Drinking Water

Drinking Water

Test Your Tap

Private Drinking Water Facts

  • About three out of 10 Vermont households drink water from private wells.
  • Private wells for household use are not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the State of Vermont, except if you drill a new well.
  • Types of private drinking water sources include deep bedrock wells, shallow dug wells and groundwater springs.
  • Private well owners are responsible for testing the quality of their own drinking water and maintaining their own wells.

See the Health Department's water testing recommendations

order drinking water test kits

Public Drinking Water Facts

  • Vermont residents that receive a water bill are on public drinking water. Contact your water service provider if you experience a problem with your water supply or have a complaint. Their phone number should be on the water bill.
  • All public water systems must conduct water quality monitoring. Testing must be performed at labs certified by the Health Department Laboratory.
  • Public water treatment systems are regulated by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.
  • Public water suppliers send an annual Consumer Confidence Report to customers that gives information about the water source and the presence of contaminants (if any).
  • Water quality can be affected by the plumbing leading to the home and by the type of plumbing and fixtures in the home. If you’re on public water, the Health Department recommends testing your water for lead.
  • Disinfectants are added to public water to protect public health from microorganisms in drinking water. Disinfection byproducts (DBPs) can form when naturally occurring organic carbon reacts with chemical disinfectants such as chlorine.

Private Drinking Water Testing Recommendations

It's important to test your private well or spring for contaminants on a regular basis so you can address any problems with your water supply. The Health Department recommends testing for bacteria (Kit A), inorganic chemicals (Kit C) and gross alpha radiation (Kit RA). The table below gives more detail on each contaminant and how often to test.

Order test kits from the Health Department Laboratory by calling 802-338-4736 or 800-660-9997 (toll-free in Vermont), or contact a certified drinking water lab. You can also order a test for an individual contaminant, such as lead.

Find drop-off locations for your drinking water test kits


Recommended Testing Schedule

Health Department Lab Kit ID

Health Effects

Coliform Bacteria

Every year

Kit A

Stomachaches, diarrhea, GI (gastrointestinal) diseases


Every five years

Kit C

Increases risk of bladder, lung or skin cancer


Every five years

Kit C

Chloride may indicate other contaminants are present in the water


Every five years

Kit C

Stomachaches, vomiting, diarrhea, liver damage in young children


Every five years

Kit C

Fluoride levels above 4 mg/L can cause bone disease. Fluoride levels above 2 mg/L can cause staining or pitting of teeth. Optimal fluoride levels of 0.7 mg/L prevent tooth decay.


Every five years

Kit C

Causes scale buildup in pipes and fixtures, gray staining of washed clothes


Every five years

Kit C

Unpleasant odors, stains and tastes


Every five years

Kit C

Damage to brain, kidneys and nervous system


Every five years

Kit C

Damage to the nervous system (memory, attention and motor skills) when consumed over a long period of time, infants may develop learning and behavior problems


Every five years

Kit C

Methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome) in infants


Every five years

Kit C

Sodium may indicate other contaminants are present in the water, can be harmful to those on limited sodium diets

Uranium Every five years Kit C Kidney damage

Gross Alpha Radiation

Every five years

Kit RA

Cancer risk

There are some contaminants in the table below that are not on a recommended schedule for testing by the Health Department, but can be a concern to those on private and public water. See a complete list of tests available at the Health Department Laboratory


How to test for the contaminant

Health effects

Hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell)

Isolate the source of the smell

Gas in the air can be hazardous at high levels, can indicate sewage or other pollution intrusion in drinking water


Private labs can test for PFOA

Child development, infertility, increased cancer risk, and interference with hormones, the immune system and cholesterol levels


Vermont Dept of Health Lab Kit RC

Stomach cancer, lung cancer

Synthetic Organic Chemicals (pesticides, semi-volatile chemicals)

Vermont Dept of Health Lab Kit OL

Cancer, cardiovascular problems, reproductive issues, liver problems

Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC)

Vermont Dept of Health Lab Kit OA

Cancer and liver problems

Download the Health Department's water testing recommendation fact sheet
Search an A-Z list of water contaminants

For questions about the health effects of contaminants and treatment options, call the Private Drinking Water Program at:
802-863-7220 or 800-439-8550 (toll-free in Vermont) or AHS.VDHEnvHealth@Vermont.gov.

Resources and More Information

tips for private well owners

Drilling a new well? Find out about the required testing that you'll need to do.

The law requires that all landowners of single-family residences who install a new groundwater source for drinking water (for example, a drilled well, a new shallow well, a new driven well point, or a new spring), or who deepen an existing groundwater source, test the water before using it.

Find out what you need to test for and why

Buying or selling a home? Have the well water tested.

Why? As a home buyer, you’ll know your water will be safe to drink, and as a seller, you can avoid delays and problems with selling your home. The best time to have the water tested is before a home even goes on the market. It will give you a heads up on potential issues with the water, and allows time to remediate the water before the sale.

You often can’t see, taste or smell contaminants in water, so don’t assume you can tell if there is a problem with the water. Contaminated water can cause a variety of health risks, from short-term intestinal problems to cancer if consumed over a long period of time. Once you buy a home with a well, test your drinking water regularly.

You can sample your private well water by ordering the recommended homeowner’s drinking water test kits for $159 from the Health Department Laboratory. The kits test for the most common contaminants including lead, arsenic, E. coli and more, and come with instructions on how to sample water from your tap.

