Should water from private wells be tested after flooding?

Photo: Carrie Lueck, public health microbiologist, prepares water samples analysis at the State Hygienic Laboratory.

Nancy Hall, supervisor of environmental microbiology for the State Hygienic Laboratory, answers the question with a resounding “Yes,” and explains that the focus for testing in those counties should be on wells that have been directly impacted by floodwaters.

“People whose drinking water comes from private wells should have their water tested if their wells were covered by floodwater or if the well is located close to floodwater, which are those located in the floodplain,” Hall said. “We have sent the message for years that people should have their well water tested at least once a year under normal circumstances. But during flood events, the priority should be to make sure that we test the water for those families impacted by the flood that may be without safe water.”

If floodwaters have inundated a well, the waters need to recede, and the well needs to be flushed and shock-chlorinated before a water sample is collected and sent to the Hygienic Laboratory for testing, according to Hall.

When requested, the Hygienic Lab distributes flood collection kits for drinking water testing to counties that have been declared disaster areas due to flooding. Contact your county health department to obtain a kit if your well has been flooded. This kit includes a bottle and instructions for collecting and mailing samples to the Laboratory at the University of Iowa Research Park in Coralville. A health and safety bulletin that explains flood-related issues is also included. These bulletins are also available on the Hygienic Laboratory website at

To obtain a private well collection kit directly from the Hygienic Laboratory on a fee-for-service basis, call 1-800-421-IOWA or request it online at The Hygienic Lab provides consultation on disease prevention, environmental health, water and food safety. These services are particularly helpful to homeowners and businesses as they resume operations following a flood. For more information about these services, use the toll-free number and request extension 4692.

The Iowa Department of Public Health website provides detailed information about precautions concerning recovery and clean-up following a flood.

The State Hygienic Laboratory is Iowa’s environmental and public health laboratory, with facilities located at the UI Research Park campus in Coralville, at the Iowa Laboratories Facility in Ankeny, and at Lakeside Lab in northwestern Iowa. For more information about the laboratory and its programs and services, visit

STORY SOURCE: State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa, UI Research Park campus, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-5002

MEDIA CONTACT: Pat Blake, 319-335-4177, [email protected]