Abstracts

Mississippi Private Well Characteristics and Well Owner Demographics

Author(s): Barrett, J.

Mississippi citizens who acquire their drinking water from private wells do not have the luxury of knowing the quality of their drinking water on a regular basis unless they are making the effort to have their water screened and tested. Without knowing and understanding the safety of drinking water, private well owners do not know if and when treatment is needed. Approximately 90% of Mississippi citizens are served by one of the 1,200(+/-) public water systems which provide safe reliable water under the regulatory guidance of the Mississippi State Department of Health-Bureau of Public Water Supply. Private well owners are free to own, operate, and maintain their wells because there is no regulatory oversight. For some private well owners, this freedom is welcome but others want to know the quality of their drinking water and best practices for proper maintenance.

No demographic data about private well owners has been compiled since the 1990 census. Since the inception of Mississippi State University Extension's Mississippi Well Owner Network (MWON), demographic data has been collected. The MWON workshops have allowed private well owners the opportunity to have their well water screened for bacteria. This presentation will compare demographic data of current private well owners with those from the 1990 census as well as compare to overall Mississippi demographic data. Private well characteristics are also gathered when a well owner has their water screened for bacteria. Characteristics may prove beneficial when analyzed against the presence of bacteria to assist well owners in making improved decisions on the treatment or introduction of treatment to their well water. The concluding data can be utilized to better understand and serve Mississippi private well owners.

This study should be of interest to representatives of local municipal water systems, local communities, and rural water associations for potential expansion of their water systems. The expansion of a public water system may achieve multiple goals. Additional customers generate more revenue for the public water system, as well as provide a larger customer base in which to spread costs. The regulatory oversight of public water systems should promote and produce a safer drinking water supply for Mississippi residents. The study should also be of interest to private well owners as they navigate life obtaining their drinking water from an unregulated source.

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