years to monitor for any change.
  • A yellow dot indicates arsenic was detected in well water near this location, but less than 5 micrograms per liter (or µg/l) in concentration - a fairly low risk. We recommend you retest your well every 5 years to monitor for any change in the arsenic level.
  • An orange dot indicates arsenic was detected in well water near this location and it's in the range of 5 - 8.9 µg/l - this is a mid to high arsenic concentration - but not above the recommended Maximum Contaminant Level (also known as MCL). We recommend that you retest your well every 2 - 4 years to monitor for any change in the arsenic level.
  • A red dot indicates arsenic was detected in well water near this location with a concentration of 9 - 10 µg/l - this level is near or at the recommended MCL - we recommend that you retest your well for arsenic every 1 - 2 years to monitor for any change in the level.
  • A black dot indicates that arsenic was detected in well water near this location and its level is above the MCL of 10 µg/l. This is above the recommended maximum level for drinking water. Water with 10 µg/l or higher of arsenic should not be consumed unless it's properly treated using a water treatment system specifically designed to remove arsenic. When using a water treatment system, it's important to test the treated water periodically and maintain the treatment system to ensure the water remains safe to consume.
  • If there are no dots in an area, it means that there hasn't been any arsenic testing performed where the results have been provided to the DNR. If you have a well in one of these areas, please have your well tested for arsenic - we need your information too!

Private well owners or users can contact your local county sanitarian and ask to arrange a free arsenic test through the Grants to Counties well program. You can also contact the State Hygienic Laboratory (1- 800-421-IOWA) to obtain the test kit and pay for the testing yourself.

Treatment options when your arsenic level is too high. If you find that you water contains too much arsenic, you have some choices on how to manage your drinking water. Information about arsenic and water treatment options can be found in a State Hygienic Laboratory information booklet Well Water Quality and Home Treatment Systems and in a booklet published by the Water Quality Association Booklet.

Where to find additional information on water testeing. 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:

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection,

The EPA's Arsenic web page

The Water Systems Council wellcare® arsenic fact sheet.

National Groundwater Association arsenic fact sheet.

And the Iowa DNR Arsenic in Drinking Water information sheet.

Now is a great time to test your private well!

In general, many of Iowa's aquifers will provide safe and plentiful drinking water for your rural home or farm. Keeping that in mind, did you know that not every aquifer provides safe drinking water, or that well construction varies with the age of well and the well contractor used? This means that not all wells are constructed in a manner that ensures the safety of your drinking water.

The only way to know if your water supply is safe is to have the water tested. Any given year, less than 7 percent of Iowa's private well owners test their water supply. Within this group, many don't test their wells regularly.

Here are some questions for you - Do you test your well? If so, do you test it at least once each year? If not, how long has it been since you last tested your private water supply? How do you know that your water supply is safe to consume?

The safety of your well water should be important to all private well owners - especially when the water is for drinking purposes.

The Iowa DNR and many public health agencies recommend that you test your private water supply at least once each year, and anytime you notice water quality changes - things like water color, clarity, taste, smell, or sediment.

When you test your well water, keep in mind that the contaminants you should test for can vary depending on the well depth, the type of construction and age of the well, and the well's location. Sometimes testing for the basics - bacteria, nitrate, and arsenic - may not be enough. You can contact your local county environmental health department or a drinking water testing laboratory to inquire about well water testing that may be needed based on your location and concerns.

This website 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 learn how you can qualify for free basic water testing, please contact your local county environmental health office and ask to participate in the Grants to Counties Well Testing Program.

Water Treatement Information

We often get questions about what is needed to treat well water for specific conditions.The two resources below will provide information you will find helpful on the topic of water treatment.

SHL water treatment system booklet.

 

Well Water Quality and Home Treatment Systems, by The State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa. This publication is an overview of systems commonly used to treat water quality problems.

 

Water Treatment Guidance from the Water Quality Associations.

 

Water Treatment for Dummies is a fun and fact filled booklet provided by the Water Quality Association. It takes the complex concepts regarding water treatment and makes them easier to understand. This information will help you be more knowledgeable and confident in understanding water treatment needs and devices. The booklet is available as a free download at the following website: www.wqa.org/dummies.


