By Brent Royce
Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Clean, safe drinking water is one of the most essential resources on a farm and in a home. Here in Ontario, we’re fortunate to have an ample supply of fresh, safe and sustainable groundwater. Ontario’s groundwater is monitored through the Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network, that shares the responsibility with conservation authorities, municipalities and cities to regularly test and monitor the quality and safety of our provincial drinking water. Regular water quality testing of private wells is the responsibility of the property or well owner.
Water quality and environmental stewardship continue to be a priority for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA). This year, we are working on a new resource to remind farmers and rural residents to prioritize well water testing.
Bacteria and nitrate are the most common health related contaminants in well water in Ontario. Well owners should test for bacterial contamination using free water tests available through local public health offices. It is recommended that property owners test their well water in spring, summer and fall. Bacterial contamination should be tested three times per year, targeting time after a heavy rainfall or snowmelt.
Bacterial contamination isn’t the only impurity that could impact the safety and quality of well water. The Ontario Ground Water Association (OGWA) offers additional water testing packages for well owners. Testing for metals, minerals and salts is available to assess nitrates and other common impurities in well water. Be sure to test for these types of impurities if you have a well that taps into bedrock or is a spring source, to check for naturally occurring elements that could cause concern. Additional tests available through the OGWA include testing for fuels, solvents, fluoride and pesticides. If you’re unsure about water testing, or looking for advice on the best water test package for your needs, contact the OGWA. Additional well water testing options are available through private laboratories. Click here for a list of government accredited water testing labs (www.ontario.ca/page/list-licensed-laboratories).
Diligent well water testing is vital for the safety of family, employees and animals on every Ontario farm. Property owners should also consider baseline testing to monitor the quality and quantity of water over time. Start this process by obtaining your Well Record, available online from the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.
OFA encourages all farm and rural property owners that source their drinking water from a well to regularly test their water – testing for bacterial contamination at least three times a year and investing in additional testing packages when necessary. We all share a responsibility for the health and safety of our farms and families.