ACREAGE — Protect Your Private Well from Stormwater Runoff

A well head. (Photo by Jan Hyngstrom)
A well head. (Photo by Jan Hyngstrom)

Warmer weather is here and our precipitation has changed from snow to rain, though snow melt also creates stormwater runoff. The next time it rains, go outside and notice how the rainwater moves from roof areas and gutters, driveways, walkways and other concrete or asphalt surfaces. Make sure this water is not flowing toward your private drinking water well.

As stormwater flows over the land, it can pick up debris, bacteria, chemicals, soil and other pollutants and carry those toward your well. Sources of contaminants on an acreage might include paint, wood-sealants, solvents, used motor oil and automotive fluids, cleaning products, deicers/salt and other chemical products leaked or poured onto the ground. Fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides applied to lawns and gardens can wash off with stormwater or runoff from irrigation, particularly if the ground is already saturated. Pet and animal waste are additional sources of contamination. Research shows drinking water wells that have been impacted by standing water/flooding are more likely to be contaminated with bacteria. Other pollutants also may have entered the well with runoff. These potential contaminants may not only affect your well, but the aquifer that your well taps into, thus potentially contaminating other wells in your area.

To reduce the risk of contamination from runoff, your well casing must extend above the ground by at least one foot. The ground must slope away from your well casing so that water cannot pool up around the well head. If stormwater flows toward your well, you will need to re-grade and/or landscape the area so stormwater flows away from the well, while maintaining your well casing extends above the ground by at least one foot.

Stormwater and water runoff is unavoidable. If you are aware of where runoff exists around your property, you can adopt best landscaping and site management practices that will greatly minimize the negative effects runoff. Your well and the groundwater so many Nebraskans rely on as their drinking water source will thank you!

For more information, see the NebGuide for easy to complete assessments for “Landscaping and Site Management to Reduce Runoff” and “Pollutants in Runoff.”