Iowa DNR Fact Sheets

The DNR has four information fact sheets available to private well owners. The information touch on the common topics that well owners frequently ask during while contacting our office. The topics include:

Private Wells In Karst Areas - Shallow well water quality issues that can occur in Karst bedrock.

How To Sample Your Well Water - How to obtain well water sampling for your private well.

Understanding Your Water Test Report - What to look for when reading your water test report.

Protecting Your Private Well - Information about managing your well to improve its protections.

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.

 

Water Systems Council wellcare® information sheets

The Water Systems Council has developed a complete library of water well care information sheets to educate well owners about the basics of their well system, the importance of water well maintenance, keeping good records, water well testing and understanding your results, and how to protect and conserve your water supply for years to come. The wellcare® information sheets can be downloaded in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format and printed from the following website.

https://www.watersystemscouncil.org/water-well-help/wellcare-info-sheets/

National Groundwater Association Information Series

The National Groundwater Association (NGWA) Information Series fact sheets are a great source if information too. The NGWA is an organization is comprised of professional members from Water Well Contractors, Water Treatment Contractors, Professional Engineers, Professional Geologist and Hydro-geologist, and Scientific Professionals. Their library of consumer information fact sheets will help you learn more about the groundwater and the sub-systems that make-up a water supply system. The fact sheets can be downloaded in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format and printed from the following website.

https://www.ngwa.org/what-is-groundwater/Information-sheets

Flood_pic

Flood Awareness is Important!

Private water well users in or near flooded areas - keep in mind that consuming contaminated water can cause illness.

Extremely heavy rains have fallen in many locations across Iowa over the summer and now into the fall. In many cases the rain causes regional flooding of streams, rivers, and normally dry low-lying areas.

Floods can cause water quality problems with water supply wells - even if your well isn't directly in the flooded area. During a flood, there is an increased risk that drinking water wells may become contaminated with bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants that are commonly found in flood water.

Consuming contaminated water can cause serious illness - especially in infants, individuals with comprimised immune systems, and our elderly population. Water testing is the only way to know if your well is affected. Please see our document named "What should I do when my well floods" for additional information.

Water System Council wellcare® information series also offers the following guidance for wells that may be affected by flooding:

Fact Sheets titled:

And informative videos titled:

The bottom line is if there is any doubt about the safety of your drinking water, you should use only bottled water or water from a known safe source until you can have your water supply sampled, tested at a drinking water laboratory, and proven safe.

To obtain more information on water testing, please contact your local county environmental health sanitarian, or view our water testing web page located at www.iowadnr.gov/privatewelltesting.

Basic Information About the Occurrence of Lead in Private Drinking Water Supplies - Important Information You Should Know

Is lead in my drinking water something I should worry about?
The majority of the risk for lead in private water systems comes from the plumbing components that make-up your water system. Some of the components may be made of materials that contain some lead. Under the right conditions, the lead in these items can leach into water contained inside the pipes. An important point to keep in mind is that many homes in our state were constructed before 1986, the year when lead standards were first established for plumbing components used inside homes and businesses.

Many brass components are used in homes and, depending on the brass used, may contain lead. In the past, lead-tin solder was also used to make connections in copper plumbing as part of an industry standard. The lead-free standards were revised twice since 1986, most recently effective in 2014, which require the amounts of lead in plumbing and fixtures be much lower than the previous standards.

Because of this, we recommend that all private drinking water supplies be tested for lead. The only way you will know if you should take action to protect yourself and your family from long term health effects associated with lead is to test your water supply.

Currently, the public drinking water program action level for lead contamination in drinking water is when the testing indicates a level of 15 parts per billion or more. The maximum contaminant goal for lead in drinking water is zero. For private water supplies, we recommend the same action level and goal to ensure that your water is safe. Keep in mind that the only way to know if your water supply is safe is to collect a sample of your water and submit it to a drinking water lab for analysis.

Sampling your water supply is something that you can do yourself, or you can contact your local county environmental health department and ask for assistance. A list of local county contacts can be found at: https://www.iowadnr.gov/Portals/idnr/uploads/water/wells/co_sanitarians.pdf.

