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Water Wells After a Wildfire

If your water well or spring was impacted by a wildfire, your water system may have been damaged due to excessive heat and/ or a loss of pressure. Heat damage may not always be visible but can damage well components, the inside of pipes, and other plumbing components.

It is important to do a thorough inspection of the well and water system before using the water. If the water system lost pressure, any debris entered the system, or any plastic components were potentially exposed to heat, the water should be tested for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs).

water well diagram

Signs of contamination may include the loss of water pressure, discolored water, broken, leaking, and heat-damaged pipes, valves, tanks, irrigation systems, and yard hydrants. Use this preliminary checklist to survey your water system:

  • Is there any visible damage to:
    • The wellhead or wellhouse
    • The well casing, cap, or seal
    • Above ground piping or structures
    • Spring box
    • Pressure tanks
    • Filters or water treatment system
    • Wiring or electrical components
  • What is the condition of the storage tanks, vents, or overflow pipes?
    • Is there standing water in the tanks?
    • Is there any evidence of melting of plastic components?
  • Is there any evidence of loss of pressure in the system? The easiest way to check this is to turn on an exterior faucet (e.g., hose bib) to see if there is water flowing or you hear air bubbles escaping from the system.
  • Is there any ash or wildfire debris near the water system?
    • Does it seem like any ash, soot, or debris has entered any part of the water system?
    • Do you notice any other damage related to the fire?

Water Testing

If the water system inspection shows potential damage, a water sampling plan should be developed to investigate the potential contamination. Water samples should be representative of the well/spring and the water supply line that brings water to the building.

  • Before sampling, the water must stagnate or be still for 72 hours to allow chemicals to leach from damaged well materials into the water.
  • Use an Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program- certified laboratory to test the water for VOCs using US EPA Method 524.2 and SVOCs using SW-845 US EPA Method 8270E.
  • Test the water for coliform bacteria, turbidity, pH, conductivity, color, and nitrate.
  • Consider testing for heavy metals like lead, copper, zinc, iron, and others.

Use Alternative Water Sources

If you suspect your water system has been damaged or contaminated, do not use the water until it is tested by a certified laboratory for microbiological or chemical contaminants.

  • Use bottled water or another safe alternative water source to wash dishes, brush your teeth, bathe, wash or prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula until water testing proves the well/ spring water is safe for all uses.
  • Boiling water will not protect users from chemical contamination and may increase chemical exposure.
  • If you want to have water delivered to your home, ensure the water comes from an approved source and the water hauler is licensed.

Isolate the Contamination

If you determine the source of the contamination, it is important to isolate it.

  • You should avoid running the well or spring water through your household piping system until you are sure the water is not contaminated so it does not contaminate the plumbing.
  • If contaminated water needs to be flushed from the well, be careful to contain the runoff or direct it to a containment area to minimize spreading the contamination.

Repairing the Water System

It is important to have repairs completed by a licensed and bonded well contractor or pump installer. Contact Permit Sonoma Well and Septic Section at (707) 565-2849 for questions about well repairs, construction, and destruction.

  • The contractor will need to follow appropriate protocols for repressurizing the system, avoiding backflow or cross-connections, disinfecting the service lines, and confirming the quality of water by certified testing before putting the system back on-line.

Additional Information

For additional information, please review the following websites: