Well Water Testing

Wake County offers a program of well water testing for owners and renters whose drinking water comes from a private well. Before you sign up for testing, review this information.

Water that is perfectly clear and tastes fine can still have unhealthy levels of contamination. Testing by a certified laboratory is the only reliable way to be sure you have safe drinking water.

What water tests should I have?

If you have never had your well water tested, or it has been more than five years since your last test, Wake County recommends the "First Timer's Package," which includes testing for: 

  • Coliform Bacteria

  • Inorganics

  • Volatile Organic Compounds, and 

  • Pesticides

In addition, if you live in certain parts of the county, Wake County recommends testing for naturally occurring radiological contaminants. You can determine if you are in the affected area by searching for your address on the map on that page. The "Rads Package" includes: 

  • Uranium

  • radon in water

  • gross alpha activity and

  • a kit for testing your indoor air for radon

If you are having a problem with taste, smell, staining, or cloudiness, now is a perfect time to find out exactly what is in your water. A complete water test will help you get the most out of the money you invest in your well or a water treatment system by ensuring that you have addressed all the problems – visible and invisible – with your water.

  • Iron Bacteria​ - ​Recommended only if your well shows signs of plugging or biofouling                       

  • ​Sulfur Bacteria - Recommended only if your well water smells like rotten eggs​      

Test packages and prices available through Wake County. (Water Tests Available Through Wake County)

How often should I test my well?

How often you test depends on the specific test.

  • Test for bacteria every year.
  • If your other test results showed no contamination you can wait five years to repeat that test.

If contamination at any level was found, testing for that contaminant should occur more often.

How much does it cost?

Trip Fee - $50

  • Charged any time Wake County staff collects water samples

First Timer's Package - $175

  • Coliform Bacteria, Inorganics, Volatile Organic Compounds, and Pesticides.

Rads Package - $140

  • Uranium, radon in water, gross alpha activity, and a radon in air test kit.

Test packages and prices available through Wake County. (Water Tests Available Through Wake County)

Is there financial help if I can’t afford testing and treatment?

Please refer to the Financial Help page for current information.

How long does it take to get my results?

Bacteria results are usually ready within 48 hours. All other tests take 2 – 4 weeks.

I am buying/selling a home or representing a buyer/seller. What should I consider?

The wellhead should be in good condition and up to modern standards.

Was the well ever tested? Do you know what it was tested for? Was it tested by a certified drinking water laboratory? Most free test kits do not check for chemicals that can affect your health. Without a complete test by a certified laboratory, you may be drinking water with contaminants that you cannot see, taste, or smell.

Allow 4 – 5 weeks for testing. A private lab may be able to shorten this time, and you may be able to pay extra for a “rush” on tests done by Wake County, but some of these tests take a certain amount of time to complete.

More information may be found here.

Can I collect my own water samples?

Yes, under certain circumstances.

  • Bacteria and inorganics:

  • Some private labs accept self-collected samples. Check with the lab.

How do I collect my own water samples?

Watch this video below to see a reliable way to collect a water sample from your well. Depending on the lab you use, your kit may vary in size or scope, so be sure to follow the specific instructions provided by your lab.

Wake County accepts only bacteria and inorganics from a private resident. All other tests done by Wake County will be collected by County staff.

If you would like to collect your own samples for bacteria or inorganics testing, you may do so by obtaining sample containers and instructions at the following Wake County locations:

Water Quality Lab

Eastern Regional Center

Northern Regional Center

Southern Regional Center

Waverly Akins Wake County Office Building

Please return samples with payment to the Wake County Lab in Raleigh. The lab accepts samples from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Friday. The Lab does not accept bacteriological samples the day before a holiday.

Do I have to use Wake County to get my water tested?

No. But be sure to use a lab certified by the N.C. Division of Public Health to perform the recommended tests.

For comparison, here is a complete list of tests offered by Wake County and their prices. (Wake County Well Testing Analyte List)

How can I order testing from Wake County?

First establish a Permit Portal account (See Permit Portal Guide)

Then apply using the permit portal, look for Well Water Sampling – Existing Well

What is the process once I have ordered testing by Wake County?