Water sample test kits are available through The State Hygienic Laboratory (SHL) or your local drinking water laboratory. To obtain a sample kit from SHL you can call 800-421-4692. A list of other drinking water laboratories can be found at: http://www.shl.uiowa.edu/labcert/idnr/index.xml. The typical sampling protocol is to use the water the night before the test as you normally would, then allow the water to sit in the pipes overnight. The sample is collected from the cold water tap in the kitchen or bathroom sink the first thing in the morning before any water has been used in the house.

How Does Lead Enter Drinking Water?
Lead is a toxic heavy metal that is harmful if inhaled or swallowed. It can be found in air, soil, dust, food, drinking water, and products such as lead-based paints. Lead typically enters drinking water through plumbing materials. All homes, regardless of their age, may have plumbing that contains lead. However, homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures, and solder. Brass faucets, fittings, and valves, including those advertised as lead-free, may contribute lead to drinking water. The law currently allows pipes, fittings, and fixtures with up to 0.25 percent weighted average of lead to be identified as lead-free. Brass faucets and fittings and lead solder can leach lead into water, especially hot water.

What Are the Health Effects of Lead? Lead can cause serious health problems if too much enters the body from drinking water or other sources. Pregnant women, infants, and young children have the highest risks of negative health effects from lead exposure. Lead exposure in children under the age of six has been linked to damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, learning disabilities, shorter stature, impaired hearing, impaired formation and function of blood cells, and lowered IQ. Lead can accumulate in our bodies over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium. During pregnancy, lead is released from bones as maternal calcium and is used to help form the bones of the fetus. This can result in serious effects to the mother and her developing fetus, including reduced growth of the fetus and premature birth. Adults exposed to lead could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure. Lead is stored in the bones and can be released later in life. If you are concerned about lead exposure, you may want to ask your health care provider about testing children to determine the levels of lead in their blood.

How Can I Reduce Exposure to Lead from Drinking Water?
There are several steps that you can take to reduce your and your family's exposure to lead from drinking water.

  • Run your water to flush out lead. The longer water sits in your home piping; the more lead may leach from lead-containing fixtures. Before drinking, flush your pipes for several minutes by running your tap, taking a shower, doing laundry or a load of dishes.
  • Use cold water to cook and to prepare baby formula. Do not cook with or drink water from the hot water tap; lead dissolves more easily into hot water. Do not use water from the hot water tap to make baby formula. Remember, boiling water DOES NOT remove lead from water.
  • Identify and replace plumbing fixtures that contain lead. Brass faucets, fittings, and valves, including those advertised as “lead-free,” may contribute lead to drinking water. The law currently allows pipes, fittings, and fixtures with up to 0.25 percent weighted average of lead to be identified as “lead-free”. Plumbing materials that are lead free can also be identified by looking for lead-free certification marks.
  • Consider using a filter certified for lead removal. Read the package to be sure the filter is approved to reduce lead. Verify the claims of manufacturers by checking with independent certifying organizations that provide lists of treatment devices that they have certified.
  • Regularly clean faucet aerators. Aerators, the screens at the end of faucets, can collect debris. Rinse out collected materials to reduce debris accumulation.
  • Use an alternative source. Until the concentration of lead in drinking water is mitigated, you should use a different source of drinking water (i.e., bottled water).

What Steps Should I take if Lead is Found in my Water System? 
For a system with a lead level above zero, but 15 ppb or less:

  • Decide if you want to obtain all of your drinking water from a known safe source, or add water treatment to lower the lead level closer to the maximum contamination level goal of zero.
  • Understand the corrosivity of your water and keep it as low as possible because corrosive water can cause lead to leach from plumbing materials that contain lead. Water treatment may be required to buffer the water and reduce the water’s corrosive nature.
  • Test the water supply periodically to monitor lead levels in your home to ensure that the level is stable or declining. If the lead level increases, additional action is required on your part to protect your health. These steps may include water treatment or replacing the water you consume with water from a known safe, lead-free source.
  • Determine what improvements can be made in your home’s plumbing that may result in lower lead levels.
  • Test your water system after water treatment anytime you install a new well or change water treatment on an existing well.

