Drinking Water Quality

A safe supply of water for drinking, cooking and bathing is a major factor when it comes to a person's health.   It is important that you know where your drinking water comes from and steps you can take to help assure that your water is safe for your use.

Public Water Systems

Public water systems are usually operated by a municipality.   These systems are tested on a regular basis by municipal workers and must comply with strict Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) standards.   If you have questions about your municipal water supply, call your local city or village hall.

Businesses and schools that serve water to the public are also regulated under the following DNR programs:

  • Transient, non-community water program - Small Businesses, Campgrounds, Restaurants, Taverns, Churches, Golf Courses, and Convenience Stores
  • Non-Transient, non-community water program - Schools and Large Businesses
  • Other than Municipal, Community - Subdivisions and Mobile Home Parks

Private Water Systems

Private wells provide water for homes and businesses that are in the country outside of city or village limits. Owners of private wells are responsible for ensuring that the water from the well is safe to drink. Private wells should be tested annually for coliform bacteria and E. coli.

Nitrate testing is important for wells that provide water for homes and businesses that may have children or pregnant women drinking their water.   High nitrate levels (10 PPM or higher) in water consumed by infants under the age of 6 months can cause methemoglobinemia or blue baby syndrome.   Babies with methemoglobinemia have low oxygen levels in their blood streams because their digestive systems cannot break the nitrate down.   High nitrate levels in water consumed by pregnant women can cause miscarriage and harm to the fetus.

Fluoride testing of private wells is also recommended.   Fluoride protects growing teeth from decay.   Babies and children with fluoride in their water will develop teeth that are stronger and more resistant to decay.   Private well water usually contains too a low level of fluoride to provide adequate protection for developing teeth.   Once you know the fluoride level in your private well water, you can report this level to your child's doctor or dentist so that they can prescribe fluoride supplements for your child.

Other contaminants can be found in well water.   Call the health department at 262-335-4462 if you are concerned with the water quality of your private well or for more information go to the DNR website at http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/wells/privatewelltest.html.

Additional information on well water quality can be found at the Centers for Disease Control website: http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/private/wells/.

How to get your private well water tested

Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH) can test your well water for bacteria, nitrates, fluoride and other contaminants.   Call 800-442-4618 to obtain test bottles and prices.   WSLH bottles are also available for pickup at the Washington County Health Dept., 333 E Washington St, West Bend, WI.

UW Stevens Point Environmental Task Force Lab can test your well water for bacteria, nitrates, fluoride and other contaminants.  A $44 Homeowners Package allows you to test for bacteria, nitrate, pH, alkalinity, total hardness, chloride, conductivity and corrosivity index.  Fluoride can be added for an additional price.  Call the Washington County Planning and Parks Department at 262-335-4800 to obtain the Homeowners Water Test Package.  You may also contact the lab directly at 877-383-8378.

Area laboratories that can test your water for bacteria include:

Jackson Water Utility 262-677-9001
Menomonee Falls Water Utility 262-532-4800
Port Washington Water Utility 262-284-2172
Sheboygan Water Utility 920-459-3800
Water Diagnostics, LLC (Mequon) 414- 350-1100
For a complete list of Wisconsin certified labs that perform water bacteria tests click here.

Area Labs that test for bacteria as well as other contaminants include:

Cardinal Environmental, Plymouth 800-413-7225
JRS Labs, Hartford 262- 629-9925

Arsenic occurs in 5% of the wells in SE Wisconsin.  Arsenic is a carcinogen (causes cancer). Levels at 10 parts per billion or higher are a concern and efforts should be made to remove the arsenic from the water you drink.  The only way to determine if you have arsenic in your well is to test for it.  Labs that test for arsenic can be found on the DNR website listed below.

Other labs that are certified by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to test for bacteria, fluoride, nitrate, pesticides, metals, volatile organic chemicals and other contaminants can be found here.

Please call the Washington County Health Department at 262-335-4462 if you any have questions about testing your private well.

Boil Water Advisory/Emergency Chlorination Guidelines

  • Fact Sheet for Private Residences
  • Fact Sheet for Public and Licensed Facilities