If you live in a rural area of the Cataraqui Source Protection Area, it is most likely that the water you use for showering, cleaning and drinking comes from a private well on your property. Of course, you want this water to be clean and as contaminant free as possible as this will ensure the health and vitality of you and your family.
According to Health Canada, the reason why private wells need to be tested is that you want the water you ingest to be free of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses or parasites that could cause disease and illness, as well as ensure there are no harmful chemicals in the drinking water.
Private wells do not fall under the purview of the Cataraqui Source Protection Plan as they are not considered municipal drinking water systems. Kelsey Guerette, Cataraqui Conservation’s Co-ordinator, Source Protection indicated that official guidance on private well testing should come from government agencies, licensed laboratories, or the local health unit.
“Even though private wells are the responsibility of the property owner, and do not fall under the Cataraqui Source Protection Plan, we encourage testing your well water and properly maintaining your well to ensure the quality of water being used by the well owners while also protecting our common groundwater supplies,” she said.
One way to begin the process of testing your drinking water would be to reach out to your local health unit. Within the KFL&A Public Health jurisdiction, this health unit offers test kits from the Public Health Ontario Laboratory Water Testing Service free of charge for select parameters. They can be picked up at any KFL&A Public Health office, or at 181 Barrie St. in Kingston, weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. For those living in the eastern portion of the Cataraqui Region, you could use the testing services provided by the Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit, https://healthunit.org. Alternatively, you could reach out to a licensed laboratory to begin the process of testing your drinking water (https://www.ontario.ca/page/list-licensed-laboratories).
Additionally, it is important to test the well a few times over the year. According to both Guerette, and backed up by information from Health Canada, a minimum of three times per year would be recommended for bacteria testing. Other chemicals that can affect health may also be found in your well water. Contact your local health unit to assess if you should be testing your well water for additional parameters along with recommended frequencies of testing.
“The water from your well is not static, it is impacted by activities around the well and it moves underground carrying any contamination with it and could end up affecting your drinking water quality. If you are drinking it today, it’s not going to be the same exact water quality a year, or month or week from now. This is why it’s important to test frequently, and to do it at different times of the year to assess any changes in the quality of your drinking water,” she explained.
“One recommended time of the year to test your water is in the Spring, because there is a lot of melt and heavy rainfall leading to lots of runoff, which has so many impurities and material that could impact the quality of the water coming from your well. This could be considered especially important if you are located near a lot of agricultural land or have livestock on your property as there would be a lot of nutrient runoff that could be impacting the quality of water in your well. Other recommended times to sample would be, after long periods of dry weather or drought, after a heavy rainfall event, or if you haven’t used the water in the well for an extended period of time, say at a cottage”
Green Communities Canada developed a guide for caring for your well. To check out the Well Aware Booklet, visit the following:
For more information on private well water testing, visit the following websites:
For more general information about the importance of protecting drinking water at its source, visit the following: