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K-State 105 - Know Your Water Project

Experts encourage private well maintenance 


Oberlin, Kan. – Every day, we brush our teeth, cook, wash clothes, shower, bathe and flush the toilet. However, do you really KNOW YOUR WATER? For most of us, we take water quantity and quality for granted. If you live in a community provided with a public water supply, the water is safe and regulated by the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. If you have your own private well, the burden falls on you for water quality protection and maintenance of the private well. “A private well that has been constructed properly and maintained can provide years of service,” said Stacie Minson, an extension watershed specialist with Kansas State University. According to Minson, spring is the perfect opportunity to schedule your annual private water well check-up.  


Here are some suggestions to help you protect and KNOW YOUR WATER: 

Annual well maintenance should include:  

  1. Check the well casing for cracks or leaks. 
  2. Check the well cap for water tightness. 
  3. Ensure that ground surface slopes away from the well for 15 feet in all directions.  
  4. Complete shock chlorination of the well and water system. 
  5. Test water for total coliform bacteria, E.coli,nitrate, and nuisance contaminants (pH, hardness, iron, manganese, and total dissolved solids).  


Suggested well maintenance and protection should include: 

  1. Work with a licensed or certified well driller if repairs to the well or well casing are necessary. Be sure well meets all current construction standards. 
  2. Find and fix the cause of any change in water’s color, taste or odor. Shock chlorinate the well if necessary.  
  3. Maintain at least 50 feet (100 feet preferred) of open space between the well and any buildings, septic/waste system, parked vehicle, equipment, compost or other contamination source. 
  4. Store chemicals such as fertilizer, pesticides, oils, fuel or paint at least 100 feet down slope from the private well.  
  5. Properly plug all abandoned wells and other holes not used in the last two years. Plug all cesspools and septic tanks. 
  6. Prevent backflow and back-siphonage by maintaining an air gap above the container you are filling, or by using an adequate backflow prevention device. 
  7. Shock chlorinate the well after any service work on the pump, well, or water system.  
  8. Place all well testing and records in one place for future reference. 


“These steps might seem like a lot to remember, so I encourage people to set a reminder on your phone for your well maintenance and to make it easy to Know Your Water,” said Minson.  


For those with questions on private wells, contact a local K-State Research and Extension Office. There are new water publications available to help guide the public through their well maintenance: Testing Private Water SystemsPrivate Well Maintenance and Protection, and Private Wells’ Safe Location


Your local Health Department or Environmental Office may also be able to answer questions. All of these agencies may have water test kits available and could even assist in sending samples off to a private lab. In addition, residents can find additional information by visiting https://www.epa.gov/privatewells


This project has received funding from  K-State 105, Kansas State University’s economic growth and advancement initiative for all 105 counties in Kansas. Learn more at k-state.edu/105. 


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the wellbeing of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county extension offices, experiment fields, area extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus in Manhattan. For more information, visit www.ksre.ksu.edu  


K-State 105 is Kansas State University's answer to the call for a comprehensive economic growth and advancement solution for Kansas. The initiative leverages the statewide K-State Research and Extension network to deliver the full breadth of the university's collective knowledge and solution-driven innovation to every Kansan, right where they live and work. Additionally, K-State 105 forges the connections and partnerships that create access to additional expertise within other state institutions and agencies, nonprofits and organizations — all part of an effort to build additional capacities and strengths in each of the 105 counties in the state. Learn more at k-state.edu


Know Your Water Form

Story by: 

Stacie Minson, KSRE extension watershed specialist