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NM EPHT Drinking Water Quality: Private Wells Testing

   When to Test   Water Fairs   Find a Lab

Why Test Your Well Water?

Make your drinking water quality a health priority for you and your family. Well Testing The best way to know if drinking water from a private drinking well is safe to drink is by testing it, also called sampling.

If you have a private well, regular water quality testing is very important. Many contaminants cannot be identified by taste or odor, making it difficult for homeowners to know if the water quality of their well has changed.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate private wells and many states and towns do not require periodic sampling of private wells after they are initially installed. This makes it the responsibility of homeowners to periodically test their well for contamination.

Common water quality tests check for germs such as E. Coli, and chemicals such as nitrates, arsenic, uranium, lead, and fluoride by taking a sample of water from your well or from your drinking water source in your home such as the kitchen sink. If your well water smells, tastes and looks fine, you should still have it tested. Often germs and chemicals are unnoticed and the only way to find these is through testing. If germs are in your drinking water, they can cause abdominal cramping and diarrhea, for example.

Levels of various naturally-occurring and man-made contaminants in New Mexico ground water, including arsenic, uranium, manganese, nitrates, fluoride, sulfate, and bacteria might be elevated above the EPA Safe Drinking Water standards. Ongoing drought conditions and aquifer mining have raised further concern that increases in contaminants may occur in the absence of significant ground water recharge events. This is another key reason to test your drinking water.

Testing Schedule When to Test

Make your drinking water quality a health priority for you and your family by testing your water:

Every Year: Bacteria, Nitrates. Checking these yearly is a good indicator if your water quality has degraded. This may mean your well casing has cracked or your water has been polluted by animal or human waste. The best time to test is in late summer.

Periodically: Other Chemicals. Test at least once for arsenic, uranium, fluoride and total dissolved solids if you live in a rural area.

If you live in an area that may be subject to industrial pollution, near a mine or mill site, test periodically for contaminants of concern, such as arsenic and uranium for many parts of the state. 

Other harmful chemicals that you should test for will depend on where your well is located on your property and whether you live in an urban or rural area. These tests could include testing for lead, mercury, radium, atrazine, and other pesticides.

There may be other reasons to test your water beyond your regularly scheduled tests, such as:

  • There are known problems with well water in your area. You have experienced problems near your well (i.e., flooding, land disturbances, and nearby waste disposal sites)
  • You replace or repair any part of your well system, such as a pump. Someone in the home is expecting a baby or is nursing.
  • The water changes in smell, taste or color. The well runs dry and then comes back.
  • A spill of chemicals or fuels occurs near your well. You put in a treatment system to fix a water quality problem.
  • New agricultural activities near your well.
  • You just installed the well or you newly purchased property or a home with a well.

Private Well Guidance, NMED (239.4 KB)

Who should test your well?

It is recommended that your well water be tested by a State Certified Laboratory. Call the Drinking Water Bureau at 877-654-8720 and see the state environmental departments listing of these labs. 

Certified Labs (62.2 KB)

Sometimes state and local health and environment departments conduct field tests to assess drinking water quality.

Take advantage of local well testing opportunities:

New Mexico Well Water Fairs. About 10 water fair events are held each year, usually in rural communities throughout New Mexico, conducted by the state Environment Department and Department of Health. At these fairs,  rural well owners can bring in water from thier well to be tested. Typically the water can be tested for these paramaters during a field test: electrical conductivity, fluoride, iron, nitrate, pH and sulfate and sometimes arsenic. If you would like to request water fair in your community call (505) 222-9574. 

Upcoming Well Water Testing/Fairs:

Prepare before you come:

  • To make the most out of your visit at a water fair, it helps to know a little history and information about your well. Complete this form before you attend. It’s easier to find this information at home where you may keep records or a well log. This helps the water counselor answer some questions you might have during your visit.

    Water Fair Test Form. (69.1 KB)

  • If you do not have a printer, it is not a problem. Basic information such as well depth, age of the well, distance from the septic tank, and any concerns you or any household members have about the drinking water quality will be items you will want to know before you come. You can write down that information and bring it with you to the fair. Then you can complete a form on-site.
  • Bring enough water. Usually at least a liter of water in glass container will work.

Tips for bringing your water in for testing at a NMED/DOH sponsored domestic well water fair:

  • Get a clean bottle or jar (glass or plastic) to fill up that holds at least a liter. Do not use containers that have a strong odor, such as citrus or pickle jars.

  • Find a faucet that is not connected to a treatment system such as reverse osmosis, water softener, or carbon filter.

  • Let the water run for a couple of minutes and then fill the bottle up. Put a lid on it.

  • Fill up the bottle or jar as close to the time as possible of when you will bring the water in for testing.

  • It is usually okay to send your water sample in with a friend, relative or neighbor. Just make sure to mark your bottle with your name.

At most of these water fairs limited analysis will be performed the same day. You can either pick up results or have them mailed to you. After you test your water it is important to understand what the results mean. Try the Water Quality Interpretation Tool. Select the United States option.

Biomonitoring Assessments. The state health department conducts biomonitoring assessments periodically and looks for specific metals, such as arsenic and uranium in drinking water from wells and in the body, based on available funding and assessments. Call 888-878-8992 to learn more.

Bernalillo County Domestic Well Monitoring Program. Drought and limited water sources are a health concern. Join the Bernalillo County domestic well monitoring program and become aware of your well water levels. Learn more by calling 505-224-1614.

To make sure your water is safe for drinking, testing is your first step. If test results show that your drinking water contains contaminants at levels above the safe limit, you can improve the quality with treatment. An appropriate water-treatment system or use of an alternative source of drinking water, such as bottled water is recommended.  Learn more about water treatment and filtration.

Understand Your Water Test Results

After you test your water it is important to understand what the results mean. This information can help you select an appropriate water treatment system if needed. The Northern Plains and Mountains regional Water Program has a tool which can help you interpret your water test results. Try the Water Quality Interpretation Tool. Select the United States option.

More Well Water Testing Resources for Well Owners