I want to get my water tested, what should I be concerned about and test for?
The U.S. Geological Survey reported that nitrate was the most commonly detected contaminant in private wells derived from man-made sources at concentrations greater than the EPA Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL) for public water supplies. A second finding potentially affecting a greater portion of the population was that total coliform bacteria, a broad group that includes bacteria from soil, water and animal feces, were detected in 34% of sampled wells. The maximum contaminant level goal for coliform bacteria, including Escherichia coli, in drinking water is zero because this group is a predictor of the probable presence of pathogenic bacteria. Certified laboratories conducting E. coli and other water quality tests are shown at https://www.tceq.texas.gov/assets/public/compliance/compliance_support/qa/txnelap_lab_list.pdf. Tests for some inorganic substances are available through the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory.
My well water has a bad smell. What can I do to reduce this?
Does your water smell like rotten eggs? That is the most common complaint we hear about bad smelling well water. If so, the odor is due to hydrogen sulfide and is naturally occurring. There are some actions that can reduce the odor once you identify the source. If you notice the odor from your hot water tap (but not from the cold water) the source is your hot water heater. The hot water heater allows the bacteria that generates the gas to survive, but also the anode (which is usually made of magnesium) generates the energy to form the sulfide gas. If the odor is in the hot water you may want to contact a plumber to replace the anode in your hot water heater. If the odor is throughout your water system, it may be due to residual bacteria in your well or storage tank – if so, contact a licensed pump installer or well driller to shock-chlorinate your well. Know that this is not a permanent solution because the bacteria and the source of sulfide are naturally occurring, and the odor will return. You may also install a water treatment system to eliminate the odor. An activated carbon filter will remove low concentrations of the hydrogen sulfide gas. Higher concentrations of odor-causing gas can be treated with manganese greensand filters or oxidation filtration systems for hydrogen sulfide gas. More information is available through “Hydrogen Sulfide in Drinking Water: Causes and Treatment Alternatives.”
Do I have a Groundwater Conservation District that regulates my water well?
There are 98 groundwater conservation districts (GCDs) in Texas. The locations and extents of GCDs are shown on the GCD map. GCDs are created either by the Texas Legislature subject to the authority, conditions, and restrictions of Article XVI, Section 59 of the Texas Constitution, or by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality through a local petition process (Texas Water Code §36.013 – §36.015). The legislature has created about one to three GCDs on average during recent sessions. Confirmed GCDs (excluding the two subsidence districts and the Edwards Aquifer Authority) are located partially or fully within 173 of 254 Texas counties. GCDs cover nearly 70 percent of the area of the state. Additional information is available through the Texas Water Development Board and the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts.
How do I winterize my Southern well?
Wellowner.org has an excellent fact sheet titled “Winterizing your Well Southern Style” that was written by Gary Hix. It is available at https://wellowner.org/2021/02/winterizing-your-well-southern-style/
Author Hix has developed another good fact sheet titled “Keep your Well Safe and Operating through Winter Weather,” which is linked through the above fact sheet and also posted to https://wellowner.org/2021/02/keep-your-well-safe-and-operating-through-winter-weather/
I have lived on the farm/ranch for over 20 years and have never had the water from the well tested, should I get it tested?
We recommend that you have your well water tested annually at least for Escherichia coli (E. coli). Certified laboratories conducting E. coli tests are shown at https://www.tceq.texas.gov/assets/public/compliance/compliance_support/qa/txnelap_lab_list.pdf. You can think you have great water that tastes fine and looks fine but has contamination issues, so we recommend annual testing to make sure your water is safe and contaminant free. If you have concerns about particular contaminants, request a quote from the lab to test for those contaminants.
My water well is in a location prone to flooding is that a problem?
It can be a serious issue; however measures can be taken to limit the severity of the problem. One preventative solution is to make sure the well is cased above previous flood levels and that flood water cannot seep into the well through the top of the wellhead or well cap. Additional information is available through “How to Ready your Well for the Next Flood.”
Are there any rules about where I can have a well drilled on my property?
A water well can be placed 50 feet from property lines, with minimum well construction requirements met or up to 5 feet from property lines if the annular space is 3-inches larger than the outside diameter of the casing and pressure cemented or grouted from 100 feet back to the surface or from the top of the water production zone, whichever is shallower. For more information on these rules, please reference the Texas Department of License and Regulation website. It is also wise to consult with your local Groundwater Conservation District to make sure your drill in compliance with local rules that may vary from state regulations.
What is the required separation distance between a water well and septic systems?
The required separation distance between a water well and septic systems is 50 feet from a septic tank and 100 feet from drain fields or spray areas with minimum well construction specifications met. For more information on these rules, please reference the Texas Department of License and Regulation website. It is also wise to consult with your local Groundwater Conservation District to make sure you drill in compliance with local rules that may vary from state regulations.
I have identified an abandoned and/or deteriorated well on my property, can I plug it myself?
Yes, the statutes and rules allows landowners themselves to plug a well on their own property. The landowner is required to plug the well in accordance with the 16 Tex. Admin. Code Chapter 76.1004 well plugging specifications and submit a State of Texas Plugging Report. It is also wise to consult with your local Groundwater Conservation District to make sure you are in compliance with local rules that may vary from state regulations. Some GCDs have abandoned water well cost share plugging programs.
Where can I find the well plugging specifications?
By accessing the Texas Department of License and Regulation Water Well Driller/Pump Installer Well Construction and Plugging Specifications or the Landowner’s Guide to Plugging Abandoned Water Wells (PDF). It is also wise to consult with your local Groundwater Conservation District to make sure you are in compliance with local rules that may vary from state regulations.