Guidance for Owners of Private Wells

The information offered here is intended to guide private well owners to the appropriate resource.

NMED DWB only has regulatory oversight of public drinking water systems. Public drinking water systems are those systems that provide drinking water to at least 15 service connections or 25 people. This does not include individual private well owners.

If you are looking for basic information about private well ownership, the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has a wealth of information on their website. That information can be located at the following web address:

Your well, your water, your responsibility

As a private well owner, you are responsible for testing your own water to ensure that your water quality is safe. You may contact a local water laboratory to determine if they can conduct an analysis of your private drinking water well. DWB does certify laboratories for use by public water systems. A list of those laboratories can be found here.

When should I test my water?


  • When a new well is installed
  • When there is no record of testing
  • If you are purchasing a new home with a well


  • Test in the spring

Other reasons

  • Unexplained illness in household
  • Sudden change in water quality: taste, color, or odor
  • After septic system failure
  • After a natural disaster: wildfire or flood
  • Neighbors are having water quality problems
  • Someone in your household is pregnant or nursing a child less than 6 months old
  • Prolonged drought in your area

What should I tell the water laboratory to check?

The New Mexico Environment Department recommends that you test your water well annually for bacteria, nitrate, and arsenic (most common contaminants in NM). Uranium is also recommended every five years. Consider testing for Below is a table of other characteristics and what you should consider testing for.

CharacteristicsConsider testing for
Visible black flakesManganese
Brown, yellow, or red tintIron
Metallic odor or tasteHydrogen sulfide
Salty odor or tastepH, iron, zinc, copper, lead
Gasoline/Oil odor or tasteHydrocarbon Scan, Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs)
Red, brown or black stains on clothing or fixturesIron, manganese
Green or blue stains on clothing or fixturesCopper
White deposits/soap scum on clothing or fixturesTotal Dissolved Solids, calcium and magnesium
Discoloration of children’s teethFluoride
Gastrointestinal illnessE.-coli bacteria, sulfates, giardia

If you’ve learned that there are other contaminants in your area, you can add them to your water test request.

Where can I get my water tested?

Water samples should be analyzed by a certified or accredited laboratory. A list of laboratories is available HERE.

Maintaining your well

Inspect your well

  • Visually inspect your wellhead on a regular basis for signs of damage like cracks in the well casing or damage to the well cap. Make sure the well remains sealed and free of debris, and the ground slopes away from the wellhead.

Maintain records

  • Keep records of maintenance, test results and repairs.
  • Keep a copy of your well permit.
  • Information on your permit can be found at the Office of the State Engineer.
  • Keep records of your septic system maintenance. Septic tanks should be pumped every three to five years.

Well protection

  • Keep chemicals at least 100 ft away from wellhead
  • Do not house livestock or animals near wellhead
  • Do not store vehicles near wellhead

Free private well water quality testing opportunities

Water Fairs

The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) – Ground Water Quality Bureau conducts eight water fairs a year throughout the state. Water fairs provide field testing for arsenic, electrical conductivity, fluoride, iron, nitrate, pH, and sulfate. To learn more, visit:

Field offices

Some NMED field offices provide limited testing for Iron, Fluoride, and Nitrate. To learn more, visit:

These testing options are screenings and do not substitute for laboratory tested and certified results.

What do I need to do if I find out that my drinking water has bacterial contamination?

  • If you had your private well tested and the results indicate E.coli bacterial contamination, you can obtain general information about what to do from the NMED DWB website fact sheet about Boil Water Advisories.
  • The Center for Disease Control also has valuable information about disinfecting your well if it has become contaminated with bacteria. That information can be found at the CDC Website.

What do I need to do if flooding occurs?

Bottled Water – Who is responsible for water quality in bottled water?

The NMED Food Program exists to protect New Mexicans from food borne illness.  Included in its oversight responsibilities is bottled water from New Mexico bottlers.  Multi-state bottlers are regulated by the FDA. 

What if my well goes dry?

  • You can contact the NMED/DWB to get the names of water haulers that have been inspected and certified by the State to haul drinking water: (877) 654-8720
  • If your well does not replenish and you need a new well, you can get information about well drillers from the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer.

Home Inspection Finding – The home inspection report for property that I  want to purchase had a finding of “well & septic are located too close”.  What needs to be done?

Contact the NMED Onsite Wastewater Program and ask to be connected with a Liquid Waste Specialist for your area. 

Cistern Systems – My lender wants to have written certification for the cistern system on the property that I want to purchase.

There are no NMED DWB regulations for private cistern systems.  Try contacting a local building code office to see if there are local regulations and/or inspectors who can certify cistern systems.

Private Well Records – Where can I find historical records for my well?

  • Ask the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer whether your well was previously registered: (505) 827-6091
  • Look up the Water Right Summary for your well online, at the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer website:
  • Ask for all water testing history from Seller/Realtor

Additional Resources

Contact Us

Drinking Water Bureau
Ph: 505-476-8620

Utility Operator Certification:

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