Real estate agents can help buyers and sellers get the information they need to make sure a home’s well water is safe. If results show the water is free from contaminants, that can be an added bonus for sellers and peace of mind for the buyers.

If test results show your water is contaminated, call the Drinking Water Program at 800-439-8550 for help with water treatment options.

Order the homeowner’s drinking water test kits

Think having your well water tested is complicated?

It's not! All you need to do is fill a sample bottle with water from your kitchen faucet and return it to the Health Department Laboratory.

Start by ordering the homeowner’s drinking water test kits from the Health Department Laboratory. The kits will be shipped to you, including sample bottles, instructions and a form for you to complete for each kit. The kits also come with a styrofoam cooler and ice packs to keep samples cold when you return them. The instructions have step-by-step details you should be sure to follow. Water samples should be returned to the lab as soon as possible. The lab test for coliform bacteria must be completed within 30 hours after you took the sample, and the other two tests within 48 hours. The lab is open between 7:45 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and closed on state holidays.

You’ll receive results by mail shortly after analysis is finished. Testing is completed between one and 21 days after the lab has received the samples.

Order the homeowner’s drinking water test kits
Watch a step-by-step video on how to test your drinking water

If you are a tenant or landlord, you should know this.

Landlords in Vermont have a number of responsibilities for maintaining safe rental properties—including providing clean drinking water to tenants. If the rental housing you own is supplied by well water, you should have the water tested.

Neither the State of Vermont nor the Environmental Protection Agency regulate private well water as they do for public water systems, which means the water quality of these wells might go unmonitored. However, state law does require that private water provided to tenants be free from harmful levels of contaminants.

The Health Department recommends a set of three water test kits for landlords and private homeowners whose properties have wells. The kits test for the most common drinking water contaminants, including E. coli, lead and arsenic. The Health Department recommends testing with all three kits every five years, and with the kit for coliform bacteria annually. The kits cost $159 and come with detailed sampling directions and information about how to return the samples.

Landlords who test their well water using the recommended schedule are more likely to catch contaminants before they cause harm. Drinking contaminated water can cause a range of negative health effects from intestinal conditions to cancer.

Tenants who want their well water tested can ask their landlord to do it, or can order a test kit and sample the water from their kitchen faucet themselves.

If water does contain high levels of contaminants, state law requires that the water be treated. You can call the Drinking Water Program at 800-439-8550 to learn about treatment options.

Order the recommended drinking water test kits
Watch a step-by-step video on how to test your drinking water
Learn more about testing your private well water
Information about Vermont’s rental housing code requirements

Flooding and storm runoff could make your well water unsafe to drink.

When Tropical Storm Irene caused widespread flooding in Vermont in 2011, many homeowners with private wells called the Health Department, wondering whether their water was safe to drink. The Drinking Water Program was able to help, by advising those with flooded wells to stop using the water, to disinfect their well, and then to test the water.

But it’s not just tropical storms that put your water at risk. Any flood or major storm event that generates significant runoff could contaminate your water. Because neither the State of Vermont nor the Environmental Protection Agency regulate private well water, it’s up to you to have your well water tested.

Learn how to disinfect your well
Order coliform bacteria drinking water test kits
Watch a step-by-step video on how to test your drinking water
Learn more about health concerns, testing and treatment options for coliform bacteria

Vermonters should protect their wells to keep drinking water safe.

The private wells and springs that supply your drinking water are vulnerable to a host of contaminants: bacteria and viruses from septic waste and disposal, naturally occurring chemicals like arsenic and manganese, petroleum products, pesticides and radiation.

If you don’t know what’s in your water, you won’t be able to take the steps necessary to protect your family’s health. In addition to testing, you can help keep contaminants from getting into your drinking water by making sure your well or spring is properly constructed and maintained.

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation sets standards for location, construction and water quality testing of drilled wells, dug wells and springs. It also requires all well drillers in Vermont to be licensed through its Drinking Water and Groundwater Protection Program.

Storage and disposal of household and lawn care chemicals, and changing engine or transmission oils or other car fluids should be done as far from your water supply as possible. If old vehicles are kept on the property, they should be carefully drained of fluids so they don’t leak into the ground over time. Check with your town or state programs for the best ways to recycle or dispose of waste products.

Learn more about drilled wells, dug wells and springs
Learn more about testing your private well water

What you can do if your well water is contaminated.

If you get your drinking water from a private well or spring, you should have it tested on a regular basis. And if results show your water is contaminated, you’ll need to treat the water.

How to treat the water will depend on the type of contamination. If the contamination is bacterial, you may need to disinfect your well and plumbing using chlorine. Shock chlorination is often enough to clear the contamination, and won’t cost more than your time and effort and $5 for a gallon of chlorine bleach. If you need help, contact a well driller or water treatment specialist.

If your water is contaminated with a naturally occurring chemical such as arsenic, or with lead from your plumbing, you may need to install a specialized water treatment system. You can learn about water treatment options for a specific contaminant by clicking on the relevant link at the bottom of this page. You can also contact the Drinking Water Program at 800-439-8550 or a water treatment specialist for advice.

Find a licensed well driller
Find a water treatment specialist
Learn how to disinfect your well

Watch this step-by-step video on how to use your drinking water test kits.


Submitting Drinking Water Test Results to the State

Act 163 took effect on 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.


In This Section

In April 2019, a new Vermont law passed requiring testing of new groundwater resources for single-family residences.

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.


Drought can cause groundwater levels to lower. There are some things you can do to manage your water supply during drought.

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

PFAS, including PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid) are manufactured chemicals that stay in the environment for a very long time.