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Household Water Quality
The Virginia Household Water Quality Program provides affordable water testing and education through local Extension offices to the 1.7 million Virginians who rely on wells, springs or cisterns for their household water supply.
Albemarle County 2009-2015
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What's in your water?
Municipal water supplies are regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, which mandates routine testing and treatment.  Maintenance and testing of private water supplies (wells, springs and cisterns) is the responsibility of the owner.  Virginia Cooperative Extension offers water testing and education for private water supply users across the state
Drinking water clinics are held in county Extension offices each year.  Here's how it works:
Participation is voluntary and open to anyone with a well, spring or cistern. Participants pick up a sample kit and receive instructions about how to collect the samples from their household tap and where and when to drop off their samples.    
Following directions carefully, participants collect their samples and complete a short questionnaire. Samples are dropped off locally, so shipping is unnecessary. We coordinate getting the samples to Virginia Tech's campus for analysis.
Samples are analyzed for total coliform and E. coli bacteria, nitrate, lead, copper, arsenic, fluoride, sodium, hardness, iron, manganese, total dissolved solids, pH, and sulfate. The cost for one sample kit in 2015 was $50. Confidential results are prepared and returned to the Extension office.
Results are returned to participants and explained at a local interpretation meeting. Information is provided about addressing water quality problems, routine care, and maintenance of private water supplies.
Kickoff Meeting
Rest of world
Water systems in Albemarle County (2009 - 2015)
357 samples analyzed Serving 822 people Well depth: 40 to 550 feet Well age: 1 to 85 years
60% of participants reported having treatment installed.   The most common devices: sediment filters and acid neutralizers.  
Drilled wells were most commonly reported. Nine percent of participants did not know what type of well they had.  
Contaminants in water may be health-related (e.g., bacteria) or a nuisance (e.g., hardness causing scale) and can come from a variety of sources.   Some contaminants originate from geology, the sediment or rock where the water is stored. Others are a result of land usage or activities on the earth's surface, such as lawn fertilizer, animal waste, or chemical spills. Proper construction of a well can protect household water quality by preventing surface water, which may carry many contaminants, from entering the groundwater supply. Wells should be constructed with proper casing, grout seal, and a sealed well cap. Contamination sources, such as livestock and septic systems should be at least 50 feet away from the well head. Treatment devices and plumbing components can also influence water quality by adding contaminants or changing water chemistry.
Landuse and nearby activities
Plumbing materials and water treatment
Well construction and location
Where do contaminants come from?
Household water quality
The most common contaminants found in household water in Albemarle County were low pH, lead, copper, and total coliform bacteria. Total coliform bacteria presence is an indication that surface water may be entering a well and other more harmful microorganisms may be present.  E. coli were found in 3% of Albemarle county samples and are a sign that human or animal waste is entering the water supply.   Low pH (<6.5) can occur naturally in parts of Virginia geology, and in Albemarle, pH below 6.5 was found in 38% of samples.  Although not a concern in itself, low pH can be a driver of how corrosive the water is, and once the water enters the house, can result in metals such as copper and lead leaching into the water from plumbing components that contain these metals, such as brass fittings or copper pipes.  Lead was found in first draw samples exceeding 0.015 mg/L in 33% of samples, and copper exceeding 1 mg/L in 27% of samples.
Household water quality in Albemarle County: Common Contaminants
Total coliform bacteria
E. coli bacteria
Click the water drops for more information about each contaminant.  For information about other common contaminants, please visit our Resources Page.
Low pH (<6.5)
Special thanks to the residents of Albemarle County who participated in the Virginia Household Water Quality Program drinking water clinics held in 2009-2015.  Extension agents Carrie Swanson, Ian Pasquarelli, and Cathy Kloetzli, among other partners, were instrumental in the program's success.    
Virginia Household Water Quality Program Email: [email protected] Ph: 540-231-9058