What’s in your tap water? Extension Drinking Water Clinics
By
Scott Reiter, Extension Agent

Private water systems supply a large portion of the drinking water in our rural areas. The Tri-Cities area has a mixture of public and private water supplies. There are an estimated 5000+ private water systems in Prince George County. So why do I write about drinking water and wells this month? Too introduce our Prince George Drinking Water Clinic to be held in March 2017.

A Drinking Water Clinic is an educational program conducted by local Virginia Cooperative Extension offices and the Biological Systems Engineering Department Water Quality Lab at Virginia Tech. The objective of the Drinking Water Clinic is to improve the water quality of Virginians using private water supplies. Many private water systems only receive an initial bacteria test when installed with a new home and are then forgotten. A regular water test can alert you to potential problems that can occur with well aging or changes in land use around the well area. This program is not intended to compete with private water testing labs. Participating in a drinking water clinic will help you learn about water testing, well maintenance, and what a water test report really means to you. Participation is voluntary and all information is kept strictly confidential. Anyone with a private water supply system (including wells, springs, and cisterns) may participate.

How does a Drinking Water Clinic work? Here are the steps.

1. Attend an informational meeting. A brief presentation addresses common water quality issues in your area and instructions for collecting water samples from your tap. Water sampling kits are distributed with sampling directions and a short survey about your water supply.

2. Sample Collection. You must follow the sampling directions carefully to ensure accurate results. Be sure to complete the short survey included with your sample bottles! The samples will be returned the next morning to the Extension Office. Samples are transported to the Virginia Tech campus for analysis. Bacteria tests must be completed within 24 hours of sampling.

3. Analysis. Samples are analyzed for the following: iron, manganese, nitrate, fluoride, sulfate, pH, total dissolved solids, hardness, sodium, copper, lead, arsenic, total coliform bacteria and E. Coli bacteria. Confidential reports are easy to read and accompanied by a sheet explaining what the numbers mean.

4. Interpretation Meeting. Participants receive their confidential water test results. A presentation explains what the numbers on the test report mean and what possible options participants may consider to deal with water problems.

What does it cost?
Participation in a drinking water clinic includes analysis for 14 chemical and bacteriological constituents. The analysis is $55. Comparable analysis at a private commercial lab would cost over $300.

Prince George Drinking Water Clinic
Information Meeting: March 14, 2017 10 am or 6 pm Prince George Library
Sample Collection: March 15, 2017 7 am-11 am Prince George Extension Office
Interpretation Meeting: April 12, 2017 10 am or 6 pm Prince George Library

Pre-registration is required to participate in the Drinking Water Clinics. Call the Prince George office at 733-2686 to pre-register or to get additional information.

If you rely on a well, spring or cistern for your water supply, you are responsible for the safety of your family's water! This means you should take steps toward maintaining and protecting your well and regularly test your water.

Water Tips and Facts
• The average American household uses 107,000 gallons of water per year. Fifty to seventy-five percent of this water is used to water lawns and gardens, and 14% is never even used- it is lost through leaks!

• The average American uses about 90 gallons of water per day. The average European uses 53 gallons per day, and the average sub-Saharan citizen uses 3-5 gallons.

If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Scott Reiter at the Prince George Office at 733-2686 (TDD*) during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations 5 days prior to the event. *TDD number is (800) 828-1120.

Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.