The Private Well Stewardship Program is an educational program offered through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in which private well owners learn about the responsibilities and risks of being a private well owner and are connected to additional resources to manage their well. The main goal of the program is to encourage private well owners to test their water quality once per year.
This program is designed for busy Iowans, consisting of a single one-hour session that will help Iowans safeguard their drinking water.
Why should you offer or attend this program?
In Iowa, there are two main sources of drinking water: public water supplies and private wells. Public water supplies include city water utilities and rural water supplies that are regulated to maintain specific water quality standards. Conversely, maintaining private well water quality is the responsibility of individual landowners. Iowa Administrative code requires water sampling after new well construction, well reconstruction and well rehabilitation, but assuring the continued water quality is the responsibility of the landowner. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control all recommend that private well owners test their water quality annually.
About 7% of Iowans, or 230,000 individuals, rely on private wells. Only 5-10% of households with private wells test their water quality annually. (Source: Iowa Department of Public Health)
Why should you test your well annually?
There are many reasons to test your well! It all boils down to knowing what you are drinking. Here’s a couple reasons:
- 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. (Source: Iowa Department of Public Health)
- Iowa has a unique program that allows for free or low-cost annual testing of private wells.
What is the Grants-to-Counties program?
All counties in Iowa participate in a program called Grants-to-Counties that allows for free or low cost annual testing for private wells. In order to access the program contact your county department of public health and they will send a county employee to take your sample for you. These county employees are called Environmental Health Specialists or Sanitarians, and are a knowledgeable resource for private well owners. Sanitarians are trained to take an accurate water sample and to help you interpret your results.
Are you interested in taking part in the Private Well Stewardship Program?
Contact your county ISU Extension and Outreach office and ask if they are offering the Private Well Stewardship Program in your area. Or, you can contact Catherine DeLong (firstname.lastname@example.org, 515-294-5963), water quality program manager at ISU Extension and Outreach, who leads the program.
Private Well Stewardship Program being led in Winneshiek County by Catherine DeLong
Private Well Stewardship Program being led in Webster County by Catherine DeLong
This work is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Project No. IOW05570.