Well Water User Study: Women & Young People Want More Information

931 Area Residents Participate in Survey of Well Water Users

With input from more than 900 county well water users in a recent survey, the University of Wisconsin – Extension, Fond du Lac County reports that residents want more information about the safety of their well water.

“Women said they are less certain about the safety of their well water than men. Young people – under age 55 – are less likely to have thought about testing their water at all, and don’t know how. Overall, local residents said they want more information and aren’t sure where to look,” explained Diana Hammer Tscheschlok, Community, Natural Resource, and Economic Development Educator.

The study asked residents who have sampled with UW-Extension in the past, residents in the Town of Byron, and a random selection of rural county residents to share their opinions about the safety of their well water, reasons for testing or not testing, and most trusted advisors on well water safety.

For women, having young children or pregnant women at home was a higher motivator to test. Knowing that a neighbor had a contaminated well, observing a visible change in well water, and having a local testing program offered were also motivators. Residents who don’t routinely test their water report they do not know how or what to test for, and also that they have no health problems from drinking it.

“Well water testing should be done annually by residents with a private well. Fond du Lac County Health Department offers testing for nitrates and bacteria locally. The State Lab of Hygiene and the Water and Environmental Analysis Lab (affiliated with UW-Extension) will even mail bottles to you, for testing of additional contaminants such as iron, arsenic, and lead,” states Tscheschlok. Details on testing options can be found by searching “UW-Extension well water” online or contacting the local UW-Extension office at 920/929-3173.

“Unfortunately, many types of water contamination are not visible,” Tscheschlok explains. “For example, nitrate, commonly found in this area, has no taste, smell, or color but is a health concern for infants less than 6 months of age or women who are pregnant at levels above 10 mg/L.  “

Another misconception the survey revealed is that well water results can be assumed from a neighbor’s test. “Well water safety is site-specific. A family’s well may be drilled and cased to a different depth than their neighbors’ wells; therefore, it is fundamental for each well to be tested rather than rely on a neighbor’s water test results.”

Homeowners are the water utility manager for their well. According to Tscheschlok, “It’s important that well owners take some simple steps to understand the quality of their water.  Maintenance of the well, such as making sure the cap is on tight and no plants or bushes are growing nearby, also makes a difference.”

The study results are guiding well water education to rural landowners.

Learn more:

View the infographic report and recommendations for well users. (PDF, 1000 KB)

Read the press release (PDF, 33KB)

Full Text of Final Report (PDF, 617 KB)

Findings Overview in a poster format (PDF, 558 KB)

WisContext article: What Motivates Rural Wisconsinites to Test Their Drinking Water Source

This study was funded by a 2015-2016 grant from the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board, the Center for Groundwater Science and Education, and the Towns of Empire, Byron, Fond du Lac, Oakfield, and Ripon.

The Fond du Lac County Health Department, Code Enforcement, Land and Water Conservation, and UW-Extension departments have worked together for many years to educate county residents about well water safety and best practices for maintaining safe drinking water. They offer township-wide testing programs, fund well abandonment projects, monitor septic systems, operate the drinking water testing lab, respond to residents’ questions, and do site visits as needed to monitor and sample after contamination events.


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