The sign at the Kwik Trip on West Main Street in Watertown was its own island Thursday afternoon, surrounded by water.

Although many people in the Daily Times readership area live in cities where they are on municipal water systems, there are those living in rural areas who obtain their water from wells.

Liesa Lehmann, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources private water section chief, said this week that these well owners are encouraged to be vigilant as the seasons change. Rains, such as the torrential ones that hit Jefferson and southern Dodge counties Thursday afternoon, combined with rapid snowmelt, can lead to well contamination.

"Warming temperatures, snowmelt, rain and lingering frozen ground can create conditions that may affect private wells and drinking water. Our recent rain, mixed precipitation and local flooding throughout the state is a reminder that changing spring weather can lead to well contamination," Lehmann said. "At this time of year, we encourage well owners to watch for signs of flooding and note any change in the color, smell or taste of their drinking water."

Owners who see floodwaters very near or over their wells should assume their drinking water could be contaminated and should stop drinking the water and find another safe source.

"Once the waters recede, make sure the well is properly disinfected," Lehmann said. "Before drinking the water again, sample the well to assure the water is safe. Floodwaters and rain runoff may contain bacteria and other contaminants that can affect water supplies and cause illness. Wells located in pits, basements and low-lying areas are especially susceptible to contamination."

Lehmann said disinfection and sampling is best done by a licensed well-driller or pump installer.

"Any water supply system that has been submerged by floodwaters should be pumped out once the floodwater recedes, then thoroughly disinfected and tested to determine that the water is safe," she said.

To ensure safe drinking water, well owners are encouraged to learn whether they have a properly constructed well and test it annually for bacteria. More information on bacterial contamination of drinking water wells, along with lists of licensed well drillers, pump installers and labs certified to analyze water samples can be found on the DNR's website.

For individuals who receive drinking water from a public water supply, these systems are designed and operated to keep out contaminants. Persons with concerns about the safety of their community's drinking water should contact their public water supplier.

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