The Texas Well Owner Network, TWON, will host six events in South Texas on May 22-23 to allow residents to have their well water screened. A “Well Educated” water well screening will be in Benavides, and five “Well Informed” screenings are set in Falfurrias, Robstown, Kingsville, Zapata and Cuero.
TWON will also offer follow-up meetings from May 24-25 to explain the results of these screenings.
Joel Pigg, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service program specialist and TWON coordinator, Bryan-College Station, said the Texas Well Owner Network program is for Texas residents who depend on household wells for their water needs.
“The TWON program was established to help well owners become familiar with Texas groundwater resources, septic system maintenance, well maintenance and construction, and water quality and treatment,” he said. “It allows them to learn more about how to improve and protect their community water resources.”
There will be no cost for the water screenings. Water samples will be screened for contaminants, including total coliform bacteria, E. coli, arsenic, nitrate-nitrogen and salinity.
The screenings are presented by Texas Water Resources Institute, TWRI, in partnership with the respective AgriLife Extension offices and groundwater conservation districts.
— Cuero area: On May 22, water samples can be dropped off from 8-10 a.m. at the AgriLife Extension office for DeWitt County, 115 N. Gonzales, Suite E, Cuero, or the Pecan Valley Groundwater Conservation District office, 1009 N. Esplanade St., Cuero.
On May 25, the follow-up meeting to explain the results of the screenings will be at 6 p.m. at the Friar Ag Center, 501 Industrial Blvd., Cuero.
— Robstown area: On May 22, water samples can be dropped off from 8-10 a.m. at the AgriLife Extension office for Nueces County, 710 E. Main Ave., Suite 1, Robstown.
On May 24, the follow-up meeting to explain the results of the screenings will be at 8:30 a.m. at the AgriLife Extension office in Nueces County.
— Falfurrias, Alice and Hebbronville areas: On May 22, water samples can be dropped off from 8-10 a.m. at the AgriLife Extension offices for Jim Hogg County, 109 E. Santa Clara St., Hebbronville, or for Jim Wells County, 200 N. Almond St., B110, Alice, or for Brooks County, 219 Calixto Mora Ave., Courthouse Annex, Falfurrias, or the Brush County Groundwater Conservation District, 732 W. Rice St., Falfurrias.
The follow-up meeting to explain the results of the screenings will be at 10 a.m. May 24 at Brush Country Groundwater Conservation District office.
— Kingsville and Sarita areas: On May 22, water samples can be dropped off from 8-10 a.m. at the AgriLife Extension office for Kleberg and Kenedy counties, 729 E. Yoakum Ave., Kingsville, or the Kenedy County Groundwater Conservation District, 365 La Parra Ave., Sarita.
The follow-up meeting to explain the results of the screenings will be held at 4 p.m., May 24 at the AgriLife Extension office in Kingsville.
— Zapata and Rio Grande City areas: On May 22, water samples can be dropped off from 8-10 a.m. at the AgriLife Extension offices for Zapata County, 200 E. 7th Ave., Suite 249, Zapata County Courthouse, Zapata, or for Starr County, 500 N. Britton Ave., Rio Grande City.
The follow-up meeting to explain the results of the screenings will be held at 6 p.m. May 24 at the AgriLife Extension offices in Zapata County.
— Benavides area: On May 23, water samples can be dropped off from 8-10 a.m. at the AgriLife Extension office for Duval County, 131 W. Main St., Benavides, or the Duval County Groundwater Conservation District office, 225 E. Railroad Ave., Benavides.
On May 25 the follow-up meeting to explain the results of the screenings will be from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., with lunch provided, at the Garza Ranch, 11659 Texas Highway 339, Benavides, 2 miles north on Texas Highway 339.
Pigg said private wells should be tested annually. Area residents wanting to have their water screened should pick up a sample bag, bottle and instructions from their local AgriLife Extension office.
“It is essential that only sampling bags and bottles from the AgriLife Extension offices be used, and all instructions for proper sampling are followed to ensure accurate results,” he said.
Pigg said it is essential for those submitting samples to be at the appropriate follow-up meeting to receive results, learn corrective measures for identified problems and improve their understanding of private well management.
Well water contaminants, concerns
John Smith, AgriLife Extension program specialist, Bryan-College Station, said research shows the presence of E. coli bacteria in water indicates that waste from humans or warm-blooded animals may have contaminated the water. Water contaminated with E. coli is more likely to also have pathogens that can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea or other symptoms.
The presence of nitrate-nitrogen in well water is also a concern, and water with nitrate-nitrogen at levels of 10 parts per million is considered unsafe for human consumption, he said.
“These nitrate levels above 10 parts per million can disrupt the ability of blood to carry oxygen throughout the body, resulting in a condition called methemoglobinemia,” Pigg said. “Infants less than 6 months of age and young livestock are most susceptible to this.”
Long-term consumption of arsenic in water, Smith said, increases the risk of skin cancer and cancer in the liver, bladder and lungs. In addition, chronic exposure to arsenic may lead to gastrointestinal irritation and cardiovascular disease.
Salinity, as measured by total dissolved solids, will also be determined for each sample, he said. Water with high levels may leave deposits and have a salty taste. Using water with high levels for irrigation may damage soil or plants.
To learn more about the programs offered through the network or to find additional publications and resources, visit twon.tamu.edu. For more information on the water screening, contact Pigg at 979-845-1461 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Smith at 979-204-0573 or email@example.com.
TWON is funded through a Clean Water Act nonpoint source grant provided by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The project is managed by TWRI, part of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension and the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Story written by Leslie Lee, Texas Water Resources Institute