Water Fair tests private wells in Mag

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Residents in and around Magdalena had the opportunity to test their private wells Tuesday and Wednesday during a water fair held by the New Mexico Environment Department, the village of Magdalena and the New Mexico Bureau of Geology. The fair was held on June 18-19 to provide free testing of private water wells.

Geologists collected samples from about 20 wells over the two-day period. Samples were tested for nitrates – an acute contaminant, iron and fluoride. The main focus of the testing, though, was on the conductivity of the water, which is considered the best indicator of changes to the aquifer. Conductivity is a measure of the ability of water to pass an electrical current. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, conductivity in water is affected by the presence of inorganic dissolved solids such as chloride, nitrate, sulfate and phosphate anions (ions that carry a negative charge) or sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron and aluminum cations (ions that carry a positive charge). Organic compounds like oil, phenol, alcohol, and sugar do not conduct electrical current very well and therefore have a low conductivity when in water. Conductivity is also affected by temperature: the warmer the water, the higher the conductivity. For this reason, conductivity is reported as conductivity at 25 degrees Celsius (25 C).

“Conductivity tends to increase with decreasing aquifer levels,” Joe Savage, technical services manager for the NMED Drinking Water Bureau, said while explaining the testing on Tuesday. These tests will help private well owners better understand their supply for the immediate future.

Private wells tested showed mixed results, but overall water quality is excellent, according to the geologists. One sample tested at 314 microsiemens, a measure of electronic conductance.

“This is very pure – about the same as bottled water,” Savage said. “Anything under 1,000 (microsiemens) is good, so this is excellent.”

The NMED is working to develop a Water Atlas – a map that will show water levels and quality all around the state that can be utilized by municipalities and counties; as well as private citizens, to make assessments and develop plans for water around the state. The information gleaned from these tests will assist NMED with this atlas, and will be made available in general for public use in water planning matters. The testing was done at no cost, and well owner names, addresses and phone numbers will be kept confidential. Households served by the public water supply were not tested.