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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.
Prince William County 2012-2015
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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
69% of participants reported having treatment devices. The most common devices were sediment filters and water softeners. 
Rest of world
Water systems in Prince William County (2012 - 2015)
144 samples analyzed Serving 389 people Well depth: 20 to 2000 feet Well age: 1 to 57 years
Drilled wells were most common. Eleven percent of participants did not know what type of system 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 Prince William County were sodium, coliform bacteria, hardness, low (<6.5) pH and lead. Total coliform bacteria presence is an indication that surface water may be entering a well and other more harmful microorganisms may be present.  Total coliform were present in 35% of Prince William samples. E. coli were found in 7% of Prince William samples and are a sign that human or animal waste is entering the water supply. Sodium above 20 mg/L was found in 40% of samples, most likely from water softening devices.  Hard water is high in calcium and magnesium, and was found in 22% of Prince William samples.    Low pH (<6.5) occurs naturally in parts of Virginia geology 16% of samples.  Although not a concern in itself, low pH can be a driver of how corrosive the water is.  Once water enters the house, can result in metals such as copper and lead leaching into the water from plumbing components   Lead was found in first draw samples exceeding 0.015 mg/L in 19% of samples.
Household water quality in Prince William 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 Prince William County who participated in the Virginia Household Water Quality Program drinking water clinics held in 2012-2015.  Extension agents Thomas Bolles and Paige Thacker, and Virginia Well Owner Volunteer Elizabeth Ward, among other partners, were instrumental in the program's success.    
Virginia Household Water Quality Program Email: [email protected] Ph: 540-231-9058