Drinking Water

Drinking Water

Environmental Health Specialists provide technical assistance and monitoring oversight for small public drinking water systems per a contract with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. SIPH regulates small communities with more than 15 but less than 25 connections as well as schools, businesses, food establishments, and RV parks served by a well.

SIPH staff also provide educations and technical assistance for questions related to private drinking water supplies.

Nearly all of the drinking water we obtain in Southeast Idaho comes from wells. For the most part, we enjoy safe, good quality drinking water. As our communities grow, more demands are placed on our aquifer and natural resources. Without careful planning and implementation, our good drinking water quality may be compromised.

Simply put, wells are constructed by drilling a hole into a water bearing soil. A metal sleeve, or casing is placed in the hole to keep the soil from caving in and to prevent outside contamination. A pump is then placed in the well to draw water and distribute it. Wells are a direct conduit to the groundwater and if not protected can carry contaminants directly to the groundwater. It is important that all wells be protected from potential contamination.

The following are ways to protect your private well:
  • If you have a well house, don't store food, toxic materials, lawn mowers, and other such items in the well house.
  • Inspect the cap (sanitary seal) on your well. Make sure it is tight fitting, that there are no holes in the top of the cap, and that all seals are in good condition and water tight.
  • If your well is in a pit, it is best to raise the well casing and abandon the pit. If this isn't feasible call your local health department for guidance so your well can be protected as best as possible.
  • Be aware of lawn chemicals. Spraying chemicals near your well increases the potential for contamination.
  • Keep livestock corrals 100 feet from the wellhead.

Many people claim their water tastes great and that they've never gotten sick from it. The truth of the matter is you can't tell if your water is safe by the taste, smell, or color of the water. The only way to know is to test it. The most likely contaminants are bacteria and nitrate. The source of nitrate in water is mostly from agricultural activities and private sewer systems. Nitrate is of greatest concern to infants. It interferes with the ability of an infant's blood to carry oxygen. This condition is called methemoglobinemia, or blue baby syndrome. If you have your own well, the health department recommends sampling for bacteria twice a year and nitrates once a year. Water bottles for bacteria samples can be picked up at your local health department. The health department also has a list of labs you can choose from to analyze your water for nitrates. If you have any concerns about your well or the quality of your drinking water, contact your local Environmental Health Specialist (EHS).

Type of Contaminant When to Test When to Treat
Bacteria Once a year Treat any amount
Nitrate Once a year If 10 mg/L or higher
Nitrite Once a year If 1 mg/L or higher
Arsenic Once every 3 to 5 years If 0.01 mg/L or higher
Uranium Once every 3 to 5 years If 30 µg/L or higher
Fluoride Once every 3 to 5 years If 4 mg/L or higher

Lead and Copper

Private Well Water Testing