Starting a Private Well Program

Learn how to start a drinking water program to protect people in your community whose water comes from private wells.

Close up photo of a man taking a water sample.

People with wells and other private water sources can test their drinking water for contaminants.

Does your department serve areas that rely on wells or other private drinking water systems?

The majority (56%) of local health departments have programs to regulate, inspect, or license private drinking water in their community. Some private drinking water is not tested regularly for contaminants (microbiological, chemical, and radiological) that could affect health. Without regular testing, people may be exposed to contaminants without knowing it or being able to do anything about it. By finding and addressing gaps in your program you can help reduce exposures in your community.

Where do I start?

Follow these steps to start improving your drinking water program. Using performance improvement tools may also help your agency prepare for and show documentation useful for public health accreditation.

  1. Use the Environmental Public Health Performance Standards (EnvPHPS) to help you assess and improve your drinking water program’s ability to apply the 10 Essential Environmental Public Health Services.
    • EnvPHPS is a set of standards that describe the optimal performance and capacity for environmental public health systems and programs and aim to help make environmental public health programs and systems more effective.
    • EnvPHPS can be used to assess agencies, systems, and programs such as drinking water programs.
  1. Complete the EnvPHPS assessment to identify gaps and strengths in your program. Our EnvPHPS assessment toolkit contains various resources you may find helpful to prepare for, conduct, and act upon the EnvPHPS assessment.
  2. Use the Safe Water Program Improvement e-Learning Series to integrate results of your EnvPHPS assessment into your new program.
  3. Identify actions to help close gaps found in your assessment, such as actions outlined in our logic model for drinking water programs. (Logic models show the relationship between a program’s activities and intended outcomes.) Common actions include
    • Improving communication about drinking water quality, water systems, and health data to the public and policymakers,
    • Educating homeowners with private wells about testing practices,
    • Supporting and advancing evidence-based policies, and
    • Tailoring water treatment recommendations based upon test results.
  1. Change your drinking water program based upon your assessment results.

You may want to explore our tools and promotional materials for private wells—videos, posters, and other tools from programs working with CDC’s Safe Water program to reduce exposures from private wells.