Description: Low-lying and coastal areas are prone to routine flooding, and those with private well systems are particularly vulnerable to its effects. A sudden deluge carries risks to a system that include structural damage, and sediment and bacterial contamination. It is important for any well owner that has experienced a flood to contact a professional water tester.

Flooding and Your Well

Municipal water sources have lots of infrastructure in place in the event of an environmental or natural disaster, such as a flood. Dams, reservoirs, and treatment systems are in place to prevent damage or contamination in case of a deluge. But what if you are not piped into the municipal well system and have a private well in a rural area? Your water source may not be as well-equipped to deal with the shock of a sudden flood.

Because a private rural well is relatively simple and small, it is particularly susceptible to many hazards to its drinking water due to flooding. These hazards range from disease to well damage.

Being inadequately equipped to deal with a sudden flood can have some severe impacts that render your well water undrinkable.

Structural Damage

A private well’s integrity can be very easily compromised by a flash flood. Wells that have been around for decades, even properly maintained, are especially prone, since their components (fittings, piping, valves, etc.) have likely eroded with time and use and are more likely to dislodge or burst because of the excess of water entering the system.

Other factors contributing to structural damage to wells due to flood include incomplete wells and wells in places where the landform has been eroded by natural processes. Incomplete wells, in this case, refers to wells whose casings above the ground level haven’t been completed, or those with insufficient surface seal, grouting, or capping.


A flood can introduce a long list of possible material contaminants and debris, which will vary depending on where you live and how close you are to certain places like quarries or manufacturing. A flood has the potential to carry fragmented foreign materials – usually soils and metals – over long distances, contaminating your water and lodging into the sensitive crevices of your system. In particular, floods have a high sediment load due to the erosion of the land they affect, but there can also be nitrates, metals and possibly decomposed litter or organic material introduced.

Microorganisms and Bacteria

The most important and dangerous impact of floods on well water are all of the biological risks that come along for the ride. Floodwaters are host to many bacteria that can make you very sick if ingested. Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) is a common bacterium carried by floodwaters into well systems. It is a naturally-occurring bacterium found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals that aids in digestion. Floodwaters can carry E. Coli from cattle manure in surrounding farms into your well water, which if ingested, can cause gastric and abdominal problems like nausea, vomiting, sharp pain, cramping, and severe diarrhea.

What to Do If Your Well Is Impacted by Flooding

Any time there has been a flood, it is important to cease drinking the well water immediately, as it is highly likely to have been contaminated. You may feel tempted to sterilize the system with bleach or hydrogen peroxide, but if improperly applied, these can carry high risks. A recommended response starts with making sure your well system is structurally intact and not compromised, and to have your water tested and treated by a recognized company like AquaKnow. Click here to learn more.