Government of Nova Scotia Government of Nova Scotia Nova Scotia, Canada


Drinking Water

About Private Drinking Water Supplies


Deep artesian wells don´t need to be tested.


All wells need to be regularly tested. Bedrock, soil conditions, and changes to the surrounding physical environment can alter the quality of well water.


A clean lake makes a good drinking water supply.


Untreated lake water is not a safe drinking water supply. Water should be filtered and treated prior to consumption.

How can a well be contaminated?

It seems as though groundwater should be a safe water source. Typically, groundwater is naturally clean and safe for consumption.Because the overlying soil acts as a filter, groundwater is usually free of disease-causing microorganisms. However, contamination may occur following improper installation of well casings or caps, after a break in the casing, or as a result of contaminated surface water entering the well. Contamination can also occur if wells are drilled in fractured bedrock without an adequate layer of protective soil and with less than the recommended minimum casing length. Other sources of contamination include petroleum products, sea water intrusion, de-icing salt, sewage disposal systems, animal wastes, landfills, and pesticides. Have your well water tested to determine its quality. Harmful bacteria or chemicals can be present in drinking water that tastes, looks, and smells acceptable.

How do I prevent contamination of my well?

Proper siting, location, construction, and maintenance of your well help to minimize the likelihood of contamination. The well cap should be regularly checked to ensure that it is securely in place and watertight. Joints, cracks, and connections in the well casing should be sealed. Pumps and pipes should also be checked on a regular basis, and any changes in water quality should be investigated. Surface water should be directed away from the well casing, and surface water should not collect near the well. The well itself should not be located downhill from any source of pollution.

Am I required to test my well? Should I test?

Private water supply owners, referring to all individual sources that supply a house or family, are not required by legislation to test their water. However, it is recommended that people on their own water should test for bacteria every six months and for chemicals every one or two years. A list of labs is available from Nova Scotia Environment and Labour.

What can I do if my well is contaminated?

Options include: disinfection, well reconstruction, and treatment. The main type of disinfection is by chlorinationPDF Download Link (PDF:20k)where chlorine is added to well water then pumped out. Well reconstruction could include adding a liner, or perhaps deepening the well. Several types of treatment devices are available to remove contaminants from the water. You should contact a person qualified under the Well Construction Regulations for further assistance (a list of qualified people is available from Nova Scotia Environment and Labour).

Why can´t I assume my lake water is safe to drink?

Lake water is not a safe and secure drinking water supply due to bacteria and other micro-organisms which live in the water. All lake water should be filtered and treated prior to consumption.

If my well runs dry and I have water delivered to my home, how do I know it´s safe to drink?

There is no guarantee that this water is safe for drinking. If you intend to drink this water, have it tested first.