Celebrate (and Check) Your Drinking Water in May

Celebrate (and Check) Your Drinking Water in May, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights for May 1, 2018, http://communityenvironment.unl.edu/drinking-water-testing

National Drinking Water Week is held in May each year to bring attention to important water quantity and quality issues and their relationship to drinking water supplies. The attention to drinking water during that week provides an opportunity to learn more water resources in general and also serves a reminder to think about where your water comes from.

Test Your Drinking Water 
If you have your own drinking water well, one of the best ways to observe National Drinking Water Week is to use it as an opportunity to have your drinking water quality tested. May in Nebraska means warming soil temperatures, rain storms, greening grass and more outside activity. Warming soil temperatures also signal one of the most opportune times to get the best idea of your drinking water quality.

What to Test For
Private water supplies should be tested for total coliform bacteria and nitrates each year. Both substances can result in serious health complications. The only acceptable level of total coliform bacteria in your drinking water is no (zero) total coliform bacteria. The maximum contaminant level (MCL) for nitrate is 10 milligrams per liter (mg/L)—which is sometimes stated as parts per million (ppm). As nitrate levels approach or pass that MCL, well owners should consider treatment options.

Water testing kitPrivate water supplies should be tested for total coliform bacteria and nitrates each year.

Consider Testing If...
As a private well owner you should also test your drinking water if your well has been inundated with storm water or other runoff, if significant land use around the well has changed, if you have noticed any significant changes such as color, odor, taste or staining of household fixtures or linens or if you have noticed cracks or other issues with your well itself. Also if there has been any significant spill of chemicals within the area or if you hear from neighbors, local government or your water well professional that there are water quality issues in the area.

Testing Labs
Water quality tests should only be done by the Department of Health & Human Services State Public Health Environmental Lab or labs that have been certified by the Department of Health & Human Services. Information on obtaining sample kits as well as a list of certified labs can be found at: http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/public-health.aspx.

Local Natural Resources Districts also often provide assistance with drinking water tests. Your water well professional can also assist you with the sample as well as periodic inspection of your well components.

Here are some other ideas to help you learn more about and protect your drinking water:

  • Take time to walk around your wellhead and make sure that nothing on the wellhead is damaged or potential contaminant sources are too close to your wellhead
  • Make sure you are performing regular maintenance on your onsite wastewater system and following all operating guidelines
  • familiarize yourself with the wealth of information on the Nebraska Extension water website: Water.unl.edu.
  • If you receive your water from a public supply, take time to look through their information on quality, quantity and other related programs.

Knowledge of your drinking water and the critical water resources across our state is essential to help protect your health and the quality and quantity of water available for people, agriculture, wildlife and the environment.

Meghan Sittler
Meghan Sittler
Extension Educator - Domestic Water & Wastewater
Meghan's education includes a master's degree in natural resources with minors in political science and environmental planning. She also has a graduate certification in public policy analysis, as well as undergraduate degrees in environmental studies and anthropology from UNL. Her graduate project was focused on the development of collaborative and adaptive management for the Missouri River.

Sittler began as coordinator of the Lower Platte River Corridor Alliance in December 2008. Prior to that, Sittler worked for the National Park Service as an archaeological technician, an environmental educator with the Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department, an adviser and instructor with the UNL Environmental Studies program and School of Natural Resources and as a research and outreach specialist for the National Drought Mitigation Center. Meghan began her work as a Nebraska Extension Educator focussing on water in 2016.

Lancaster County Extension Office
444 Cherrycreek Rd
Lincoln NE 68528-1591
402-441-7180