GARDENING: Water well screening is Wednesday

By Jeanette Castanon

The Texas Well Owner Network is hosting a water well screening Wednesday in Odessa to give area residents the opportunity to have their well water screened.

A meeting will follow on Thursday to explain the results.

The Well Informed water sample drop-off will be from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service office, 1010 E. Eighth St., No. 220, or the Midland County Extension Office, 2445 E. Highway 80, Midland.

The cost for each sample is $10.

A meeting explaining screening results will be delivered to participants at 6 p.m. Thursday at 1010 E. Eighth St., No. 200.

The screening is presented by AgriLife Extension and Texas Water Resources Institute, or  TWRI, in partnership with the AgriLife Extension office in Ector County and the AgriLife Extension office in Midland County.

John Smith, AgriLife Extension program specialist, College Station, said area residents wanting to have their well water screened should pick up a sample bag, bottle and instructions from either of the AgriLife Extension offices.

“It is very important that only sampling bags and bottles from the AgriLife Extension office be used and all instructions for proper sampling are followed to ensure accurate results,” Smith said.

Smith said private water wells should be tested annually. Samples will be screened for contaminants, including total coliform bacteria, E. coli, nitrate-nitrogen, arsenic and salinity.

Smith said research shows the presence of E. coli bacteria in water indicates that waste from humans or warm-blooded animals may have contaminated the water. Water contaminated with E. coli is more likely to also have pathogens present that can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea or other symptoms.

The presence of nitrate-nitrogen in well water is also a concern.

“Water with nitrate-nitrogen at levels of 10 parts per million is considered unsafe for human consumption,” Smith said. “These nitrate levels above 10 parts per million can disrupt the ability of blood to carry oxygen throughout the body, resulting in a condition called methemoglobinemia. Infants less than 6 months of age and young livestock are most susceptible.”

Salinity as measured by total dissolved solids will also be determined for each sample, he said.

Water with high levels may leave deposits and have a salty taste. Using water with high levels for irrigation may damage soil or plants. Long-term consumption of arsenic in water, Smith said, increases the risk of skin cancer and cancer in the liver, bladder and lungs. In addition, chronic exposure to arsenic may lead to gastrointestinal irritation and cardiovascular disease.

Smith said it is extremely important for those submitting samples to be at the Thursday, May 6 meeting to receive results, learn corrective measures for identified problems and improve their understanding of private well management.

Funding for the Texas Well Owner Network is through a Clean Water Act nonpoint source grant provided by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The project is managed by TWRI, part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University.

For more information, call the AgriLife Extension office at 432-498-4071 or the Midland County Extension Office at 432-686-4700 or to reach Smith, call 979-204-0573 or email

To learn more about the programs offered through the network or to find additional publications and resources, visit