Approximately thirty percent of the population of Newfoundland and Labrador uses groundwater for household purposes, and seventy-five percent of these use private wells. Most private well users live in small rural communities. Current guidelines expect well owners to monitor groundwater quality after sinking new wells, but do not ensure regular monitoring of groundwater to prevent any adverse health outcomes.
This study examined communities in the Humber River basin in western Newfoundland. Eight communities were originally selected to participate in the study, based on whether the community lacked a public water supply and relied upon individual wells as the principal source of water. Municipal authorities were contacted and the purpose of the study was explained. Seven municipalities agreed to contact their households to arrange testing of individual wells and participation in a focus group discussion. There was no objection to testing individual well water in all seven communities. In three communities we carried out focus group discussions lasting for one and one half hours.
Testing of individual wells revealed a number of problems and indicated a need for more widespread education on the importance of well maintenance and testing on a regular basis. Focus group discussions and discussions with well drillers, as well as Health officials and officials of the Department of Environment and Conservation, demonstrated a need for planning to ensure an uncontaminated water supply in the future. As multiple departments are involved in the management of water, it is believed that a coherent policy of coordination and sharing of information will benefit the community.
A complete inventory is needed for all currently used drilled and dug wells. Municipalities must be expected to update the status of all private wells including risk factors, such as conditions of the wells, location of septic tanks, fuel tanks, roads, water bodies, agricultural lands, animal barns, slopes etc. Similar activities need to be carried out by the concerned cabin associations, where municipalities do not exist.