A new survey finds as many as three out of four Iowa households that rely on private well water may be at risk for unhealthy nitrate levels.

The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach survey found just 10% of well owners tested their water quality in the last year, as it is not required by state law.

Jamie Benning is the assistant director for Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension at ISU. “What that tells us with the amount of, or the frequency of their monitoring, or testing, along with some other behaviors is that 73% of well owners in Iowa are at risk for nitrate exposure,” Benning says, “because they haven’t tested in the last two years.”

Benning says about 33% of well owners are considered to be at the highest risk because they also haven’t installed filters to remove nitrates and don’t seek alternative sources of drinking water. Even though it’s not required by the state, Benning says people should regularly test their well water to make sure it’s safe to drink.

She says, “Put it on your calendar, maybe around your birthday, maybe ahead of the holidays, a time that you’ll remember and treat it like any other health action that you take.” It’s estimated about 7.6% of Iowa households use well water.

(By Natalie Krebs, Iowa Public Radio)