Well and drinking water safety

If your well has run dry, there are a few things you need to know to ensure you have safe drinking water. During a water shortage, everyone should do his/her part to conserve water and ensure their drinking water and water in general is safe.

To find out information about your water well, the Nova Scotia Well Logs Database or the Nova Groundwater Atlas can be searched.

Alternate water sources

  • Water from lakes, rivers, streams and other surface water sources, including natural and roadside springs, are not reliable, safe water supplies. These sources may be contaminated.
  • Any water used for filling cisterns should be from a municipal water supply or a registered public drinking water supply.
  • Don’t add water from other sources into your well: It will drain into the ground. It could damage the well and it may cause contamination.

Safe water collection

  • Containers used should be suitable for the collection and storage of drinking water.
  • Containers should be cleaned and sanitized before using them to collect and store water.

The following is a method for cleaning and sanitizing your containers:

  1. Clean thoroughly using dish soap and warm water and rinse.
  2. Mix 1 teaspoon of household liquid bleach to 1 litre of water. Use bleach that does not have an added scent or fabric softener.
  3. Pour this solution into the cleaned storage container and shake well, making sure that the bleach solution coats the entire inside of the container.
  4. Let sit at least 30 seconds and then empty.
  5. Let the container air dry. The container should be kept covered and stored in a manner that keeps it clean and sanitized until it is used.

Before you start up your well again

After a water shortage, well water levels may take weeks or months to return to normal. Check that your well has enough water in it. You want the level to be close to normal. Before you restart your well, you need enough water so that:

  • the water level is 1–2 metres above the pump intake valve, or close to normal water levels
  • the pumping of water does not disturb bottom silt or mud — or you will have dirty water
  • water volume can meet your minimum daily household use — so the well and pump do not immediately go dry again

Consider hiring a professional. A Certified Well Contractor can

  • inspect your well and plumbing system
  • check for damage related to the well going dry
  • help return the well to service

Find a provincial Certified Well Contractors in your area.

How to return your well to service

  1. Verify that the pumping system is functioning properly and has no air in the system — from the well intake valve to the house pressure tank. If you have a water treatment device, it may need maintenance to ensure proper operation.
  2. Disinfect the well, the pumping system, and all plumbing. Use the disinfection procedures (PDF).
  3. Test your well water for bacteria. If you have noticed recent changes in water conditions, you should also test for general and metals chemistry.

Test your well water

Be sure to test your well water for safety before drinking it. You cannot tell by taste or smell whether the water is safe to drink. At minimum, test for bacteria. Pumps and plumbing are more susceptible to contamination from bacteria when exposed to air.

Well water should be tested every six months for bacteria and every two years for chemicals. This ensures that it is safe for you and your family to drink.

Pick up special sterile sample bottles from a Nova Scotia lab that tests drinking water.

For a complete list of certified well water testing labs in Nova Scotia, including information on which labs can test for bacteria and chemistry, visit https://novascotia.ca/nse/water/waterlabs.asp

Evaluate your test results

What do the test results mean? You can evaluate the results of your water quality testing using the online Drinking Water Interpretation Tool.

A good source of information for private well owners includes a series of booklets on “Your Well Water”

More Information