What Microbes Could Be In My Well Water?

What’s in Your Water?

What illness-causing microbes COULD be in your well water? Depending on the condition of your well, the condition of the aquifer, possible surface influences, and other factors, there could be microbes in well water that you don’t want.

There are many types of bacteria that can live in wells, but the vast majority of them are harmless and do not cause any kind of illness. There are a few that you should be watchful for, and none of them can be detected without performing a water test.

The three main illness-causing microbes found in wells are Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and E.Coli.

Giardia and Cryptosporidium

Giardia and Cryptosporidium are most commonly found in surface waters such as lakes, streams, and rivers.  They can be found in wells when events such as floods and heavy rainfalls sweep surface water into open well caps, abandoned wells, or inadequately built or maintained wells.  Once these microbes are in your well, they can thrive there for long periods (even in cold temperature water) unless they are removed via some form of treatment.

Cysts can also infiltrate wells and aquifers when carried along with fecal matter from sewage or animal droppings.

More than 20 percent of private domestic wells sampled nationwide contain at least one contaminant at levels of potential health concern, according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).  Bacteria, including total coliform bacteria and Escherichia coli, were found in as many as one third of a subset of 400 wells.   – United States Geological Survey


E.Coli, or Escherichia Coli, are a type of coliform bacteria.  Coliforms are bacteria that are found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals like dogs, cows, and people. Not all coliforms are dangerous. Many are actually harmless. But the ones that are bad tend to be very bad. One strain in particular, E.Coli 0157:H7 is a rare strain of the bacteria that is EXTREMELY toxic.

Even a positive E.coli test does not mean that his particular strain is present, but it’s never worth the risk. Any indication of total coliforms on a water test result means the potential presence of E.coli, and is a very good indicator that your well water has been contaminated with some type of fecal waste.  There are many ways that this can happen, and many are beyond your control.

Good Well Stewardship

Good well stewardship is a must in prevention, but knowing your water quality situation, and pro-actively treating water for microbiological contamination is the best way to prevent serious illness.

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