An estimated 1.6 million people in Ontario rely on private wells for their drinking water supply (Auditor General of Ontario, 2013). Unlike drinking water provided by municipalities, which are under strict provincial legislation, home and cottage owners supplied by private systems are solely responsible for the maintenance, testing and quality of their own supplies. A safe supply of drinking water provides peace of mind that family members and guests are protected against illness that might originate from contaminated well water. Testing well water regularly is an excellent way to assess water quality and address problems before they occur. 

In Ontario, we are fortunate to have access to a well water testing program through Public Health Ontario (PHO). The program has been in place for decades and provides rural homeowners with free testing for bacterial indicators of contamination (i.e., Total Coliform and E. coli). The presence of these indicator organisms in well water tells you the water is contaminated to some extent and may cause mild to severe gastrointestinal illness (GI). Recent data obtained from PHO show that between 2015 and 2020, 21% of all private drinking water samples tested were deemed to be unsafe for human consumption across the province. Well water test results will vary among jurisdictions in Ontario, but regardless of where you live, it is a good idea to test your well water. 

Area residents may obtain collection kits for this program from their local PHO laboratory, Public Health Unit (PHU) or one of their affiliates.  The kit pick-up and sample drop off locations and times are listed on the PHU websites. This program is free to all individuals who rely on private well water supplies within Ontario. Results of the water test are available directly to the submitter  by mail or through a toll-free Interactive Voice Response (IVR) telephone number available 24 hours a day, seven days a week or electronically, when requested, through PHO’s Customer Service Centre  ( Public health units also assist those who submit samples should they require assistance when interpreting test results, typically by phone, of by posting information on their website.  

A water test result that indicates bacterial contamination with one or both of total coliforms or E. coli, may suggest an increased risk of GI illness if the water is consumed untreated.  The well water system may be in need of minor maintenance, or a more comprehensive assessment to identify any natural or manmade threats to the drinking water supply. Whatever your circumstances, safe drinking water from your private well water system provides peace of mind. For additional help, please read about my Drinking Water Protection Services or contact me at

Note: Advance Public Health Consulting is not affiliated with any water treatment companies. We offer Drinking Water Protection Services to serve our clients including detailed property assessments (onsite and remote) and chemical water testing. Check out our website for more detail We adhere to all COVID19 public health precautions including masking, use of hand sanitizer and social distancing.