Wake Up Your Water System

Many of the water systems the Drinking Water Program regulatesAlarm clock graphic are seasonal.  Boys and girls camps, restaurants, sporting camps and motels open after hibernating all winter and begin serving drinking water to the public.  If you operate a seasonal system, follow the steps below to help avoid common drinking water mistakes that can result in risk to public health.

1.  Inspect your well. Take off the well cap and check to see if it has spider webs or insects inside.  If it does, clean them out with a shop vacuum.  Insects can get in your water and cause bacteria to spread in your water system.  To keep insects out of your well, install a sanitary seal well cap on top of the well casing.  This special well cap has built-in screens that let your well "breathe" without letting insects in.  You can buy a sanitary seal well cap from your local well driller.

  • Disinfect your well.  Water in your pipes and in your well sits over the winter and stagnates.  The onset of warmer weather can lead to growth of bacteria.  You can kill those bacteria by adding bleach to your well.  The bleach that you use must be approved for disinfecting drinking water by the EPA or NSF International (NSF).  Look for an EPA registration number or the NSF logo (blue circle with white letters) on the bottle.  Using the table below, determine the appropriate amount of chlorine bleach to pour into your well casing.
Disinfecting a 6-inch Diameter Well



80 feet

1/4 gallon

160 feet

1/2 gallon

240 feet

3/4 gallon

320 feet

1 gallon


3.  Pressurize the system.  Turn on faucets at the ends of the system to get chlorinated water into all of the pipes.  After you can smell chlorine coming out of the taps, shut the water off and let it sit overnight.  Chlorine works best if it is allowed to stay in contact with contaminated materials for a long time.

4.  Flush the system.  After you have let your water sit overnight, turn on the faucets and let them run.  This will help to move the chlorinated water out of the system.  Don't flush chlorinated water into your septic system because the chlorine can kill the "good" bacteria in your septic system.

5.  Flush your storage tanks.  Be sure to drain and refill your water storage tanks to remove rusty water and ensure that the valves still work.  Continue flushing until the water is no longer discolored.

6.  Take a hike.   If you have lines that run over the ground, take a walk around to make sure that they are not leaking.  Leaking lines can back-siphon bacteria into your drinking water, and can increase your power costs because you'll be pumping water that you do not use.

7.  Wait several days and take a bacteria test.   Ask you laboratory for an OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE (O&M) bacteria test.  (An O&M bacteria test cannot be used as a compliance test.)  A test that indicates no bacteria are present is the only way to ensure that your customers will enjoy safe drinking water.