OR

For a system with a lead level over 15 ppb:

  • Use an alternative source for drinking water or provide point-of-use water treatment for the water tap location you can dedicate to supply all of the home’s drinking water – keeping in mind that the maximum contamination goal for your water is zero.
  • Increase how often you sample. We suggest testing for lead every 6 months so that you can closely monitor the lead levels in your water system. 
  • Educate yourself on lead exposure and health risks. You should understand health effects of lead, the sources of lead in drinking water, and actions you can take to reduce exposure to leads in drinking water.
  • Reduce the corrosivity of the water in the system. Corrosive water can cause lead to leach from plumbing materials that contain lead.
  • Consider replacing the home’s plumbing to remove all components that contain lead and replace them with new components labeld as "lead-free" or "low lead". This includes lead solder used to join pipes, brass faucets, brass fittings, and brass valves that may contain lead.

Additional Resources 
For additional information on lead in water supplies, please visit EPA's Web site at www.epa.gov/lead, call the National Lead Information Center at 800-424-LEAD, view lead information at the Water Systems Council wellcare® Information pages at https://www.watersystemscouncil.org/water-well-help/wellcare-info-sheets/, or contact your local public health department by using the following list:  https://idph.iowa.gov/Portals/1/userfiles/147/lph_addresses.pdf.

NOTICE - General Permit #6 Renewal

The NPDES General Permit for Well Construction and Well Service Discharges (also known as GP6) will expire on February 28, 2020. Iowa DNR proposes to initiate rulemaking to renew the permit for a third 5 year term. The proposed GP6 is nearly identical to the current general permit except for some clarifications.

The permit renewal process includes asking for comments from individual stakeholders, stakeholder groups, and other interested citizens. The department held a stakeholder meeting in May to accept comments about the renewal of the permit, note changes in the permit conditions, and discuss the renewal process.

Additional information can be obtained on the renewal process by contacting Wendy Hieb by phone at 515-725-8405, by email at wendy.hieb@dnr.iowa.gov, or by US Postal Service to Wendy Hieb, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 502 E. 9th Street, Des Moines, IA 50319.

You can view the current draft of GP6 by downloading the document at the link below.

Download the current Draft GP6

For more information about General Permit #6 and well construction discharge requirements, please see our Well Construction Discharge web page found at: www.iowadnr.gov/gp6.

Coming Soon - GP6 Well Siting Atlas

As part of the upcoming General Permit #6 renewal, the Iowa DNR is developing an online GP6 Well Siting Atlas to assist landowners, well contractors, and engineers. This tool will aid in performing desk evaluations of well sites and help determine if the well location will likely require discharge management through GP6, and what locations likely cannot support construction discharges due to close proximity of Outstanding Iowa Waters (OIWs).

The Atlas uses map layers that will help you identify distances to surface waters and OIWs, locations of sinkholes, karst areas, land slope, and more.

The project is progressing and we expect to have the Atlas on DNR's public website this fall. The long term plans include adding more map layers to make this a complete well siting atlas.

You can click on the image below to see what the new GP6 Siting Atlas will look like.

Example image of new GP6 Siting Atlas

Web image of Private Well Class page header

Rural properties that come up for sale commonly have one or more water wells located somewhere on the parcel. Many times, a well provides the only drinking water supply available for the property. Did you know that there's more to understanding the safety and reliability of the drinking water supply than taking a water sample and sending it to a testing lab?

The Private Well Class has web based training that will help you understand what you should look for when a property has one of more water supply wells. Videos are available for your convenience at the following You Tube video link: What Realtors need to know about homes with well water.

https://www.youtube.com/user/privatewellclass

 

Irrigation_small

The DNR has a guidance document available to help well contractors, irrigation equipment provides, and well owners understand the requirements of developing high capacity wells. High capacity 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 Allocation and Use permit can be issued and the well put into high capacity service.

This information includes a detailed inventory of nearby wells, a complete set of borehole cutting samples, a detailed well log from the test well or production well, and a well pump test to verify the characteristics of the well, like the well's maximum capacity, pumping and non-pumping water levels, and potential for well interference.

