Friday, May 28, 2021

Episode 579 (5-31-21): Water from Wells, Springs, and Cisterns Gets a Check-up through the Virginia Household Water Quality Program

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:56).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 5-28-21.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of May 31, 2021.  This revised episode from March 2017 is part of a series this year of groundwater-related episodes.

SOUND – ~5 sec – running water faucet

This week, we drop in on an event where people line up to talk and learn about their household water faucets.  Sound plumb unbelievable?  Well, just have a listen for about 50 seconds.

VOICES - ~51 sec – Excerpts from March 20, 2017, recording at Virginia Tech.

“You’ve already paid with a credit card for two samples?”
“That’s exactly right, yep.” …
“All the instructions are on there.  Have you participated before?”

“Ok…so the sample instructions are in there…There’s a survey you’ll want to fill out, as well.  The big thing is -- one of the big things is -- to let the water sit in the pipes overnight, [from say] 10 o’clock…And then the first thing in the morning, [at] the tap you’re going to collect from, collect that bottle with the X first, and then you can collect the other bottles in whatever order you want to.  OK?” …
“If we have questions, is there somewhere to send them to by chance?”

“There’s a link on the Web site that’s in there….”
“Ok.” …

“Have you participated with us before?”
“I have.  And if there’s basic instructions in there, I’m good to go with those.” …

“And the drop-off’s Wednesday morning.”
“Good deal.”

“All right?”
“Thank you.”

“Thank you, and you all have a good one.”
“Thank you.”

You’ve been listening to citizen participants and Virginia Tech faculty at a Virginia Household Water Quality Program clinic kick-off in Montgomery County on March 20, 2017.  The program offers drinking-water clinics in which people who rely on private wells, springs, or cisterns can get their water tested inexpensively and receive a report interpreting the results.  Citizens pick up a sampling kit and instructions, collect water from a household faucet (or in some cases, directly from a spring or other water source), and return the samples two days later.  Tech laboratories analyze the samples for bacteria, lead, arsenic, nitrate, iron, sulfate, and several other constituents.  After about four weeks, program faculty hold a meeting to give participants their confidential results, offer interpretation of the analyses, and provide other information on managing water systems.  The clinics in 2021 began in February and run into late November, serving over 60 Virginia localities.  In operation since 1989, the program has covered the Commonwealth several times, with the results providing valuable information to specific homeowners and offering broader snapshots of groundwater conditions within localities.

In a companion program—the Virginia Well Owner Network—trained Virginia Cooperative Extension agents assist Virginians with water-well questions and problems.  Both programs are administered by Virginia Tech’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering, through Cooperative Extension.

For more information about these programs, search online for the Virginia Household Water Quality Program; phone (540) 231-9058; or contact your local Cooperative Extension office.

We close with some music, named for the weather every well-owner—in fact, every water user—needs regularly.  Here’s about 25 seconds of “Driving Rain,” by the Nelson County, Va., band, Chamomile and Whiskey.

MUSIC - ~24 sec – instrumental


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This Virginia Water Radio episode updates and replaces Episode 361, 3-27-17.

Thanks to Kelli Scott of Virginia Cooperative Extension, and to Brian Benham and Erin Ling of the Virginia Tech Department of Biological Systems Engineering, for their help with the 2017 version of this episode, and again to Erin Ling for her help with the 2021 update.

“Driving Rain,” from the 2012 album “The Barn Sessions,” is copyright by Chamomile and Whiskey and by County Wide Records, used with permission.  More information about Chamomile and Whiskey is available online at, and information about Charlottesville-based County Wide records is available online at  This music was used previously by Virginia Water Radio most recently in Episode 531, 6-29-20.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at


Kits containing sampling bottles and instructions await pickup by participants at the Virginia Household Water Quality Program kickoff for Montgomery County on March 20, 2017, at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

Sample bottles and instruction sheets included in participant kits in the Virginia Household Water Quality Program, March 20, 2017.


Used for Audio

Robby Korth, Virginia Tech researchers: Flint-like problems also present in Virginia wells, Roanoke Times, 4/10/16.

Virginia Tech Department of Biological Systems Engineering/Virginia Household Water Quality Program and Virginia Well Owner Network, “Clinic Description,” online at; “Upcoming Events,” online at  For more information about these programs, contact Erin Ling, phone (540) 231-9058; e-mail:

Virginia Cooperative Extension, “Home Water Quality” publications page, online at  This site includes locality reports from the Household Water Quality Program, along with other information on managing household water systems. 

