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This program is just one example of Extension programming that has positively impacted drinking water quality. Please check back periodically for other highlighted programs.

Private Well Water Initiative – New England Regional Water Quality Program Partners with EPA New England

EPA sealThe Private Well Initiative teaches New England private well owners how to test and adequately treat their well water as well as assess and prevent water quality contamination around their homes. The Initiative is a partnership with the NIFA Northeast States and Caribbean Islands Regional Water Center external link, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency New England external link (EPA New England) and state drinking water agencies.

The health and livelihood of New Englanders depends on the availability of a safe drinking water supply. Even though 20% of New Englanders drink water from private wells, it is a water source that is not regulated to the extent that public drinking water supplies are. Private well owners are responsible for the quality of their own drinking water. They need to be aware of potential contamination risks to their wells and how to protect against these risks. In addition, changing property laws and regulations have also created an increased demand for well water testing. As a result, more private well owners are demanding well water testing information.

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The Private Well Initiative is bridging the gap to provide information about risks and protection to private well owners throughout New England.

A cooperative agreement with EPA New England, initiated in 2001, provided funding to the NIFA New England Water Quality Program for the production of educational materials. These materials include:
* A set of 26 fact sheets on the topic of drinking water testing, contaminants, and treatment methods. These fact sheets have been developed for Rhode Island, with funding provided to URI Cooperative Extension by RI HEALTH, and are being revised and updated by each. The Rhode Island fact sheets are available online external link and are distributed to private well owners at monthly Private Well Protection Workshops in Rhode Island.
* One groundwater demonstration model for each state and a groundwater educational handbook. A groundwater poster for youth is under development. At the University of Maine, the groundwater model was used as part of the Maine Children’s Water Festival, attended by over six hundred 5th and 6th graders.
* Private well testing brochure and display stand to be distributed in public places throughout New England, including libraries, town halls, doctor’s offices and health clinics, and other public places.

* Education of private well owners on drinking water testing, contamination, and treatment methods.
* Valuable partnership between the NIFA New England Regional Water Quality Program and EPA New England. This partnership is important to extension programs in each state, creating more opportunities for funding and allowing states to leverage existing resources.
* Strengthening New England residential pollution prevention programs with the addition of new educational materials.
* New partnerships and increased communication within each of the New England states between extension programs and various agencies and organizations, which have led to additional positive outcomes. In Maine a new partnership with the Maine Bureau of Health and Environmental Toxicology has led to the formation of a “private well listserve” with Extension, Toxicologists, the Drinking Water Program, and various specialists in State Government.
* Planning Grant received from New England Extension Directors to conduct a needs survey and hold a planning meeting to identify gaps in educational programming throughout New England for private well owners.


For more information on the New England Private Well Initiative, contact Alyson McCann.

Please visit the NIFA Drinking Water and Human Health theme page for more information.