Depending on well location and aquifer used, the applicant may be asked to conduct an extended pump test to determine/verify the effects the proposed withdrawal has on other nearby wells. The pump test must be long enough in duration to achieve a stabilized water level in the test well or production well, and in the required observation well(s). It can take up to 72 hours of continuous test pumping to achieve a stabilized water level.

During the test pumping, water level measurements are taken from the production and observation well(s) at predetermined intervals and the information accurately documented on a pump test log. This helps determine how much influence the new high capacity well has on the aquifer and nearby wells. Additional details can be found in Iowa DNR Technical Bulletin 23.1.

All pump test information is used to help the well owner secure a Water Allocation and Use Permit. A Water Allocation and Use permit is issued to convey the legal right to pump and use 25,000 gallons or more of water a day for a beneficial purposes, like crop irrigation or industrial processes. 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, turf or truck farms, and athletic fields), rock and gravel quarry operations, construction and temporary and permanent dewatering operations, recreational water uses and heating and/or cooling systems.

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 up to 10 years. A Water Use Permit also requires that a Water Use Report be submitted to the Iowa DNR each year. 

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.

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

Or you can use the YouTube Channel for Private Well Classes found at the following link:
https://www.youtube.com/user/privatewellclass.

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:

  • Private potable water supply wells like household and acreage wells. Basically, any water supply that is not regulated as a Public Water Supply.
  • Private non-potable wells used on farm and in industry, like: Livestock wells, commercial water supply wells, manufacturing and processing water supply wells; cooling tower water supplies; and any other water well that supplies water for non-potable use.
  • Irrigation wells for all uses including row crop irrigation, turf production, water for truck gardens and home yard irrigation.
  • Temporary and permanent dewatering wells used to lower water tables to allow for subsurface construction or stabilization.
  • Geothermal heat exchange water supply and reinjection wells used to exchange heat from a structure to the groundwater.
  • Geothermal Heat Exchange (GHEX) closed loop boreholes used to exchange heat from a structure to the earth.
  • Temporary and permanent test, observation and monitoring wells used to determine the quantity or quality of the groundwater or to monitor water groundwater levels.
  • Temporary and permanent piezometer or monitoring wells used to look for contaminants in soils or groundwater.
  • Direct push type technology for groundwater sampling when a temporary or permanent well casing and/or well screen is installed in the ground.

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 definition of Public Water Supply definition includes but is not limited to:

  • rural churches,
  • rural restaurants, bars and entertainment venues,
  • rural industrial or manufacturing facilities,
  • rural trailer parks,
  • rural wineries,
  • rural conference or meeting halls,
  • certain rural day care facilities,
  • and any other place that is not connected to a municipal or rural water public water supply where the public gathers or conducts business and 25 or more individuals have access to the water.

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- 725-0282.

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:

  • Protect the groundwater resources and public health by establishing well construction, well maintenance and well plugging standards.
  • Establish and maintain well contractor certification requirements for all types of boreholes that meet the definition of "well."
  • Provide a source for accurate and meaningful guidance to help answer questions pertaining to the private well program areas.

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.

The graph below provides the number of state private well construction permits issued each year in Iowa between 2002 through 2016. Both water supply wells (WW) and geothermal loop boreholes (GHEX) are shown. Click the graph to download a PDF version of the document.

PWPermits02-16

 

You can take the following steps to help protect your water supply well and the groundwater used by you and others:

  1. Maintain your well by inspecting, repairing, and replacing sanitary items as needed. This helps the well protect your water supply.
  2. Limit your use of pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals that may impact the groundwater.
  3. Store all farm chemicals in leak free closed containers, placed far from the well site. Apply all chemicals in strick adherance to the label directions, and never dispose of unneeded products onto the ground, or in storm sewers, sanitary sewers, or water ways.
  4. Store all household chemicals away from the well and in leak-free containers. Apply all chemicals in strick adherance to the label directions, and never dispose of unneeded products onto the ground, or into storm sewers, sanitary sewers, or water ways.
  5. Use backflow prevention devices on all hydrants and water spigots - especially if using to mix any type of contaminant.
  6. Take used motor oil and antifreeze to a recycling center.
  7. Be careful when you are doing any activity around the well so you don't damage the well cap, well wire conduit, well casing, or well vent. Even minor bumps can cause unseen damage that can affect well water quality.
  8. Respect the resources you use. Conserve your water even if you don't have to, because water is a valuable resource and the cost of providing clean, safe water will only increase if we all don't do our part.

