There are many benefits to owning a private water supply, but the burden of proper maintenance falls squarely on the homeowner. With knowledge from the West Virginia University Extension Service, homeowners can make sure private water supplies are clean in order to keep their families and pets safe.

According to Georgette Plaugher, program coordinator for the WVU Extension Service oil and natural gas education team, there are numerous things that can impact or change water quality over time that homeowners must be vigilant for.

“Any sort of land disturbance such as industrial or building development, forestry, agriculture, flooding and chemical spills can affect water quality,” she said. “Gaining a basic understanding of water quality and taking steps to protect and monitor the source can give homeowners peace of mind that the supply is safe to use and drink.”

A change in color, taste or smell in water could indicate that there is an issue. Not all contaminants can be detected by sight, smell or taste, so if there is any concern at all, Plaugher recommends having water tested at a laboratory. In addition, test annually for bacteria and every three years for pH levels.

Common problems with private water supplies in West Virginia include improper construction of wells, springs or cisterns, and naturally occurring problems such as corrosive water, low pH levels and hard or soft water. Additionally, bacteria such as E. coli can come from surface water, insects or animals.

To avoid these problems, wells, springs and cisterns should be routinely inspected and maintained as specified.

Private water that comes from a well or spring follows a similar inspection and maintenance schedule. Always keep the area around the well or spring clear of debris, and make sure there is easy access. Limit the use of fertilizers, pesticides and other dangerous chemicals around the well and spring.

Check the wellhead annually for damage, and have it professionally inspected every ten years. Replace any damaged parts immediately. Designate a 100-foot area around the spring where potential pollution sources are removed, such as animals or vehicles. Inspect the spring box every year.

Check cisterns every year for damage and to make sure they are working properly. Rainwater can do damage to a plumbing system, so treat the collected water to prevent corrosion.

“Too often, we take the quality of our drinking water for granted, but simple, routine maintenance can stop problems before they become dangerous — and we’re here to help,” said Plaugher.

For more detailed information about inspecting or maintaining private water supplies, visit or contact your local office of the WVU Extension Service.

The WVU Extension Service serves as an outreach division of West Virginia University. Extension has offices in all 55 counties, which provide citizens with knowledge in areas such as 4-H and youth development, agriculture, family and consumer sciences, health, leadership development and community and economic development.



CONTACT: Georgette Plaugher, WVU Extension Service

CONTACT: Greg Hamons, WVU Extension Service

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