Be Prepared for Natural Disasters to Keep Well Water Safe and Clean, Illinois State Water Survey

ISWS Press Release

For Immediate Release March 28, 2013
Be Prepared for Natural Disasters to Keep Well Water Safe and Clean
Source:   
Editor:   
Steve Wilson - (217) 333-0956, sdwilson@illinois.edu
Lisa Sheppard - (217) 244-7270, sheppard@illinois.edu

Floods, droughts, and power outages can affect the safety of water supplies in private wells.  Being prepared for the unexpected may minimize the damage, according to Steve Wilson, hydrologist at the Illinois State Water Survey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In the event of a flood, store a supply of clean water that you can use during and after the flood.  Disconnect the power supply to your well to prevent any electrical damage.  Also, plug the vent holes temporarily to keep debris out of the well.

Private Well Class Logo

If flood water overtops the well, assume that the well water is contaminated, Wilson said.  Once the water recedes, have your well disinfected and sampled for bacteria before using it again.

Also, inspect your wellhead to be sure no debris got into the well.  This is a particular concern if the vent screen is missing.  If you think there is debris, have a contractor clean and disinfect your well.

“If the water reaches your well but doesn’t overtop it, take the precaution of disinfecting your well and have samples tested before using it again,” Wilson said.

Septic systems can also be damaged or cause contamination during floods.  Make sure the access points are sealed.  Your septic system should have a backflow preventer ahead of the tank to keep sewage from backing up into your home during a flood.  If your septic system has its own pump, but sure to shut off the power.

In droughts, private wells can go dry.  In case of a shallow dug or bored well, you may not have many options to restore the water supply to your home.  These wells are built in areas without significant aquifers to store water that seeps into the well slowly.

In a very dry year, such as occurred in some locations in Illinois in 2012, the water table may have dropped below the well.  In this situation, one option is to have a portable water tank as a backup system.

“You can have water delivered or haul it yourself from a municipal source, and practice conserving water until the situation changes,” Wilson said.

In some locations, a deeper well might be possible.  Contact the Illinois State Water Survey to find out about your options.

When a power outage occurs, the only option is to have a backup generator to keep the well pump working.  Keeping the power working is particularly important in the winter for older wells in which the piping comes to the surface.  Loss of power could mean frozen pipes as well, which could burst.  If you have a well house, it may be possible to use a portable propane heater to keep pipes from freezing.

Water well owners interested in learning how to maintain their own wells can take the Private Well Class, a free, step-by-step online education program to help well owners understand groundwater basics, well care best practices, and how to find assistance.

Well owners will also learn how to sample their well, how to interpret sample results, and what they can do to protect their well and source water from contamination. For more information, visit the Private Well Class website (http://www.privatewellclass.org) or e-mail info@privatewellclass.org.

 

The Illinois State Water Survey at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a division of the Prairie Research Institute, is the primary agency in Illinois concerned with water and atmospheric resources.


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