July 16, 2018

Owners of private wells will have the opportunity to get their drinking water screened for nitrate levels at the Lincoln County Fair this summer. Idaho Rural Water Association and Idaho DEQ staff will provide free nitrate screening on July 26th and 27th.

Nitrate is the most widespread contaminant in groundwater in Idaho. Nitrate is a chemical form of nitrogen found naturally in small amounts in soil and groundwater. However, some land use practices and human activities may increase nitrate in groundwater to dangerous levels. In areas having shallow depths to ground water, sandy soils, or shallow wells, nitrate contamination can easily occur.

Drinking water that contains high levels of nitrate is especially dangerous for infants under the age of 6 months, unborn children, and adults with low stomach acidity.

To participate, well owners are advised to do the following before bringing in their water for screening:

  1. Identify a source that is not connected to a treatment device (water softener, carbon filter, or other filtration system). An outside faucet or hydrant works best.
  2. Use a clean glass jar and lid or Ziploc bag to collect the water sample. Label the outside with your name or address, date, and well name (garden well, house well, etc.).
  3. Allow the water to run 5-10 minutes to empty the pressure tank so water comes directly from the aquifer. Doing so will lead to more accurate results.
  4. Fill the container with approximately one cup of water (8 oz.).
  5. Keep the sample cool until tested. IRWA and DEQ will screen on site for nitrate and give you the results.

For more information, contact Melinda Norris at 208-761-4118 (email: or Irene Nautch at 208-736-2190 (email:

For information about a free online-class offered for private well owners nationwide, visit

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