Image of a drill rig that indicates no drilling is allowed.There are a number of areas in the state where it's not possible to install water supply wells or geothermal wells and borholes. The most common reasons for this type of restriction is because of local groundwater contamination, or to provide water withdrawal protections in specific areas where an aquifer is experiencing high rates of groundwater withdrawal.

There are two methods used to manage drilling restrictions - Environmental Convenants (ECs) and Protected Water Source Areas (PWSAs). Either strategy essentially acheives the same result - limiting or restricting drilling or access to the groundwater.

Environmental Covenants (ECs) are the most common form of restriction and commonly associated with smaller areas of contamination like Leaking Underground Storage Tanks - also known as LUST Sites. If mulitple small areas of contamination are in close proximity to each other, the overall size of an EC can be quite large. ECs are developed through agreements with citzens or local governments when local contamination issues make it difficult or impossible to install a private well or home and commercial GHEX systems when the property of the proposed drilling is on or near a contaminated site. It's imperative that drilling activities don't cause movement of contamination in any way - trasporting it off-site, moving it vertically to currently uncontaminated zones, or to cause an increase in the level of contamination in any part of the contaminant plume.

If drilling activies cause problems with a contaminated site, it increases the liability for the owner of the site, the owner of the property where the drilling is taking place, and the well contractor performing the drilling.

The department maintains a list of the communities that have ECs. You can use this information to help identify areas where drilling may not be possible. The following link will open a PDF list of the current communities that maintain an Environmental Covenant..

Communities that restrict well drilling activities

Protected Water Source Areas (PWSAs) are developed when the protections needed are greater than can be provided by using an EC, or when the area of contamination is large. PWSAs are developed in state rules which provide for a higher level of management, tracking, and enforcement.

A list of current PWSAs can be found in 567 Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 53

Private Well Owner Tools

Private well tools developed by the National Groundwater Association for Wellowner.org.

The resources include print materials and videos that help provide well owners with a better understanding of water well related topics.

Know the facts before you hire someone to work on your well

In Iowa, an Iowa DNR Certified Well Contractor must be on-site and in direct control of any well services at the time the services are taking place. Well services are things like the installation of geothermal boreholes, construction of water supply wells, installation of well pumps, pressure tanks, and pressure switches, and other tasks that can expose the well or water system to sources of contamination, or cause operational problems with the well system.

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 at the following web link: https://programs.iowadnr.gov/opcertweb/pages/oper_search.aspx

Should you test your private water supply for lead?

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.

The 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.

Groundwater Protection
Types of Groundwater Protection
There are two fundamental categories of groundwater protection:

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.

Tips To Reduce Lead In Drinking Water
  • Replace suspect plumbing items that may be contributing to the lead problem.
  • Before using the water for drinking or cooking, flush your cold water pipes by running the water for a few minutes. You can use the water flushed from the tap to water plants or for other non-drinking uses.
  • Use only cold water for consumption.
  • Have your water tested periodically to look for lead level changes.
  • Use a water treatment system designed to reduce water corrosion or a lead removal system certified under NSF/ANSI standards.
Lead leaching due to corrosion

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:

  • the type of metals used in the pipes and fittings,
  • the chemistry of the water (acidity and alkalinity) and the types and amounts of minerals in the water,
  • the amount of lead it comes into contact with,
  • the temperature of the water,
  • the amount of wear in the pipes,
  • how long the water stays in pipes, and
  • the presence of protective scales or coatings inside the plumbing materials.
FACTS

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 contaminants.

Private Wells in Karst Areas
How to Sample Your Well Water
Understanding Your Water Test
Protecting Your Private Well
Well Booklet
Iowa Groundwater Basics
Do you need additional resources?
IOWA DNR PRIVATE WELL PROGRAM

For more information, contact:

Russell Tell
Water Supply Engineering Section
Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Wallace State Office Building
502 E. 9th Street, Des Moines,IA 50319-0034
Fax 515-725-0348 Phone 515-725-0462
russell.tell@dnr.iowa.gov