Stay Well by Checking Your Well
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the Montana Watershed Coordination Council encourage all well owners to conduct an annual water well "check-up" that includes a wellhead and pressure tank inspection. Ground water is the primary source of drinking water for most Montanans. If you’re not on a public water supply or utility, in practical terms you’re the manager of your own small water system.
Private water wells require homeowners to take more control of their water quality. Well owners have a responsibility to themselves, their family, and their neighbors to protect their ground water from contamination and ensure that their water system is providing good quality drinking water. Conducting an annual well check-up of your water system is an important step you can take to ensure the proper operation of your well. Through a check-up you can prolong your system’s years of service and you can monitor water quality.
Some of the following suggestions were assembled by the Gallatin Local Water Quality District, Montana DEQ, and the National Groundwater Association.
An annual well check-up should include:
- As a minimum, test your water for coliform bacteria and nitrates. You can also test for any additional contaminants that may be specific for your area. You should also have your water tested if there is a change in your water’s taste, odor, or appearance; after the well system is serviced; or after a flooding event. Information about how to collect samples and where to send them can be provided by your closest water quality district, your local county sanitarian, or by the DEQ. You should file and keep all test results for future reference.
- Inspect your well parts to ensure they are in good repair. Look for problems such as cracked, corroded or damaged well casing or settling and cracking of the ground surface around the well casing. If any of these problems are present, your well can become a conduit for contamination the ground water.
- Check to make sure your well cap is not broken or missing. If it is, replace it with a new one. If your well does not have a sanitary cap (a two-part cap with a rubber seal), it is recommended that you replace it with a sanitary well cap.
- Inspect your pressure tank and associated plumbing by looking for things like leaks or corrosion, which could lead to future problems.
- Survey the area around your well to make sure there are no hazardous materials (paint, motor oil, household chemicals, etc.) nearby which could spill and contaminate your well water.
For Good Housekeeping:
- Never dump hazardous materials on your property and never pour them down the drain. If you’re on a private well, you’re probably also on a private septic system. These systems do recharge groundwater and may not remove some chemicals before the water is discharged to septic drainfields.
- Dispose of old or unwanted prescription drugs and over the counter medications by removing them from their original containers, mixing them with an undesirable substance (e.g. coffee grounds, kitty litter), recontainerizing them, and throwing them into your daily trash. Another method is to render illegible any personal information on medication containers, add water and other undesirable substances to the container, then seal the container thoroughly with duct tape before placing into the trash. These are the best disposal methods we have now, but they are not ideal. You can also check with your local pharmacy to see if they have an unwanted drug take back program.
There are several sources of information on proper well maintenance, water testing, and other local ground water issues.
- Gallatin Local Water Quality District can be reached at (406) 582-3148, or on the Web at: https://glwqd.org/
- Missoula Valley Water Quality District at (406) 258-4890, or on the Web at: https://www.missoulacounty.us/government/community-development/community-planning-services/floodplain-administration/flood-safety
- Montana Department of Environmental Quality on the Web at: