To mark National Groundwater Awareness Week, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn Wednesday announced some improvements to the PA Groundwater Information System (PaGWIS) private water well database.
“As the repository of half a million water well records, PaGWIS continues to grow and function as an important source of groundwater data,” Dunn said. “The database also includes a new addition of more than 1,600 springs found in the Commonwealth.”
Dunn noted the system can be useful to homeowners looking to find a record of a water well that was drilled before they purchased their home, with information including location, well construction data, and groundwater and geological information.
The information could also be used by private well drillers to understand the potential for new groundwater sources.
PaGWIS does not contain water quality information, nor any information on public water supply wells.
The Pennsylvania Geological Survey started collecting well records from water well drillers on paper in 1965. The updated, online version now includes improved search tools, data packages and report formats.
Groundwater fills cracks, voids and other openings in soil, sand, and bedrock. Homes with private wells use it as a source of drinking water, and most groundwater flows directly into streams, rivers and lakes from beneath.
Read The Geology of Pennsylvania’s Groundwater for more information.
Some tips to protect groundwater:
-- If you own a water well, have it tested yearly;
-- Be careful with herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer;
-- Don’t dispose of substances by dumping on ground, down the drain or flushing. Contact a local waste authority about proper disposal; and
-- Have your septic tank serviced regularly.
Protection and maintenance of private wells in Pennsylvania is the responsibility of the homeowner.
Pennsylvania is one of only 2 states in the United States that does not set any standards for the construction of private drinking water wells.
Two bills have again been introduced in the House this year to set well standards-- House Bill 417 (Godshall-R-Montgomery) and House Bill 596 (Harper-R-Montgomery).
Every year about 20,000 private water wells are drilled in Pennsylvania. A 2009 study done for the Center for Rural Pennsylvania found 41 percent of the private water wells tested failed to meet at least one of the health-based drinking water quality standards.
As early as 2001, DEP’s Citizens Advisory Council recommended the adoption of water well construction standards and has renewed that position several times since then.
In 2011, the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission recommended Pennsylvania adopt construction standards for private water wells due to the threat posed by the potential methane migration from natural gas wells.
Information for Well Owners
DCNR offers information on private water well construction and abandonment as does DEP on its Private Water Wells webpage.Penn State Extension also offers A Guide To Private Water Systems In Pennsylvania and offers a Master Water Well Owner Program to training volunteers on proper water well construction and maintenance.