have YOU tested the water quality of your drinking water wells in the last year?
YES: Excellent! If you want any help on interpreting these results, other tests you may want to conduct, and different home treatment options to improve your well water, go to How to Interpret the Results.
NO: For the safety of your family, you should test the water in any drinking water wells every year for E. coli bacteria and nitrates. See What should I test for? for more information on these and other possible contaminants. You can also find advice on how to take a sample, where to take your sample, how to interpret the results, and on different home treatment options.
DO YOU HAVE ABANDONED WELLS ON YOUR PROPERTY?
Utah is estimated to have thousands of abandoned wells. These are not always easy to identify. In addition to being dangerous for pets and children, these wells provide a direct route for surface pollutants to contaminate groundwater. To protect your family, see the'Unused Wells'tab for tips on finding and properly closing these wells.
DO you have a well less than 50 feet, a dug or driven well or a well older than 50 years?
Many old wells are still being used in Utah. These wells were often dug by hand, resulting in shallow wells with a wide bore, and other construction flaws that put them at risk from surface pollutants. Go to the 'Well Construction'tab to learn whether your well construction is adequate to protect your drinking water.
do you have potential sources of contamination uphill from your well?
Your well may be one of the oldest elements of your small farm and may have been located according to traditional farming practices. New land uses around the old well may have introduced pollution risks. Check out the'Risks to Your Water'tabto identify and protect your well water from potential pollutant sources such as manure, fertilizers, pesticides, and/or fuels.
have you checked the different components of the well?
Even if your well is designed and constructed properly, it may require occasional maintenance. See the 'Well Construction'tab for tips on how to inspect and, if necessary, fix the different components of well.
is your septic system less than 100 feet away from your well or surface water?
Utah’s Administrative Code establishes minimum distances between your septic systems and your well. Although these distances are only mandated for new construction, they provide excellent guidance for all septic systems. (We recommend similar minimum distances to streams, wetlands and other surface water). Distance from potential source of contamination 15 feet from sanitary or storm sewer 25 feet from sewer lines 50 feet from septic tanks 100 feet* from septic tank drainfields * increase distance to 200 feet if your well is ungrouted. Learn more at the 'Risks to Your Water'tab
has it been longer than 3 years since you had your septic tank inspected or cleaned out?
A properly constructed and functioning septic tank will slowly accumulate sludge. Depending on the usage, the tank will likely need to be pumped by a licensed tank pumper every 3 to 5 years. A septic tank with little accumulation that has NOT been pumped for years may indicate that waste is leaking into and contaminating your groundwater or surface waters. See the 'How to Manage a Septic System'tab for more information.
do you ever pour grease, oils, household chemicals or any leftover medicines down your drain?
Septic systems use bacterial action to decompose household waste. These bacteria can become ineffective or even destroyed when overloaded or when toxic substances are flushed or drained into the system. Learn more at the'Improving Wastewater Quality'tab.
do you ever see evidence of standing or 'smelly' water near the septic system?
Standing or occasional smelly water near your septic drainfield is a sign that the system is no longer functioning properly. See the 'How to Manage a Septic System'tab for tips on protecting your drainfield.
> > More information managing Fertilizer for your small acreage farm
do you use fertilizers or other soil amendments?
Growing plants require nutrients and healthy soil to thrive. However, because plants use a fixed ratio of essential nutrients, nutrients in excess of this ratio cannot be taken up by the plant. The excess nutrients build up in soils and often wash away into streams or groundwater. This can lead to harmful algal blooms in local lakes and streams or toxic concentrations of nitrates in your drinking waters (see the 'Testing and Treating Your Water' tab for more information).
To save money and get the best production from different types of plants, test your soil and ONLY apply the fertilizers recommended. See the Fertilizer Management page for tips on getting your soil tested, and optimizing your fertilizer use.
do you store & mix fertilizers so spills will not soak into soils or enter local waters?
See the storing, mixing, and cleaning up sections on theProper Use of Fertilizerspageto learn how to properly handle fertilizers, so you do not inadvertently contaminate your well or nearby surface waters.
DOES WATER RUN OFF YOUR PROPERTY OR POOL UP NEAR YOUR WELL DURING IRRIGATION?
Proper irrigation will save water and protect your well and surface water from contamination. See the Managing Irrigationsection under the Green Thumb page to avoid over irrigating your plants, and see the Filter Stripsection of the Green Thumb page to learn more about using filter strips to protect streams and lakes from contaminants in irrigation runoff.
do you restrict animal access to ponds, streams and areas near a well?
Unrestricted access to surface water ways by animals (particularly horses and cattle) can introduce animal waste directly into the water and may lead to a breakdown of stream banks and increased erosion. See the many different suggestions on the Animal Actions page for ideas on how to minimize these impacts. Maintaining a healthy Vegetative Strip near water bodies not only will trap manure and hold onto bank sediments, but has other benefits such as wildlife habitat.
do you store any animal waste on your property?
The section on manure storage will help you with definitions and implications of different types of animal feeding operations and manure storage. More water quality protecting options can be found under the long-term storage, short-term storage, and storage location tabs on theManure Management page.
does runoff ever go through animal corrals or containment areas?
