Private Well Stewardship Program Helps Iowans Safeguard Drinking Water

Multiple workshops planned for Iowans who own private wells

March 12, 2024, 10:11 am | Catherine DeLong

AMES, Iowa – Owners of private wells can be connected to local experts and funding to test their well by attending one of several workshops being held across the state.

The Private Well Stewardship Program, an educational program offered by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, teaches well owners about the responsibilities and risks of being a private well owner and connects them to additional resources to manage their well.

Catherine DeLong speaking.“Iowa is very lucky in that we have a statewide program that can cover the cost of annual well water quality testing, shock chlorination, and well assessments, but many counties are leaving money on the table and not taking advantage of this opportunity,” said Catherine DeLong, water quality program manager and leader of the program.

Over a dozen workshops are planned in towns across Iowa through May, with the next offering scheduled for March 16 for Bremer, Chickasaw and Fayette counties, at the Sumner Public Library.

Other events are planned in Clinton, Scott, Jones, Washington, Cerro Gordo, Webster, Jackson, Allamakee, Ringgold, Johnson, Linn, Wright and Warren counties. Location details can be found on the program website.

The one-hour session is free and explains the responsibilities of being a private well owner, how to test your well water quality and who can help, common contaminants found in Iowa and factors that can affect well water quality.

About 7% of Iowans, or 230,000 individuals, rely on private wells as their home’s main water source. Annual testing of well water is recommended by ISU Extension and Outreach, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet, only 5-10% of Iowa households with private wells test their water quality annually.

March 10-16 is National Groundwater Awareness Week. Groundwater, the water beneath the earth’s surface that fills the spaces between soil and rock, is the primary drinking water source of Iowans.

“I hope private well owners will observe National Groundwater Awareness Week by taking a minute to see if the program is offered in their area and signing up for a workshop,” said DeLong.

Why should you test your well annually? 

Here are a few reasons why testing well water is important. It all boils down to knowing what you are drinking:

  • Testing your water annually will help keep you, your family, pets, livestock and others safe.
  • Some pollutants are odorless and tasteless and will not be removed by boiling water.
  • Pollutants like bacteria, arsenic and nitrate are found at elevated levels in 10-30% of private wells in Iowa.
  • Iowa has a unique program that allows for free or low-cost annual testing of private wells.

If your county is not on this list, you can contact your ISU Extension and Outreach county office and ask if they are offering the Private Well Stewardship Program in your area. Or, you can contact Catherine DeLong at crdelong@iastate.edu or 515-294-5963.

Shareable photo: Catherine DeLong presenting at a recent Private Well Stewardship Program workshop.

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