As the days and nights get cooler, it’s time to start preparing your home for the winter. For most, there is no shortage of items to consider like cleaning the eaves and servicing the furnace. But for those living in the country, there is some added upkeep and maintenance. Not only do you have your home to maintain and a yard, and possibly a barn, you likely also have both a drinking water well and a septic system. So your winter preparation list is just a little bit more involved and should definitely include some basic maintenance to secure the safety of your drinking water.
- Most authorities recommend testing for bacteria and nitrates at least once a year. The changing seasons is always a good reason to test well water as water quality can change over time. If you haven’t done an annual well check-up (flow test, water level check, pump motor assessment, etc.), then this might be the right time. If not a full check-up, our friends at Viqua recommend the following:
- Inspect the well cap or cover just to make sure it is still firmly attached and in good repair.
- Make sure hazardous chemicals are stored far from the well.
- Avoid piling leaves around your well when cleaning up the yard. Otherwise, you risk contamination of the well supply. Organic material provides a food source for bacteria.
- Remove the growth of weeds and grasses and root systems of any trees or shrubs within 10 feet of the well.
- Check that livestock operations are not encroaching on the established safety perimeter – usually within 50 feet of your well. Animals are of particular concern because of the possibility of manure contaminating groundwater supplies.
Similarly, your septic system is a possible source of fecal contamination. When installed and operated properly, septic systems aren’t a problem. But even then, some attention is still required. Sadly, many homeowners just don’t know what to do with their septic system or when to do it. As a result, the system can fail. It’s estimated that upwards to 20% of septic systems in the USA malfunction each year, risking groundwater contamination and possible waterborne disease. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that septic tanks be inspected by a professional annually and that pumping should happen every two to five years. The frequency will depend on the number of people in your household, your water conservation practices, and the types of solids entering the system. As you’re cleaning up the yard, watch for these signs that indicate that professional intervention is required:
- Can you smell sewage?
- Do you see sewage?
- Are there patches of vegetation that are especially lush?
Water Treatment System Maintenance
Lastly, don’t forget your water treatment system. Again, the changing seasons can be a great reminder to change filters and attend to basic maintenance items. If you’re using an ultraviolet (UV) system to protect your water from bacterial contamination, then consider whether it’s time for the annual lamp change. Also to ensure complete disinfection of your water supply, the quartz sleeve requires periodic cleaning. Depending on the chemistry of your source water and any pre-treatment in place, this may only need to be done once a year. The Fall is a good time to inspect the sleeve and clean it as necessary.
Autumn and Winter are beautiful times of the year, especially in the country. Embrace it. And be sure to let the sight of the changing colors remind you of what is out of sight – your water supply. Give it a little extra attention to guarantee safe water year-round.