January 16, 2001 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Many Kentuckians do not have access to public water systems. They must rely on wells and that means taking responsibility for the quality of their own water instead of relying on the local community to do it for them.

Recently, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and the Cooperative Extension Service put together an instructional video to highlight some important aspects of caring for wells and cisterns.

The video, "Water Quality Basics," shows how to properly disinfect a well, including pre- and post-treatment techniques.

"The video gives instructions you can follow to help ensure your well-water is safe to drink," said Kim Henken, Extension associate for UK environmental and natural resource issues. "You will learn how to help protect your family from harmful bacteria that can easily exist in a well."

In many areas of Kentucky, a well is not the best option for drinking water. In these cases, a cistern water system may be used to collect rainwater or store water bought from a water hauler. They usually are underground, away from trees but near a roof, where they can collect water from roof run-off.

"It's important to keep gutters cleaned out if they will be draining into a cistern," Henken said. "And remember, water in a cistern is only as clean as the cistern itself."

The "Water Quality Basics" video shows examples of roof washers and sand filters for cistern water, and explains how they work.

Another area the video covers is septic systems – when to have them pumped, how to conserve water, etc. Also, there is a section about how to prevent water-borne illnesses.

"Well-owners should have the water tested at least once a year," Henken said. "Contacting your county health department is a good place to start.

Finally, the video discusses the importance of farmers and loggers having an Ag Water Quality Plan to protect surface and ground water. All landowners with 10 or more acres of agricultural or forest products have to develop and implement a water quality plan. They must be completed by Oct. 2001. County Extension offices and local conservation districts can provide assistance in developing a water quality plan. "Water Quality Basics" will be distributed to county Extension agents in February. It also is available for $20 per copy. Learn how to take care of wells, cisterns and septic tanks, while ensuring safe water for your family.

To obtain your own copy of "Water Quality Basics," ask your county Extension agent or send check or money order to the University of Kentucky, Agriculture Communications Services, Instructional Video Library, RM 131 Scovell Hall, Lexington, KY 40546 or call 859-257-7218.


Kim Henken 859-257-7775