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NM EPHT Drinking Water Quality: Private Wells Testing

The Health Benefits of Testing Drinking Water Quality

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.

New Mexico Private Well Water Fairs: Free Testing

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.

How To Test When to Test Understanding Test Results

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)

How to have your well water tested 

First, take advantage of the Well Water Fairs offered by the state's Environment and Health Departments. These opportunities for no-cost or low-cost field tests assess drinking water quality in communities across the state. About 10 water fair events are held each year, usually in rural communities. At these fairs, well owners can bring in water from their well to be tested. Typically the water can be tested for these parameters during a field test: electrical conductivity, fluoride, iron, nitrate, pH and sulfate and sometimes arsenic. At most of these water fairs limited analysis will be performed the same day. You can either pick up results or have the results mailed to you. See the water fair schedule. To request water fair in your community call (505) 222-9574. 

Next, if you are buying property,conducting your regular water testing, testing due to reasons listed above, or if you are testing for specific parameters, 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)

Understanding the Water Test Results and Choosing a Treatment Option 

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

Well Water Testing Resources for Well Owners