Texas landowners are responsible for managing the drinking water from their private wells. To protect your water supply, accurate records need to be kept on each well, potential sources of contamination should be identified and managed and water should be tested at least once a year.
Record the location of all wells on your property, and keep a file on each well. Each well will have a unique identification number assigned by the driller. Use this number to track historical information, which may be available from the following sources:
- Texas Water Development Board Groundwater Database: Registered water-well drillers must submit reports to the state for each well they drill. More than 130,000 wells have been recorded in the TWDB groundwater database since 2001. These records can be found at http://wiid.twdb.state.tx.us/ims/wwm_drl/viewer.htm.
- Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Water Well Report: www.tceq.texas.gov/goto/WaterWellReportViewer, (512) 239-0900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Texas Alliance for Groundwater Districts: http://www.texasgroundwater.org/. Your groundwater may be managed and protected locally through a groundwater conservation district. Groundwater districts are governed under chapters 35 and 36 of the Texas Water Code.
- Texas Water Development Board: http://www.twdb.state.tx.us/groundwater/conservation_districts/index.asp
Manage potential sources of contamination
Materials from many common facilities can contaminate a water well. Take steps to protect your water well from them. According to Texas law, the well-head must be at least:
- 50 feet from any septic tank, cistern, property boundary, and/or nonpotable well
- 100 feet from your septic drainfield or any leach field
- 150 feet from any feed storage area, pesticide or fertilizer storage area, or shelter or yard for pets or livestock
- 250 feet from a manure stack or liquid waste disposal system
Test the water
Contaminants such as arsenic and radionuclides can occur naturally in wells. Well water can also be contaminated by environmental disturbances or human activities such as oil and gas exploration.
Have your well water tested for the contaminants that are most likely to be in it. At a minimum, have the water tested every year for nitrate, total dissolved solids (TDS), and E. coli or fecal coliform (bacteria from human or animal waste).
Also have the water tested whenever you suspect contamination; when you notice a change in the water’s color, taste, or odor; and after anyone who drinks the well water experiences a suspicious illness.
Various laboratories in Texas conduct water quality testing. The laboratory you use depends on whether you are testing your water to determine if it is safe for human consumption or if you are testing water that will be used for other purposes (irrigation on your property, a pond with fish in it, swimming, etc.)
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory conducts various water tests, including testing for salinity of irrigation water. But the lab cannot test water that will be used for human consumption. A routine analysis, which will not test for any metals or fluoride, runs $20 per sample. Their website is http://soiltesting.tamu.edu.
The Red River Authority of Texas also provides water testing services to the public and will test for a wide variety of water properties and possible contaminants. For example, a water pH test will cost $10 while a Coliform analysis is $30. Their phone number is 940.723.8697. The lab can also be found at www.rra.texas.gov/
The City of Wichita Falls Health Department also provides water quality testing of private water wells at $15 per sample. Their phone number is 761.7835.
For more information on water well testing, contact the Clay County Extension office at (940) 538-5042 or 538-5052. Another good source of information is the Texas Well Owner Network at http://twon.tamu.edu.