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Private wells in the central San Joaquin Valley are at risk of water quality issues, failing equipment and declining groundwater levels.

Is your drinking water safe? What will you do if the well goes dry?

To help residents address these concerns, The Fresno Bee contacted public officials, water advocates and other experts to answer frequently asked questions about common issues.

The Bee also is hosting a live, interactive event where you can talk directly with regional water experts. Join us on The Fresno Bee Facebook page for a live conversation on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. Traducción en vivo disponible.

RSVP for the event here.

Q: Is my water safe to drink?

A: The only way to know for sure is to have your water tested at a laboratory. Not all groundwater in the Valley is safe to drink. Water in some areas is contaminated by toxic chemicals, and water in your house could be unsafe due to old plumbing or equipment.

Much of the groundwater in the valley is contaminated with nitrate, arsenic, 123-TCP or other chemicals that pose a health risk.

Q: How do I test my water quality?

A: Contact a certified water quality lab in your area to test your water for bacteria and common contaminants in the valley. Several local options are available. A complete water quality test can cost a few hundred dollars and is recommended at least once a year.

  • Agriculture & Priority Pollutants Laboratories in Clovis. (559) 275-2175.

  • BSK Associates in Fresno. (559) 497-2888.

  • Dellavalle Laboratory in Fresno. (559) 233-6129.

  • DFA of California in Kingsburg. (559) 233-7249.

  • Fruit Growers Laboratory in Visalia. (559) 734-9473.

  • Moore Twining Associates in Fresno. (559) 268-7021.

  • Sierra Daily Testing in Tulare. (559) 686-2070.

Q: Is free water quality testing available?

A: Yes. Call Self-Help Enterprises at (559) 651-1000 to find out if you qualify for a free private well assessment that includes water quality testing.

The program provides a complete assessment of your well equipment, water quality testing and recommendations for maintenance.

Q: Who do I contact for emergency water service?

A: If you need bottled water or a water storage tank because your water stopped working or is unsafe, call Self-Help Enterprises at (559) 651-1000. They will direct you to the proper program.

Q: What can I do to prevent my well from going dry?

A: Whether a private well “goes dry” depends on how deep the well was drilled originally, your own water use, and the water use of others in the area.

In some areas, the water table has dropped below what some well pumps can reach, causing people to lose access to water.

Water levels are declining in several areas of the valley as a result of drought, increased agricultural pumping, reduced deliveries of surface water and changing weather patterns as a result of climate change.

Individual action alone cannot prevent groundwater basin decline.

Q: Who can prevent groundwater basin decline?

A: Water users, county, state and federal governments and water agencies can all play a role in preventing groundwater basin declines.

By state law, Sustainable Groundwater Management Agencies (SGMA) are responsible for managing groundwater basins. Use this map to find out what agency oversees your groundwater.

Q: What actions are governments prepared to take to assist individuals who may have their well go dry before SGMA action plans are implemented?

A: Some Sustainable Groundwater Management Agencies have proposed plans to create private well mitigation programs with funding from a new fee on water users.

In the meantime, the Water Resources Control Board has funds available through the SAFER program to assist private well owners who qualify.

Q: Am I required to add a meter to my water system in Madera County?

A: Metering is required on all new wells in Madera County. A meter is not required when deepening a well.

Still have a question? Join us at a Facebook Live event Nov. 18. Or, send your question to Monica Vaughan at

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