Survey Shows Rural Iowans' Risk For Unhealthy Drinking Water

Woman filling a glass of water from a tap

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(Ames, IA) -- Results of a new rural drinking water survey show a stark risk of exposure to potentially unhealthy drinking water in Iowa. Risk profiles were compiled based on recent testing, use of reverse osmosis filters, and use of supplemental water sources.

The Iowa Drinking Water Survey was conducted by the Conservation Learning Group, a think tank based at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University. The results of the survey can be found in this online report and infographic.

“Around 7.6% of Iowa households — 230,000 to 290,000 Iowans — rely on private well water as their water source,” said Jamie Benning, assistant director for Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension at Iowa State. “The Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency recommend yearly testing of private wells, but it is the owner’s responsibility to test. There are no requirements or regulations related to well water testing by homeowners. This study helps to start filling the information gap so we can better understand behaviors related to well water that will inform outreach to help protect the health and wellbeing of rural Iowans.”

The report finds 73% of surveyed households are at risk of exposure to potentially unsafe water due to lack of recent testing, avoidance and/or mitigation. The survey finds 33% are at the highest risk level because of no testing and no avoidance.

Other key findings included in the report

  • Only 10% of households tested their water quality in the last year.
  • Around 50% of households supplement their drinking water with bottled water or water coolers.
  • While 70% of households report using water filters, just 10% report having a reverse osmosis filter that can remove nitrate.

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