Access to safe drinking water is a fundamental part of living an active and healthy life. Whether you get your water from a public water system or a private well, it is important to understand where your water comes from and be assured that your water is safe and healthy.
Public Water Systems
Drinking water providers continuously monitor public drinking water systems. Most public water systems provide an annual water quality report to their customers. This report is called a Consumer Confidence Report and is generally available on the system’s webpage or by request.
To report a water main break, contact your water provider or Summit County Dispatch at 970-668-8600.
Private Well Water
Private wells supply water to many households in the county. Sampling for safety and health of this water falls solely on the home owner or tenants shoulders. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the EPA both recommend sampling coliform bacteria and nitrates annually, or whenever a change of quality is observed, at a minimum.
Summit County Environmental Health provides well water testing for nitrates and coliform bacteria. The water may also be tested for fluoride levels, for an additional fee. A sterile sample bottle and instructions may be picked up at our office. Samples should be collected and submitted to our office on the same day. We accept water to be sampled on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during regular business hours. If the sample is required for Certificate of Occupancy on a Building Permit, the department will retrieve the sample at your property. See the current Fee Schedule (pdf) for the cost of testing your well water.
If your test results indicate that bacteria are present, disinfection of the well is recommended to return a private well to safe operations. Homeowners can easily follow these instructions .
Coliform Bacteria and Nitrates in Drinking Water
Coliform bacteria are organisms that are present in the environment from the feces of all warm-blooded animals and humans, and are used to indicate possible contamination.
Nitrates are very persistent within the environment, and do not remain confined within the soil matrix so the potential is high for them to be found in ground water. Sources include failing onsite waste water treatment systems (septic systems), agricultural runoff, and other various human influences. The primary health concern surrounding high nitrate levels is methemoglobinemia, more commonly known as “Blue Baby Syndrome”. Young infants (<6 months of age) are particularly sensitive to the effects of nitrite on hemoglobin due to formula prepared with drinking water that contains nitrate levels higher than recommended limits, 10 ppm. Environmental Health studies area nitrate levels to reflect human influence on the groundwater.
The background level of nitrates in Colorado groundwater is thought to be on average 2.5 ppm. In Summit County in particular, we have observed an average concentration of 1.5 ppm with a max concentration of 19.6 ppm. For reference, 1 ppm is roughly equal to 1 drop of water in a large kitchen garbage can full of water.
Click on the map to view a compilation of nitrate concentration data collected from private well samples from 1995-2019.
Fluoride in Drinking Water
Fluoride can naturally occur in water. While it is a beneficial element for oral health, too much can be harmful. It is important to know if your water has too much or too little. If you are on a public water system, you can contact your supplier to determine how much fluoride is in your water. For homes on private wells, Environmental Health has the ability to test for the concentration of fluoride in well water, for an additional fee. Homeowners can expect to see a small amount of naturally occurring background fluoride in their water due to our active geology.
A lender may require that a well be inspected for the purposes of real estate transaction. The Environmental Health Department can conduct inspections of existing water wells. These inspections include testing of the water for coliform bacteria and nitrates as well as a visual inspection of the well head and surrounding area. To request this inspection please complete the Well Inspection Form and submit it to this department, along with the fee required.
If you wish to have the mechanics of your well inspected we suggest you arrange that with a well drilling or pump servicing company.
For more information on private wells check out the following links:
Well Owner Maintenance Practices
Well Owner Information
If you wish to test for items other than coliform bacteria and nitrates please consult the state lab.
Well Water Permits
or for Well Permit Records.