Protecting Public Health and the Environment.

Free nitrate screening offered to private well owners at Lincoln County Fair July 26-27 and Minidoka County Fair August 2-3

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

TWIN FALLS — Do you know if your well water is safe to drink? Public water systems are monitored for harmful contaminants regularly, but if you own your well, this responsibility falls to you.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Idaho Rural Water Association will offer free nitrate screening for private well owners at the Lincoln County Fair in Shoshone July 26-27 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and at the Minidoka County Fair in Rupert August 2-3, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Nitrate, a chemical form of nitrogen found naturally in small amounts in soil and ground water, is the most widespread contaminant in Idaho ground water. Some land use practices and human activities may increase nitrate in ground water to dangerous levels. Nitrate contamination can easily occur in areas with shallow depths to ground water, sandy soils, fractured bedrock, or shallow wells.

Drinking water that contains high levels of nitrate is especially dangerous for infants under the age of 6 months, unborn children, and adults with low stomach acidity.

To participate in the free screening, well owners are advised to do the following on the morning of the screening:

  • Identify a water source that is not connected to a treatment device (water softener, carbon filter, or other filtration system). An outside faucet or hydrant works best.
  • Locate a clean glass jar and lid or Ziploc bag to collect the water sample. Label the outside with your name or address, date, and well name (e.g., garden well or house well).
  • Allow the water to run 5–10 minutes to empty the pressure tank so water comes directly from the aquifer, which will lead to more accurate results.
  • Fill the container with approximately 1 cup of water.
  • Keep the sample cool. DEQ will dip a test strip into the water, which will indicate if nitrate is present.

For well owners who want their well water tested for nitrate or bacteria at the Magic Valley Labs in Twin Falls, free sample test kits will also be available. The cost per sample is $18 for nitrate and $16 for bacteria—owners will be billed by the lab.

For more information, contact Irene Nautch, DEQ Twin Falls Regional Office, at (208) 736-2190 or email For information about free online classes and webinars offered for well owners nationwide, visit


Media Contact

Drinking Water Protection Coordinator
Irene Nautch
DEQ Twin Falls Regional Office
650 Addison Avenue West, Suite 110
Twin Falls, ID 83301
(208) 736-2190

Related Pages

Nitrate in Ground Water

Private Wells