For More Information about Groundwater in Virginia or Elsewhere

Charles W. Carlston, “Notes on the early history of water-well drilling in the United States,” Economic Geology (Vol. 38, pages 119-136, 1943); available online at (subscription may be required for access).

Marshall Fishwick, Springlore in Virginia, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, Bowling Green, Ky., 1978.

Henrico County, Va., “Well Water FAQ” (undated), online at

Philip LaMoreaux and Judy Tanner, eds., Springs and Bottled Waters of the World:  Ancient History, Source, Occurrence, Quality, and Use, Springer-Verlag, Berlin and Heidelberg Germany, 2001; information available online at (subscription may be required).

National Ground Water Association, online at

National Speleological Society, online at

“Pulse of the Planet” (Web site: segments with Virginia well-driller Eric Rorrer and with Erin Ling, the coordinator of the Virginia Household Water Quality Program and Virginia Well Owner Network.  The three segments are as follows:
March 10, 2014: Water-Drilling
March 11, 2014: Water - Surface and Ground
March 12, 2014: Water-Well Maintenance

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “Ground Water and Drinking Water,” online at

U.S. Geological Survey, “Groundwater Wells,” online at 

U.S. Geological Survey, “Karst Topography - Teacher's Guide and Paper Model,” online at

U.S. Geological Survey, “USGS Water Science School,” online at

George Veni et al., “Living with Karst,” American Geological Institute Environmental Awareness Series, 2001; available online at

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, “Virginia Natural Heritage Karst Program,” online at; see particularly “Introduction to Virginia’s Karst,” online (as a PDF) at

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, “Commonwealth of Virginia State Water Resources Plan,” April 2015, available online at

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, “Groundwater Basics,” at

Virginia Legislative Information System, “Private Well Regulations,” Virginia Administrative Code, Sec. 12 VAC 5-630, online at  “Design and Construction Criteria” are in Part III, starting at Section 12 VAC 5-630-350, online at

Virginia Places, “Caves and Springs in Virginia,” online at

Virginia Places, “Thermal Springs in Virginia,” online at;

Virginia Water Resources Research Center groundwater-related publications from the 1980s to the 2000s are listed and linked online at  Here are some key publications:
*Author unidentified, A Guide to Private Wells, 1995, online at
*J.A. Poff, A Guide to Virginia’s Groundwater, 1997, online at
*J.A. Poff, A Homeowner’s Guide to the Development, Maintenance, and Protection of Springs as a Drinking Water Source, Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Blacksburg, 1999, online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (

Following are links to other groundwater-related episodes.   

Caves, caverns, and other karst features – Episode 527, 6-1-20.
Eastern Virginia groundwater and the SWIFT project –
Episode 534, 7-20-20.
Groundwater introduction –
Episode 575, 5-3-21.
Information sources on Virginia’s water resources generally, including groundwater –
Episode 546, 10-12-20.
Springs –
Episode 576, 5-10-21.
Virginia’s Western Highlands and thermal springs –
Episode 577. 5-17-21.
Well construction – Episode 578, 5-24-21.
Winter precipitation and water supplies, including the role of groundwater replenishment –
Episode 567, 3-8-21.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs 

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2018 Science SOLs 

Grades K-5: Earth and Space Systems
3.7 – There is a water cycle and water is important to life on Earth.

Grades K-5: Earth Resources
K.11 – Humans use resources.
1.8 – Natural resources can be used responsibly.
3.8 – Natural events and humans influence ecosystems.
4.8 – Virginia has important natural resources.

Grade 6
6.6 – Water has unique physical properties and has a role in the natural and human-made environment.
6.8 – Land and water have roles in watershed systems.
6.9 – Humans impact the environment and individuals can influence public policy decisions related to energy and the environment.

Life Science
LS.9 – Relationships exist between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science
ES.6 – Resource use is complex.
ES.8 – Freshwater resources influence and are influenced by geologic processes and human activity.

BIO.8 – Dynamic equilibria exist within populations, communities, and ecosystems, including that natural events and human activities influence local and global ecosystems.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Grades K-3 Economics Theme
2.8 – Natural, human, and capital resources.
3.8 – Understanding of cultures and of how natural, human, and capital resources are used for goods and services.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.7 – Government at the state level.
CE.8 – Government at the local level.
CE.10 – Public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – How selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.
WG.4 – Types and significance of natural, human, and capital resources. 

Government Course
GOVT.8 – State and local government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – Public policy process at local, state, and national levels.
GOVT.15 – Role of government in Va. and U.S. economies, including examining environmental issues and property rights.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15
– on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15
– on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16
– on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18
– on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18
– on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18
– on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18
– on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19
– on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20
– on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20
– on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20 – on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.