  • Invoice - Wake County staff will review your request and invoice you for the associated fees. Watch your email for a notice that fees are due. The email will contain the permit number and a link to the Permit Portal, where you can pay the fees with a credit card or from a bank account/e-check. You can also mail in a check for the fees after you receive the invoice.

  • Scheduling - The well specialist who will collect the samples will contact you to schedule sample collection or to let you know if any further information is needed.

  • Sample collection - Samples can only be collected on certain days of the week and it may take a week until samples are collected.

  • Lab analysis – depending on the test, lab analysis can take two to three weeks

  • Results – Once your testing is completed, you will receive an email from Wake County with the results and guidance about the safety of your well water

Status - You can check your permit in the portal for the status of your request (permit).

How can I find a copy of my lab report?

If Wake County did your water testing, you can find your complete results are on the Permit Portal. Use these instructions to find them.

You can also find a simplified version of your test results by searching by address in our Well Water Analysis Results page.

How do I read the lab report, and how do I know if my water is ok?

Once you’ve had your water tested by a certified lab, use the links below to help determine whether your water requires treatment for certain contaminants. If Wake County did your testing, we’ll tell you if there is a problem.

Be Well Informed: enter your results into this tool which generates a report of recommendations based on your test results. Pay attention to the measurement units in your lab report when entering your result numbers. Depending on which lab you used, your test results will be in different units or measurement. For instance, your uranium test may be listed in μg/L, mg/L or pCi/L.

Bacteria: Well Disinfection page

Inorganics: Be Well Informed page

Radionuclides: Be Well Informed page

Pesticides: "ND" indicates the compound was not detected. If there is a number in the Results column on the Analytical Results page, feel free to call us at 919-856-7400 for further assistance. "Surrogates" are part of the lab's quality control process and do not affect your water.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs):"ND" indicates the compound was not detected. If there is a number in the Results column on the Analytical Results page, feel free to call us at 919-856-7400 for further assistance. "Surrogates" are part of the lab's quality control process and do not affect your water.

Technical Assistance Meetings: When it is safe to to do so, Wake County Environmental Services will resume holding technical assistance meetings to help well users understand their test results and options for addressing problems.

Common Terms Found in Water Testing Reports

As you read your results, you may also find the following terms and abbreviations:

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) – A standard set by the US Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water quality.

Reporting Limit (RL) – The smallest concentration of a contaminant that the laboratory can detect.

Not Detected (ND) – Indicates the contaminant was not found to be greater than the lab's reporting limit.

I think I need to do something to fix my water. How can I get help?

My well is contaminated with bacteria

Well Disinfection page

Find a well contractor

All persons, firms or corporations engaging in well contractor activities involving wells for irrigation, private or semi-public domestic use, as well as for geothermal heat exchange injection wells in Wake County shall register annually with the Department as per Section III of the Regulations Governing Well Construction and Groundwater Protection In Wake County.

For a list of well contractors registered in Wake County, click here.

You may email [email protected] or call 919-856-7400 and ask for assistance.

What are the water treatment options?

As you explore treatment options for your water, you may come across the following terms and abbreviations:

  • Point of Entry (POE) – Also commonly called a whole house system, this type of system treats all water that enters the home.

  • Point of Use (POU) – Usually placed on the kitchen sink tap or the refrigerator, this type of system only treats the water at the tap where the system is placed.

  • Aeration – A treatment system that can be used to fix Radon contamination. It is effective for treating all levels of Radon, especially high levels. 

  • Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) – A treatment system that can be used to fix organic compounds and/or Radon contamination. The treatment media must be specific to the contaminants you intend to remove. GAC is not recommended if radon levels exceed 4,000 pCi/L. 

  • Whole-House Ion Exchange – A treatment system that can be used to fix uranium and/or radium contamination. It treats all water that enters the house. Uranium requires anion exchange and radium requires cation exchange

  • Reverse Osmosis (RO) – A treatment system that can be used to fix uranium and/or radium contamination. It only treats the water at the tap where the system is placed.