Drinking Water

Test Your Tap

We depend on clean drinking water to keep us healthy. About 40% of Vermonters have private wells for drinking water. In Vermont, there are naturally occurring elements—including radioactive elements—human-made contaminants, and other substances added to drinking water to serve a purpose.

These contaminants have different characteristics, which means their relationship to human health differs. For example, fluoride, manganese and sodium benefit health if the amount ingested is not too high. Copper is needed to make the body’s red blood cells, but too much can cause stomachaches, vomiting, or diarrhea. And lead has no use in the human body.

The Health Department provides guidance to private well owners about what to test their drinking water for as well as current information on contaminant levels and guidelines to be used in the evaluating drinking water supplies.

See results for the lead in school drinking water initiative

It is important to test your private well for contaminants on a regular basis. You often cannot see, smell or taste naturally occurring elements, and they can affect your health. Learn more about private drinking water sources and contaminants, what to test for and when, how to treat your water, how to disinfect your water source, and what to do before and after a flood.

Resources for Certified Drinking Water Laboratories

Act 163 took effect January 1, 2013 and is related to the testing of potable water supplies. Under Act 163, a laboratory certified to conduct water testing from a potable water supply is required to submit the test results to the Health Department and Agency of Natural Resources in the format required by the Health Department.

The Data Elements and File Format Guide provides all of the requirements and instructions for submitting drinking water test results to the State.

Currently, the Health Department Information Technology group is developing an electronic private drinking water database to house all private drinking water test results, which should be complete and ready to receive data by Spring 2017. While database development is in process, laboratories are encouraged. to implement these new results submission criteria as soon as possible by sending Comma Separated Value (CSV) files in the correct format to the Health Department via email AHS.VDHPrivateWellTestResults@vermont.gov.

Summary of Important Guidelines for Preparing and Submitting Your CSV File

Using the Data Elements and File Format Guide:

  • Labs are required to produce and submit a Comma Separated Value (CSV) file that meets all of the specifications
  • The headers in your CSV file must match exactly as they are shown in the “Field” column
  • The columns in your CSV file can be in any order
  • Data are not case sensitive
  • There are format requirements for certain fields, such as time and date, result type, zip code and water source (see “Format and limited responses”)
  • Each file submitted to the State must have a unique file name. To ensure the file name is unique, the naming convention should start with your VT State Lab ID followed by the file creation date (e.g. VTStateLabIDyyyymmdd).
  • Batched files are acceptable
  • Required fields are noted with an R and R1

For Questions about:

  • The Data Elements and File Format Guide or the data submission process, call the Environmental Health Division at 802-863-7220 or 800-439-8550 (toll-free in Vermont).
  • Laboratory certification, contact the Laboratory Certification Officer, George Mills, at the Health Department Laboratory at 802-338-4746 or 800-660-9997.
Contact Information

Drinking Water Program
Phone: 802-863-7220 or
800-439-8550 (toll-free in Vermont)
Fax: 802-863-7483


In This Section

If your water does not come from a town or city water system, you are using a private drinking water source.

Untreated surface water in rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds is not safe to drink unless it is treated to remove bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Water that is contaminated with fecal coliform, or E.coli bacteria, can cause health problems if ingested and should be disinfected before use.

Water may not be safe to drink, cook or clean with after an emergency such as a flood.

Arsenic is a natural element found in some rocks and soils in Vermont and may get into groundwater.

The Health Department recommends testing your private water source for common drinking water contaminants that may cause health problems if ingested.

Copper piping and fittings are commonly used in home plumbing systems. When well water is acidic, copper from the home’s pipes and fittings dissolve into the drinking water.

The Health Department recommends testing your private water source for gross alpha radiation and uranium every five years.

Lead is a toxic metal that gets into drinking water from lead or galvanized iron pipes and fittings, lead solder, and brass or chrome fixtures.

Manganese is a naturally occurring metal found in rocks and soil in Vermont that may be found in elevated levels your private drinking water supply.