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NATURAL HERITAGE

Living on Karst

A Reference Guide for Landowners in Limestone Regions

Produced by the Cave Conservancy of the Virginias, June 1997



Pollution and Protection of Karst Wells and Springs

How Clean is Your Well Water?

Many homeowners believe that the source of their groundwater is miles away, and is naturally protected from surface activities. In reality, water quality monitoring projects in cave country have documented that water often comes directly from the immediate surface. These projects also have found unacceptable levels of bacteria and nutrients in more than half of the private water wells sampled.

Groundwater pollution can originate on your property or on surrounding land, potentially resulting in unsafe drinking water supplies for both you and your neighbors. Household wells and springs can be contaminated by many common and seemingly harmless activities such as boarding or pasturing livestock; the over-application of pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers; storing home heating oil; vehicle maintenance; and on-site sewage disposal.

Protecting Your Well Water

The best means of protecting your groundwater supply is to become familiar with the geology and hydrology of your watershed, and to work diligently with your neighbors to clean up dumps and limit potentially polluting activities in key source water areas.

  • Most health risks associated with low-level bacterial contaminated groundwater supplies can be resolved at the tap with an individual home treatment system (normally for less than $0.15 per gallon). For rural neighborhoods or subdivisions, community well fields, or springs with permitted package treatment plants are an option. All treatment systems have associated costs and specific maintenance requirements.

  • Proper well siting and construction is essential to keep polluted surface water out of the aquifer and to avoid drilling into caves. For the best protection immediately around the well itself, isolate the well as much as possible. Site new wells at least 200 to 1000 feet away from barns, feed lots, livestock pens, sinkholes, dumps, septic systems, fuel tanks, and other above-ground and underground sources of contamination. Fence livestock out of the spring or wellhead area. Maps developed by local cavers and water management districts can also ssist in locating wells away from subsurface cave pass on a safe, reliable source of water for drinking, bathing and other needs. Your will is also valuable because it represents a large financial investment.

Your family's health depends on a safe, reliable source of water for drinking, bathing and other needs. Your well is also valuable because it represents a large financial investment.