Private Drinking Water

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The department ensures public health for the citizens and guests of the state of Missouri by providing information regarding private water and private water supplies as well as private water testing to homeowners and local public health agencies.

The department offers technical assistance to homeowners and local health agencies regarding water sample results, health issues and water treatment; and regulates private water supplies of lodging, daycare, and food establishments.  Water testing of these establishments is performed on a regular schedule to ensure these water supplies meet drinking water standards for safe water. 

For technical assistance, contact your local health department or the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Bureau of Environmental Health Services at 573-751-6095.

Private Drinking Water Testing

The Missouri State Public Health Laboratories (MSPHL) tests approximately 7,000 private water samples for bacteria annually. Property owners may submit samples from private wells or other drinking water sources for bacterial testing. Samples must be submitted in collection kits provided by the MSPHL. These kits are available through the local public health agencies or State District Health Offices. The $10 handling fee (check or money order only) must be included with the sample or testing will not be performed.

Private Water Sampling Instructions

Bacteriological Analysis

The MSPHL can test for three different types of bacteria in private water samples. Routine samples are tested for coliform and E. coli bacteria. Testing for iron bacteria is available by special request. These methods are found in the latest edition of the American Public Health Association’s Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater, and comply with the U.S. environmental Protection Agency and Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services standards for drinking water.

Coliform bacteria occur naturally in soil, on vegetation, and in surface waters such as lakes or streams. They also can be found in the intestines of humans and other animals. Majority of the coliform bacteria are not harmful and are used as an “indicator bacteria” in drinking water. If present, contamination of the water has occurred, and other disease causing bacteria may also have gotten into the water supply.

Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a member of the coliform group of bacteria and is found only in humans and warm-blooded animals. E. coli in the drinking water indicates that it has been recently contaminated with human or animal wastes.

Iron bacteria occur naturally in the soil and derive its energy by oxidizing iron, manganese or aluminum. This oxidizing process creates a reddish-brown slime which over time can build up, clogging screens, well pumps, faucets, pipes, tanks etc.  Iron bacteria are not harmful, but it does produce an unpleasant taste and odor.

When testing for these bacteria, the MSPHL tests for presence/absence only, not a specific count.

Other tests for specific waterborne pathogens (bacteria) may be available by special request.

Samples must be received at the laboratory and testing initiated within 48 hours of sample collection (30 hours for public water supplies). The MSPHL statewide courier system may be used to transport samples to the Jefferson City laboratory overnight. There is no charge for this service.

For a list of MSPHL courier pickup locations, click on the link below, or contact your local public health agency.

MSPHL Courier Pickup Locations

More Information:

For technical assistance in determining the condition of your private water supply, sampling and testing your well water, or disinfecting your well, contact the Environmental Public Health Specialist at your local public health agency (County Health Department or State District Health Office).

Other informational forms:

Explanation of Total Coliform and E. Coli Bacteria Results in Drinking Water
What To Do If Your Water is Reported Unsatisfactory for Drinking
Directions for Disinfecting a Well