See the 'Long-term Storage' tab for ideas on how to keep rain and snowmelt uncontaminated, so it doesn’t carry manure into streams and other waterbodies. The BMP checklist will help you sort through the many options and develop a plan for your acreage.
do you apply any manure To your garden area?
Manure application to your gardens and fields will help fertilize and build your soil. When applying manure, you should carefully consider all other sources of nutrients (e.g., fertilizers or dairy wash water). The USU Soils Labwill test samples of your soil and your manure to help you gain a complete picture of your soil needs. See the Utah Phosphorous Soil Mapto better understand how phosphorus can build up in soils and how this might put water quality at risk.
You should incorporate the manure as soon as possible after applying it. Take care to never apply manure to frozen or snow covered fields or gardens. A rapid snowmelt or rain on frozen ground will cause this manure to drain directly into water ways or toward wells. See the Manure Application tab on the Manure Management page.
Consider composting your manure as a way of creating a more stable and useful soil amendment. For more information, see:
> > More information on storing, applying and disposing of pesticides on your small acreage
do you always follow the product label instructions on use of the pesticides?
Product labels on pesticides provide very specific application instruction, including when you must have a licensed pesticide applicator who understands dosage, application conditions, and protecting non-target plants and animals. Follow product labels carefully to avoid violating federal or state law. Refer to the Proper Use Of Pesticides page to learn how to properly apply pesticide, store, mix, cleanup, and dispose of any excess pesticides.
do you store all your pesticides separately from other chemicals and away from water sources?
Pesticides are, by definition, poisonous to at least some organisms and many affect more than just the “target” plant or animal. This includes aquatic plants, fish and other aquatic animals. Find a location on your property to store your well-labelled pesticides separately from other chemicals. The storage area should be dry and have a waterproof floor. Store all pesticides in “secondary containment” for added protection. See the 'Storing Pesticides'tab for more information.
Do you follow disposal guidelines for all leftover pesticides and containers?
Try to buy only the amount of pesticide you will use in a season. Keep original pesticide containers and labels, and keep good records of their use. NEVER pour leftover pesticides down a drain or in “waste” areas. Learn more by reading the 'Spill Cleanup and Disposal' tab.
Are all of your fuel tanks/ storage containers located on a containment structure or spill pad?
If you store fuels on your property, locate the tank as far as possible from wells and from open water (streams, ponds, wetlands). The tank should be located on a secondary containment pad so that any spills or drips are fully contained. See the 'Above Ground Storage Tanks' tabon the Fuel Storage page.
Are there any underground Storage tanks on your property?
Underground storage tanks are always problematic as they are hard to monitor for leaks. Consider replacing all underground tanks with above ground tanks that have proper secondary containment. Until you can do this, regularly check the tank(s) for leaks. For more information, see the 'Underground Storage Tanks' tab on the Fuel Storage page.
aRE THERE ANY SIGNS OF SPILLS OR LEAKS AROUND ANY FUEL TANKS?
Leaks and spills from fuel tanks and piping can be a serious fire hazard and may contaminate large volumes of ground or surface waters. All leaks or spills should be taken seriously. Any leaks or spills greater than 25 gallons must be cleaned up within 24 hours and reported to DERR’s hotline (801-537-4123). See the section on MONITORING ALL TANKS, PIPES AND VALVES FOR LEAKS in theUnderground Storage Tanktab for advice on testing for leaks and on reporting and cleaning up any spills or leaks.
DO YOU USE PRODUCTS WITHOUT FOLLOWING THE DIRECTIONS ON THE WARNING OR CAUTION LABELS?
The term “hazardous materials” includes all sorts of products that may be directly poisonous or may cause long-term damage such as increasing risk of cancer or birth defects. These products and by-products are released into our environment in lots of ways, such as overuse, incorrect use, and improper disposal. To avoid any of these risks to your family, read over the list of potentially hazardous materials and make sure you always use these ONLY as they were intended. See 'What are Hazardous Materials' to help identify common hazardous materials and go to 'How to Store and Use Hazardous Materials Safely' to learn how to store and use these materials in ways that keep your family safe.
DO YOU EVER Pour HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES SUCH AS ANTIFREEZE, OIL, PAINTS, STAINS down the drain?
NEVER pour materials such as solvents, paints, antifreeze, pesticides, or used oil down a storm drain, an abandoned well, into a ditch, into your toilet or sink, or onto “waste ground”. These are all ways to contaminate our drinking water, our irrigation water, and the water that livestock, fish and wildlife all depend upon. It takes a bit of extra effort to properly store and use these products but this is necessary to protect your family and your neighbors! See'How to Store & Use Hazardous Materials Safely' to learn more.
do you burn plastics, batteries, chemicals, treated lumber or other hazardous materials?
Burning hazardous waste on your property is illegal. Burning breaks down many stable products (e.g., plastics) and releases toxic fumes into the air. Batteries and other products that contain acids may explode. See the 'Disposal' tab to find where federally licensed incinerators are in your area.
have you disposed of hazardous waste in an area other than a designated disposal facility?
You should always dispose of hazardous materials at local collection facilities. Small acreage farms may be considered “conditionally exempt” from some federal regulations but only if they use and generate small volumes of waste. Long term storage on your property is a risky practice. See the disposal tab of the Hazardous Materials page or contact your county, the Utah Waste Management & Radiation Control programor the EPA to learn more.