By Christine Miller, Water Quality Specialist/Hydrogeologist

Do you rely on a domestic well for your drinking water supply? If so, have you ever tested your water quality? As a well owner, it is up to you to test your drinking water to ensure it is safe for you and your family. It is estimated that only 10% or less of households in Gallatin County that drink water from individual domestic wells have ever tested their water quality. Unlike public water systems, no one regularly tests your well water for you and you must remember to make it happen, just like getting an oil change in your car, or rotating your tires.

In addition to testing your well water, other responsibilities come with owning a home that uses a well and septic. Protecting your drinking water can be done by ensuring the area near your well is clean and free from any potential contaminants and any pathways that could allow contamination in. Making sure your well cap is ‘sanitary’, meaning it has a tight seal and does not have any gaps that could allow insects or critters in, is important too. Here is a list of additional Well Maintenance Tips that you can take to protect your well water.

Making sure that your septic system is pumped and inspected every 3-5 years is another responsibility. Consider the fact that regular pumping and inspection (a few hundred dollars at a time), is much less expensive than a failed septic system, which can cost thousands to replace! As with many things in life, prevention is much easier and cheaper when compared to dealing with a major problem. This certainly holds true when it comes to your well and septic system.

Various local entities can assist you with testing your well and learning more about how to protect your groundwater quality. The Gallatin Local Water Quality District can answer questions and has water testing kits available at their office in Bozeman. Call (406) 582-3168 for more information.

A great option for homeowners who want to learn more is to attend a two hour Well Awareness Course, coming up in April. Choose one of the following dates: April 10 (Manhattan), April 11 (Belgrade), April 17 (Big Sky), April 18 (Bozeman) and click here to register. Course registration is only $10 and covers materials and refreshments. This is a great opportunity to learn about best practices for protecting your drinking water, and how to conduct a well assessment on your property. Well test kits will be available for participants. For more information, contact

If you can’t attend the Well Awareness Course, other resources for well and septic owners are available. A great YouTube video created by MSU Extension Water Quality is available here, or you can sign up for a fully-online course series created by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign here.

Cheers to good water quality for all!