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Water Quality

In Ohio, many residents receive their drinking water from ground or surface water resources through private water systems such as wells, springs, ponds, rain water cisterns, and hauled water. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) requires that the water provided from these systems be tested for a few basic contaminants upon completion of the private water systems construction, alteration or other activity under an open private water systems permit.  Once that open permit receives final approval from the local health district, property owners need to take special precautions to ensure the protection and maintenance during the life time of their private water systems. The required tests to approve a private water system permit are:

 Total Coliform bacteria                                    E. coli                                      Nitrates  

The Ohio Department of Health current microbiological standards for private water systems are summarized in the Microbiological Standards for Private Water Systems in Ohio fact sheet. 

In addition to these requirements, ODH has established drinking water standards for private water systems based on the federal drinking water standards for public water systems (Drinking Water Contaminants – Standards and Regulations -  These standards are to be used as a health standard to guide private water system owners on the potential health effects of exposure to different naturally-occurring and man-made constituents.

Testing for all the contaminants for the federal safe drinking water standards is expensive and not necessary for most systems. The Ohio Department of Health recommends that private water system owners test a few parameters such as total coliform bacteria, E. coli, nitrates and arsenic on a regular basis to maintain a record of water quality and identify any changes to the system or loss of water quality. Good records of water quality are important to prove if a private water system has been affected by a nearby land use activity.  Contact your local health district to learn what water samples they can collect.  The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) certifies laboratories to perform water testing on drinking water, visit the Ohio EPA's website to find a current list of certified laboratories for testing drinking water.

Microbiological Contaminants

              Total Coliform bacteria               E. Coli
  Cryptosporidium Giardia
  Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Cyanotoxins  


Primary Pathogenic microorganism

  • "Primary pathogenic microorganism" which can cause disease in otherwise healthy people with exposure and dose and includes but is not limited to escherichia coli, enterococci or coliphage;

Opportunistic pathogens

  • "Opportunistic pathogen" is a commonly occurring microorganism found in water wells or a rare microorganism that does not normally cause disease in otherwise healthy people but can cause disease in sensitive populations including immune compromised individuals, infants, and the elderly."

Inorganic Chemical Contaminants

           Antimony               Arsenic               Asbestos               Barium
  Beryllium   Bromide   Cadmium   Calcium
  Chloride   Chromium (total)   Copper   Cyanide
  Fluoride   Hydrogen Sulfide   Iron   Lead
  Magnesium   Manganese   Mercury   Nitrate
  Thallium   Selenium   Sodium   Strontium

Organic Chemical Contaminants (click link)


     Alpha particles          Beta particles and photon emitters
  Radium 226 and Radium 228 (combined)   Radon

Other Parameters

    Water properties and measurements that can be used to assess drinking water aesthetic quality in private water systems supplies.

     Hardness           pH             Specific Conductivity            Tannins 
  Alkalinity   Total Dissolved Solids   Sediment   Turbidity and Total Suspended Solids  

Natural and Man-made Events

     Drought           Flood Events           Geothermal Systems Guidance 
  Oil and Gas Drilling    Power Outages    Salt Storage Guidance 

Laboratories certified to conduct water testing for private water systems

The private water system rules (Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 3701-28) require water samples collected from private water systems to be analyzed by laboratory certified by either the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) or the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) for system approval after new construction, alteration or repair. The department recommends that all water samples collected from private water systems for real estate transactions, or consumer information also be analyzed at a certified laboratory to ensure that proper procedures and water analysis methods are used to protect public health.

Page updated: 05/31/2018