The one thing private well owners should do

By Mike Ekberg, manager of water resources monitoring and analysis

If you own a private well, do you have it tested at least annually? You should. Your family’s health depends on it.

Just because your water tastes good doesn’t mean it is good. If you want to be sure your drinking water is safe, you need to have it tested.

Test at least annually
The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) recommends well owners test their water at least annually for bacteria, nitrates, and contaminants specific to your area. Consider more frequent testing if:

• There is a change in taste, odor, or appearance of well water.
• The well has a history of contamination.
• The well is near a septic system.
• There have been recurring incidents of gastrointestinal illness.
• An infant is living in the home.
• Home water treatment equipment has been installed.

In our area, I recommend the following tests:

Total Coliform – Coliform bacteria is an indication of potential disease-causing bacteria or viruses in well water. Not all coliform bacteria is harmful, but the presence of coliform bacteria in well water may be an indication that water from the land surface is directly entering the well. Coliform bacteria may also indicate the presence of contamination from human or animal waste.
E. coli – E. coli bacteria is a specific indication of contamination from human or animal waste in the well. Its presence is a warning that disease-causing bacteria or viruses may be present in the well water.

Nitrate – Nitrate gets into drinking water from fertilizers, manure, and septic systems. It also occurs naturally. High nitrate levels present a health concern for infants if water is given to babies under 12 months old––mixed with formula or otherwise. Boiling water before feeding doesn’t reduce nitrate levels.. High nitrate levels can also suggest other toxins such as bacteria and pesticides.

Arsenic – Arsenic is naturally occurring in groundwater. It’s linked to various cancers and other health issues.

Manganese – Manganese also occurs in nature and can be present in groundwater. At high enough levels, it may cause brain damage.

Lead – Lead typically gets into drinking water from corroded pipes and plumbing fixtures. If your home was built prior to 1986, it’s more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures, and solder.

To help you get started, MCD partners with various counties and soil and water conservation districts to offer free, confidential well water sampling for nitrate, nitrite, and iron through Test Your Well events.

Test Your Well events are scheduled throughout the year in various counties. The next Test Your Well event will be held on Monday, Mach 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Collinsville Community Center for Butler and Preble county residents.

Find a testing lab and view more resources

For more information about Test Your Well, visit our website or contact me at (937) 223-1278 ext. 3237.

Water Stewardship Summary Report 2012-2019

MCD has released a new report on Water Stewardship that discusses the region’s water challenges and how communities can take action and build resiliency to address those challenges..

Mike Ekberg, MCD manager of water resources monitoring and analysis, and Sarah Hippensteel Hall, manager of watershed partnerships, are currently visiting county commissions and key stakeholders to present the report and ask for input. They are highlighting the work of all three of MCD’s mission areas—flooding protection, water stewardship and recreation—but focusing primarily on water stewardship issues.

Your input through our short survey will help shape our work plan and ensure we are meeting your community’s water concerns and challenges.

Southwest Ohio – Ready to be hub of water research and technology

By Mike Ekberg, manager of water resources monitoring and analysis

Our region is ready to be the hub of water knowledge and know-how.

Initiatives are under way in southwest Ohio to position our region as a leader in water research and technology development to help deal with world water challenges such as scarcity and contamination.

One of the newest initiatives, The University of Cincinnati’s CV Theis (pronounced Tice) Groundwater Observatory, is working to capitalize on our region’s most important natural resource – water – and the availability of local scientific talent.

Recently, the observatory was designated as part of The Worldwide Hydrobiogeochemical Observatory Network for Dynamic River Systems (WHONDRS). WHONDRS is a consortium of researchers and other interested parties that aims to understand how rivers and aquifers interact and how the interactions impact water quality and aquatic life.

Being part of WHONDRS “will increase (the observatory’s) visibility and utilization by researchers worldwide,” says Dr. David B. Nash, emeritus professor of the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Geology.

A technician works on the central pylon which stores and transmits data collected by sensors at the Theis observatory.

 

A Field Laboratory

Imagine if we could peer into the ground and watch water move from the river into the aquifer and vice versa. The Theis Groundwater Observatory, a field laboratory for studying water, lets scientists do just that.

The observatory is situated on the bank of the Great Miami River in western Hamilton County and is well equipped to monitor how the aquifer responds to changes in river flow. This research can lead to better understanding of:

  • How water movement into and out of the aquifer changes as the river rises and falls.
  • The impact of floods on water quality in the aquifer.
  • How contaminants from the river are filtered by the aquifer.
  • How bacterial processes degrade contaminants in the aquifer.

The knowledge that scientists gain at the observatory will enhance community efforts to protect the groundwater that is used for drinking water.

Since the observatory was dedicated in late 2017, the University of Cincinnati hired a faculty member with expertise in groundwater modeling. That person is now teaching a new undergraduate course using the data collected from the observatory.

Both undergraduate and graduate students have started working on projects at the observatory. In addition, water professionals from regional universities and businesses have visited the observatory and have discussed the possibility of collaborative research projects.

 

The observatory is sponsored by a collaboration of organizations including The Miami Conservancy District, the Duke Energy Foundation, Great Parks of Hamilton County, and the University of Cincinnati.