photo of a capped well

Series 3: Best Practices for Private Well Owners

This month’s installment of the Best Practices for Source Water Protection Series will cover yet another aspect of best practices for the rural homeowner, or those who are outside of a municipally serviced area. In addition to properly caring for and maintaining your septic system (see Part 2 here: Best Practices for Source Water Protection: Part Two, utilizing best management practices for your private well will also contribute to the protection of rural groundwater and our shared drinking water sources.

The following article discusses three significant areas of concern for private well owners. These include proper everyday care of existing wells, what to do with an unused well on your property and the how and why to testing your private well.

Care and maintenance of your private well helps protect your own drinking water source but also contributes to ensuring the safety of the water we all use. As a homeowner with a private well, the following care and maintenance best practices for your well will help protect your drinking water source:

  1. Know where your well is located. The Ontario’s Well Record can help you locate and learn valuable information about your well: Map: Well records |
  2. Keeping a permanent grass buffer at least 3 meters (10 ft.) around the well.
  3. Take care when using any chemicals on your property, especially near your well. Never mix or use pesticides, fertilizer, fuels, and other pollutants near your well.
  4. Ensure liquid or waste from garbage or manure piles do not drain toward the well on your property. If this material is near your well or seeps into the nearby ground it could lead to bacteria leaching into your water supply, especially during spring thaw.
  5. Make sure that a commercially manufactured well cap, cover or sanitary seal is securely in place. If you are unsure of the condition of your well, a licensed well contractor can help: Find licensed well contractors |
  6. Watch for ground settling or water pooling around the outside of the well casing. This would indicate that surface water could be impacting your well.

Do you have an unused well on your property?

Older wells and wells that have not been properly maintained are direct pathways to groundwater or aquifers and pose a direct risk to your drinking water supply. Improperly abandoned wells can also increase the risk of contamination entering nearby working wells and provide a shortcut for contaminants to reach deeper aquifers. If you have an unused well on your property, it is strongly recommended that you hire a licensed well contractor to properly decommission it. Check out the Ontario Well Regulation for more information: Wells Regulation – Well Abandonment: How to Plug and Seal a Well (technical bulletin) |

Private Well Water Testing

The nature of the water in your well can change daily. As such, testing your private well water frequently is critical to assessing any changes in the quality of your drinking water. Health Canada recommends sampling for bacteria parameters (E. coli and Total Coliform) three times per year, with at least one of those instances occurring in the spring or following a heavy rainfall event. It is also important to test after doing any work on your plumbing, well repairs and flooding. You can test your private well for bacteriological parameters free of charge through your local Health Unit or Ontario Public Health laboratory.

It is also important to sample occasionally for chemicals, such as nitrates, minerals and fuel/oil, pesticides, and metals. A general screening for these additional parameters is recommended at least every two years. Sampling for chemical parameters should be submitted to a laboratory licensed under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

For additional information on sampling your well check out our previous article:  The Why & How to Testing Your Private Well (

If you suspect a problem with your well water or your well water test results show unacceptable levels of bacteria, stop using the water immediately and contact your local public health office.

To encourage private well water testing and promote best management practices such as well maintenance, Cataraqui Conservation is partnering with both the KFLA Public Health Unit and Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark District Health Unit to develop education and outreach material for private well owners. The QR Code on the Poster will set calendar reminders of when to sample your private well – directly on your phone. Keep your eye out for the private well water testing poster (See below) around your municipality.

To scan the QR Code on the poster, simply open the camera on your smart phone and point it at the QR Code. Tap the “Test Private Well” banner that appears on your phone and follow the instructions to set the calendar reminders. Note: some Android users may need to use a QR code app that can be downloaded in the app store on your phone to scan the QR Code.

If you have any questions about the Private Well Water Poster, or have difficulty scanning the QR Code, please contact to Tessa Latchmore:

For more information please visit:

Water Supply Wells: Requirements and Best Practices: 11. Maintenance & Repair |

Testing and treating private water wells |

private well water testing poster