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Private Wells Water Quality

Well owners are the best protection of their water supply. The water quality of a private well is unregulated in the state of New Mexico (there are some city, and county policies that apply to wells such well permitting, but not the quality of the water from wells).

Well owners are responsible for:

Why Well Water Quality is Important

One of the ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century was the treatment of drinking water, including disinfection. This resulted in a dramatic decrease in diseases such as typhoid and cholera. Although most New Mexicans have access to drinking water that meets standards under the national Safe Drinking Water Act, private well owners and users should periodically test their well water to ensure that is meets the same safe drinking water standards. Learn about testing.

About 20 percent of the population in New Mexico (or an estimated 400,000 people) receive their water from a private well. Owners of private domestic water wells are the best protection of their water supply; the water quality of a private well is unregulated in the state of New Mexico.
How can things get into drinking water? Drinking water quality can be influenced by:

  • Natural sources, like bedrock.
  • Man-made sources, like chemicals, agricultural run-off, or plumbing fixtures.
  • Natural disasters, like flooding and drought.

We call naturally occurring drinking water components constituents. Common constituents in groundwater in New Mexico may include: arsenic, uranium, fluoride, manganese, selenium, nitrates, sulfate, and bacteria. When there is an absence of groundwater recharge, such as due to drought or large water draws, the concentration of these constituents could increase. This is why it is important for people who rely on private wells to test the quality of their drinking water. Learn about testing.

  • Microorganisms can also influence the water quality from private wells.

Organisms such as bacteria, parasites, or viruses can be naturally present in the environment or can be introduced into water by contamination from human or animal waste (fecal waste).

Learn more about private wells and water-related diseases.
Private well owners in New Mexico should test their drinking water:

  • Every year for bacteria, nitrate, pH and conductivity.
  • At least once for fluoride, arsenic, uranium, and anything (constituent) that is of concern due to proximity of a nearby potential source.
  • For manganese, if your well water is found to have levels of uranium or arsenic above the respective Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum contaminant level (MCL). This is because manganese can interfere with the removal of uranium and arsenic from the water. Learn more about testing.
  • Retest when changes in terrain occur due to disasters (fires, floods, and runoff) Learn about wells: floods and disasters.
  • When tests are offered in their area through state-sponsored water test fairs and biomonitoring opportunities.

The benefits of testing include:

  • You will know what is in the water you drink.
  • You will be advised of the presence of constituents that have potential to harm your health.
  • Test results will guide you in finding proper treatment for minimizing the potential for health risks.

My water comes from a private well. How do I know which water treatment I should get?

Well water testing and treatment can be complicated. It requires thoughtful consideration for each well location. The Health Department recommends these steps:
  1. Get the water tested by a third-party environmental laboratory, preferably a certified lab. It is important to have the water tested by an entity that is not selling you equipment. You can also take advantage of occasional water fairs offered by the State Environment Department and in part, by the State Health Department.
  2. Educate yourself on the types of water treatment which will remove or treat the constituent you are concerned about.
  3. After installation of treatment, test the water again

Does the condition of my well have anything to do with the water quality?

The risk of having drinking water quality problems depends on how good a well is: how well it was built, where it is located and how well it is maintained. It also depends on the local environment, which includes the quality of the aquifer from which water is drawn (which can change over time) and human activities in the area that can affect the well water.
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Content updated: Thu, 4 Jun 2020 16:26:02 MDT