Not-so-Frequently Asked Questions

Well Maintenance

Water Quality

Water Quantity


How do I select a private well contractor?
The RI Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) regulations state that a registered well driller or pump installer should be hired whenever any work is conducted on a private well. The RI DEM Office of Water Resources maintains a listing of registered well drillers and pump installers. Or you can call RI DEM at 401-222-4700.

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What do I do if my well has been flooded?
Do not turn on the pump and do not drink or wash with the well water. There is a high liklihood that during the flooding the well was contaminated. Follow these guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency.

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How do I abandon an old well?
Follow these regulations set by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

A video about how abandoned wells can become pollution hazards and the proper steps to take in order to seal them.

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My tapwater has a rotten egg smell, what is causing this?
Water containing hydrogen sulfide has a "rotten egg" smell. Hydrogen sulfide gas is a nuisance that is not usually a health risk at concentrations normally found in household water. It is often caused from the presence of sulfur-reducing bacteria present in groundwater. These bacteria use sulfur as an energy source and reduce naturally occurring sulfates (minerals) which produce hydrogen sulfide. These bacteria normally exist in oxygen-deficient environments, such as deep wells and plumbing systems.  See the Hydrogen Sulifide and Sulfate fact sheet for more information.

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What is the proper way to shock chlorinate the well and household plumbing?
Follow these guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency.
For more information on bacterial sources see the following fact sheets:

Naturally occuring bacteria from soil and surface water runoff can be detected in well water when wells are in need of repair. See the Drinking Water Wells fact sheet for more information.

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I live on the coast and have a well that I use only for outdoor watering. The well contains sea water, is this safe for my plants?
Private wells in coastal areas can draw in seawater, causing them to have a high salinity. It is difficult to determine how much "seawater" is safe for landscape plants since every plant has a different salt tolerance. However, here are some things to consider:
Sea water has an average salinity of about 35,000 parts per million. According to horticulturalists at URI Cooperative Extension Education Center, water with a concentration over 500 parts per million begins to be unhealthy for even the hardiest of plants. However, each plant type will react differently to the amount of salt in water depending upon its sensitivity.
The URI Cooperative Extension GreenShare Program has published The Sustainable Plant List, which lists plants that contain some salt tolerance.
It would also be important to monitor soil salt levels through a soil test. There are soil testing labs at the University of Massachusetts and the University of Connecticut.

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What is backflow and how can it be prevented?
Backflow occurs when there is a change in water pressure that causes water to flow backwards in a water distribution system. An example of this would be when a hose is being used outside to water the garden and someone inside of the house turns on the water. A loss of pressure might occur. If backflow occurs while a drinking water supply is in direct contact with a contaminated water supply, the drinking water can become contaminated.

To prevent backflow from occurring, make sure you have a backflow prevention device between your hose and hose faucet. A hose-faucet vacuum breaker is a simple, inexpensive screw-on device that can be purchased at plumbing or hardware stores. Homeowners should check that all taps (faucets, spigots) to which a hose may be connected are fitted with hosebib vacuum breakers. They only cost a few dollars each and can be installed by a homeowner. A more effective backflow prevention device called an atmospheric vacuum breaker costs about $50 and should be installed by a qualified plumber who understands water flow hydraulics.

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How do I know how much water my well can produce?
The well yield is an estimate of how much water your well can produce. The well yield is the amount of water that can be pumped from the well continuously for a set amount of time. The amount is usually measured in gallons per minute. See the Priavte Well Yield fact sheet for more information.

A video about how the depth of well relates to the amount of water a well can produce.


For more information contact Alyson McCann, Program Coordinator
Phone: 401-874-5398


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