of this factsheet (PDF, 115 KB)
Know Your Water Supply
Whether for drinking, cooking, bathing, or doing laundry, a supply of clean water is
important to a healthy home. Know where your water comes from.
Tips for All Water Users
- Install devices to prevent garden hose water from flowing backwards into your drinking
- Consult your local building code office before making major repairs or changes to your
- Conserve water because clean water is precious. Dont waste it, instead, use
water-saving toilets, and showerheads. Repair plumbing leaks right away.
Water Supply Problems
Bacteria and Viruses
The most common problem in private well water is
bacteria (exit DHS; PDF, 70 KB). If bacteria are found, it
means that human or animal wastes may be entering your water. Some bacteria can cause
stomach upset or diarrhea.
Harmful chemicals such as gasoline, solvents, and pesticides can get into drinking
water. Natural chemicals like arsenic, manganese, iron, and radon can also get into your
Water Quality Testing
Public water supplies are tested for more than 100 chemicals. If you use public water
you can call the water utility for information about your drinking water.
All private wells and many public water supplies use groundwater. Groundwater is water
held in underground soils and rock. Several communities use water from nearby lakes,
like Lake Winnebago, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior.
Tips for People who use Public Water Supplies
- Find out where your water comes from. Contact your water utility if you have questions
about your water supply.
- Protect your water supply. Follow any water-use warnings. Dispose of pesticides, motor
oil, and other chemicals properly. Reduce your use of lawn and garden chemicals since
these chemicals may seep into drinking water.
- Call your water utility if you have questions or if you notice a change in the taste,
odor, smell or color of your water.
If you own a private well, be sure your water supply is safe. Yearly testing and
maintenance will help protect your water supply. Call your local
Department of Natural
Resources (DNR) office for more information.
Tips for People who use Private Wells
For information on water quality, see the
resources website on water
issues or call 608-266-7480.
- Find out the age and depth of your well and the length of its casing (the pipe inside
the drilled hole). Learn about the types of soil, bedrock and water supply problems in
- Find out when your drinking water was last tested. Know what tests were run, and the
results. Keep records of any tests or repairs that you make.
- Test at least once a year for bacteria. Several
labs in Wisconsin can do these tests.
Check the yellow pages in your phone book for a lab near you.
- Test for
nitrate. This is especially important if there is a pregnant woman or infant in
your home. Nitrates come from fertilizer use, barnyard runoff, and septic systems. A high
nitrate level may mean that your water also has bacteria or farm chemicals.
- You may want to do other tests. Talk to a regional water supply expert at your local DNR
office to find out if
arsenic or radon are common in your area. If your well is near an
old landfill, gas station, or buried fuel tank you might want to test for
chemicals (VOCs). If your well is near an orchard or farm field, a test for
might be advised.
- Have your water tested if you notice a change in its taste, odor, or color. Some tests
are expensive and may be hard to do. Contact your well driller, local DNR office, or your
local health department for help.
- If your water contains bacteria or chemicals find out the source of the problem. Fix it
and test the water again to be sure it is safe.
- Keep chemicals, septic tanks, and animal waste away from your well. Dispose of chemicals
and motor oil properly. Dont put waste chemicals in your septic system. Limit your
use of lawn and garden chemicals. Keep the area around your well clean.
Prepared by the
Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Division of Public Health
Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health
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March 20, 2014