If you use a private well to supply water to your home, you should test it for bacteria at least once a year. Testing is recommended every spring after the snow melt and spring run-off. You should also test your well if you see any changes in the water (ex: strong colour, odour or a change in taste or clarity) and after a particularly heavy rainfall or flooding.
What the laboratory will test for in the water sample
Private water samples are tested for:
- total coliform (TC) bacteria
- Escherichia coli or E. coli (EC) bacteria
Not all coliform bacteria measured in the total coliform test are harmful. Some coliform bacteria occur naturally in soil and in the intestines of humans and animals. However, there are types of coliform bacteria that can be harmful – neither total coliform nor E. coli bacteria should be found in well water. The presence of coliform bacteria indicates there may be an open pathway for contaminants to enter your well, whereas E. coli is a serious indicator that the well is contaminated.
How to collect a water sample
Currently, there are four accredited testing laboratories in Manitoba that provide bacteriological water analysis. You can find them by going to the provincial government webpage on the Office of Drinking Water. To test your well water, you must have a special bottle to collect a sample of water from your well. Sample bottles, sampling instructions and the forms to submit water samples are available at each laboratory or you may contact your Rural Municipality office, Conservation District office or local Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship office.
Prior to collecting a well water sample, you should contact one of the laboratories and ask:
- if they need advance notice that you’re sending a sample;
- how to pack and address your sample if you’re sending it by bus or courier;
- how to pack and label your sample, and if you’re dropping off the sample yourself, where their drop off location is and what their hours are;
- how the laboratory will notify you if there is a problem with your well water quality;
- what any associated costs might be.
Other well water testing tips
Collect your water sample early in the week – Monday to Thursday – so it can get to the laboratory to be analyzed within 24 hours.
- Take your sample as close to the well as possible, from a tap, faucet or spigot that is regularly used and easily accessible. Do not sample from a garden hose or from a container such as a water bottle.
- Only collect untreated well water. Do not collect water that’s been through a water treatment device (water softener) or any kind of filter (reverse osmosis). You must bypass, move or disconnect the device or filter to collect the sample.
- If you are sampling more than one location, you need a separate sample bottle for each location.
Private water subsidy for bacterial testing
The Province of Manitoba offers private water system owners a once-a-year subsidy for bacteria (total coliform and E. coli) analysis of their drinking water through Horizon Lab. Effective April 1st, 2022, the total price to homeowners for the once-a year subsidized sample is $25.00 (tax included). For information regarding sample bottle pick up, sample submission requirements, and payment options, please contact Horizon Lab directly:
Horizon Lab LTD 4055 Portage Avenue Winnipeg, Manitoba R3K 2E8 Phone: 204-488-2035 Fax: 204-488-4772 www.horizonlab.ca
Currently, there are four accredited testing laboratories in Manitoba that provide bacteriological water analysis. Click here for more information on Well Water Testing, or the accredited testing laboratories in the Province.