Private well testing?

I have been asked occasionally about the procedure for private well testing in Arizona. This question comes up when someone learns that I work in the water resource industry. Public water suppliers test regularly, and mail the water users a report of their findings. The sampling procedure and the analytes are outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency.

But if you drink from a private well, there may be no regulations. If I owned a private well, I would want to know what bad stuff I could be drinking. Contaminant plumes are common, as well as high levels of arsenic, heavy metals, or nitrates. These things can make people sick, cause developmental problems, cancer, or death.

Common sources of contaminants include dry cleaners, gas stations, industrial areas, agriculture, septic systems, or mines. More than likely, most private well owners have at least one potential source of contamination within a few miles of their well. I have three dry cleaners within two miles of my house, and all have associated contaminant plumes. My house is also situated on a former agriculture field that likely used pesticides and fertilizers. Luckily, my house it on a city water supply.

Do most well owners regularly test their water? I don’t know, but I would guess most don’t. Arizona does not require testing for private wells, but recommends it. Water filtration salesman probably encourage some to have testing done, but the salesman approach probably discourages others from independent testing. Curious or paranoid people may have regular water testing, but I suspect the average person does not test until the first sign of a problem. Problem signs may include mineral buildup around fixtures, odors, or illness. Unfortunately, many contaminants are tasteless and odorless, and do not leave behind a residue – but are still harmful.

I am curious – what resources are out there for the private well owner? Here is a website I found to help Arizona residents –

Perhaps information about water quality and testing should be provided by well drillers and servicers, and be required when a property is sold.

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