Private Wells & Septic

Well and septic systems have a direct connection to ground water and homeowners play a critical role in protecting those resources. This audience is widespread and growing throughout the NPM region. Often, visual media is a useful tool for reaching this audience and an effective way to show the connection of well and septic systems to the water cycle. In collaboration with the professional letter writing service, educational DVDs, PowerPoint presentations, manuals and statistical data were designed in convenient graphs, charts, was developed to illustrate the connection between private water systems and ground water, and to show homeowners the steps they can take to help protect ground water resources.

Taking Care of Your Ground Water
The main section of Taking Care of Your Ground Water: A homeowner’s guide to well and septic systems, is approximately 17 minutes long and illustrates the connection a homeowner has to the water cycle, both as a user dependent on ground water for domestic water and as one who relies on components of the hydrologic cycle for domestic, on-site waste disposal. The DVD also illustrates how homeowners can help protect ground water resources. In addition, supplemental chapters range in length from six to 11 minutes and cover individual topics in more detail. Supplemental chapters include Protecting the Wellhead, Septic System Function and Maintenance, Water System Considerations for Buying or Building a New Home, Sampling for Well Water Quality, Interpreting Water Quality Results, Chlorinating a Well and Water System, and Water Treatment Basics.

  • Taking Care of Your Ground Water DVD series: A homeowners guide to well and septic systems
  • A Guide to Plugging Abandoned Wells (NDSU fact sheet – AE 996)
Water Quality

Sustainable supplies of good quality drinking water are essential to the well being of rural homeowners, small towns, and the economy of the NPM Region. If contaminated, remediation of these water supplies is difficult. Drinking water quality standards for human consumption are enforced in public water supplies, however are not regulated for private wells. Consequently, private well water users are responsible for their own assurances of the suitability of water supplies for domestic, livestock, and irrigation use. Much of the water used in the NPM Region is supplied by private wells pumped from ground water aquifers. These aquifers can be susceptible to impacts from agriculture, mining, oil and gas development, and other surface land uses.

Livestock drinking water quality is not protected by regulatory oversight, putting the management burden on livestock producers and landowners to test, treat, and protect water resources used by livestock. Livestock problems resulting from nitrate, sulfate, TDS, and blue-green algae are known to cause economic losses and are well documented, but in general, a wide-array of water quality concerns have not received adequate attention by research and extension.

Farmers and ranchers who have exercised water rights from groundwater wells and streams to sustain crop and forage production need to know the suitability of their water for irrigation. Expanded energy development and drought both have significant effects on the salinity of irrigation water. As many of the NPM Region’s states are establishing new water quality standards, landowners need up-to-date resources to evaluate suitability of tested waters and information on treatment and measurement of their water.

In response to these concerns, the NPM Regional Water team has developed an online assessment tool that offers instant water quality interpretation for thousands of residents. The interpretations provide an increased awareness of methods to reduce contamination and illness due to water-borne bacteria, as well as increased knowledge and awareness of water quality issues. These issues include proper testing procedures, private and public resources available for testing water, treatment guidelines, and well and septic system management.

The interpretation tool also includes recommended treatment processes to correct drinking water problems, links to information and resources, and the option for users to interpret their drinking, livestock, and irrigation water quality testing results.


  • Water Quality Interpretation Tool
  • Analytical Lab Testing Fact Sheet (CSU fact sheet 0.520)
  • Drinking Water Quality: Testing and Interpreting Your Results (NDSU fact sheet WQ-1341)
  • Drinking Water Resources (NPM Regional Water Program)
  • Filtration: Sediment, Activated Carbon and Mixed Media (NDSU fact sheet WQ-1029)
  • What’s Wrong With My Water? Choosing the Right Test (NDSU fact sheet WQ-1352)
  • Activated Carbon Filtration (AE 1029)
  • Bacteria in Water Wells (CSU fact sheet 6.703)
  • Identification and Correction of Water Problems (NDSU fact sheet – AE 1045)
  • Private Wells for Home Use (CSU fact sheet 6.700)
  • Region 8 – Nutrients and Water Quality Workshop
  • PNW: Citizens Grade Surface Water Quality
  • PNW: Residents Give Groundwater Quality Mixed Grades
  • PNW: Groundwater Outreach Success Stories in Oregon
Small Acreage Landowners
Animal Waste & Livestock
Water Conservation
Drinking Water

Drinking Water Resources

Are you interested in learning more about well and septic systems and/or starting an educational program? If so, we have a variety of resources to support you. Please contact your state’s Water Quality Coordinator if you have specific questions or requests.

Drinking Water Fact Sheets

  • Alkalinity, pH & Total Dissolved Solids
  • Antimony, Barium & Beryllium
  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium & Selenium
  • Chromium, Mercury & Thallium
  • Copper & Lead
  • Corrosivity & Hardness
  • Nitrate & Nitrite
  • Total Coliform & E. Coli
  • Total Iron
  • Understanding Your Test Results
  • Treatment Systems for Private Water Supplies


eXtension Drinking Water & Human Health: National drinking water specialists from Extension created this site to provide easy access to current, science-based information on safe drinking water issues. Their goals are to help citizens make educated, cost-saving decisions about drinking water conservation and treatment, and to help them guard against health risks.

Well Educated:  Well & Septic Educational Videos

Well & Septic File Folders

foldersKeeping good records is essential to helping households protect the health of their family and the environment. These folders provide a useful format to keep private well and septic records. The folders also contain a description of typical systems, suggestions for maintenance, tables for critical dates, and other essential information to help private well and septic owners keep their systems operating efficiently.

Folders are available through your state’s Water Quality Coordinator, though supplies are limited. If you wish to order larger quantities, please click here (sets of 20 are $20.00).

Support for Offering an Educational Program

Are you interested in offering a well testing program in your community? If so, all of the resources listed on this page are available for your use. Depending on your programming needs, resources are either free of charge or available at a reduced cost. Please contact your state’s Water Quality Coordinator for more information.

Access a comprehensive guide to offering a Well Testing Program.

Taking Care of your GroundWater Series on YouTube
Click playlist to view all videos