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Drinking Water: Private Wells

About 30 percent of Wisconsin residents get their drinking water from private wells.

Private wells can be owned by individuals or entities like a small business, mobile home, or school. A well is considered to be private if it has fewer than 15 connections and serves fewer than 25 people.

Unlike public water systems, protection and maintenance of a private well is largely the responsibility of the well owners.

Private well owners should test their wells regularly.

Test your well right away if you notice a change in the color, taste, or smell of your water.

Identify your water’s symptoms to determine which tests to do.

While most private wells in Wisconsin provide safe drinking water, some may contain substances that can affect our health. Many of these substances do not affect the color, smell, or taste of the water.

The only way to make sure a well is safe for drinking is to test regularly.

  • Test for bacteria at least once a year.
  • Test for nitrate at least once a year.
  • Test at least once for arsenic (and more often if it is found).

You may want to test for other drinking water contaminants depending on the location of the well and age of the property.

Private well owners should take steps to maintain the well’s integrity.

Like a public water system, a private well requires regular maintenance and inspection to make sure that it is working properly.
Here are some steps that help maintain your well:

  • Work with licensed professionals and keep records of all well work and testing.
  • Ensure the well cap is secure and in good condition (no cracks, holes, or other damage).
  • Keep the area around the well clean and safe.
  • Make sure the ground slopes away from the well.
  • Avoid damaging the well casing.

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Last revised June 15, 2022