Small Acreage Management:
Septic Systems and Well Basics
Water is a limited resource in many places in Colorado. It is important to understand how we can protect water quality and minimize our water quantity uses.
How can I protect water quality on my property?
Do you know the quality of your domestic, irrigation, and livestock water supply? If you answered no, it is recommended that you test your water. The CSU Soil, Water, and Plant Testing Lab can test your water. Components of water which can affect your crops and plants are pH, salt, sodium, nitrogen, boron, sulfate, and chloride. Refer to the CSU factsheet, Irrigation Water Quality Criteria for more information.
Analyzing your water test results:
Enter your water test lab results into the Water Quality Interpretation Tool, click submit, and get some information that will help you figure out what it all means.
Is my well water at risk of contamination? Take the self-assessment to find out.
|Private Well Protection Checklist||Yes||No|
|• Have you had your well water tested within the last two years?|
|• Is your well less than 20 years old?|
|• Is the water table around your well deeper than 30 feet?|
|• Is your well securely capped and does it have intact casing that extends 1 foot above ground level?|
|• Is your well properly grouted to prevent entry of surface water?|
|• Do you mix, load, or store pesticides or fertilizer at least 100 feet from the well?|
|• Do you have backflow prevention devices installed on all faucets used to fill spray tanks?|
|• Are animal corrals and lagoons located at least 100 feet downhill from the well?|
|• Is your septic tank at least 50 feet from the well?|
|• Have you had your septic system pumped within the last four years?|
|• Are unused wells on your property properly plugged, sealed and abandoned according to the Construction Rules (2 CCR 402-2)?|
|• Are underground storage tanks removed or less than 10 years old?|
|• Are all fuel tanks at least 100 feet from the well?|
|• Do you dispose of pesticide containers, solvents, lubricants, paints, household cleaning products, and old batteries properly off-site?|
If you answer no to any of these questions, your well may be vulnerable to contamination.
Consider having your water tested and evaluate how you can improve the safety of your water supply.
For more information refer to Protecting Your Private Well.
Why is it important to protect wetlands and areas along a stream?
A Riparian Area is the area adjacent to a surface water body. Riparian vegetation can function as a natural filter for contaminates that can runoff from surrounding areas. We can protect stream water quality by maintainina vegetative buffer of 50 feet to 250 feet from the water’s edge. Within the riparian buffer, limit or discontinue grazing to maintain a healthy stand of vegetation. To protect water from excess nutrients and sedimentation, do not allow animal access to streams, ponds, or other water bodies.
How Can I Prevent Water Pollution?
- Protect Riparian Areas:
- Create or maintain a Riparian Buffer at least 50 feet to 250 feet from the water’s edge
- Allow very limited or no grazing within the buffer to maintain healthy vegetation
- Plant native trees, shrubs, and grasses in the buffer area
- Avoid storing manure or corralling animals within the buffer area
- Use only water-safe herbicides within the buffer area
- Find out how much water your plants and/or crops need to avoid over-irrigating. Over-irrigating leaches soil nutrients, causes erosion, and spreads fertilizer and pesticides.
- Dispose of manure, bedding, and feed wastes by composting, spreading on crops, or hauling it to a composting or disposal facility.
- Read fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide labels carefully and only use the recommended amounts.
- Properly dispose of chemicals, used motor oil, and other toxic substances. Contact your county health department.
Colorado has a semi-arid climate and water is a very limited resource in many places. The average yearly precipitation in Colorado is 17 inches. However, the San Luis Valley and parts of south central Colorado receive an average of less than 12 inches of precipitation each year and many mountainous regions receive an average of 40 inches of precipitation or more each year. Do you know how much precipitation your area receives?
In addition to climate limitations, water regulations may also determine the amount of water you have available to use at a given time. Know your water rights. For example, if a ditch flows through your property, you may not have the right to use the water. Know what water uses your well is permitted for. Many rural wells are designated household-use-only which means water can be used only within the home, with no outside watering, including gardens and livestock uses. Contact the Colorado Division of Water Resources to find out what your water rights are.
How can I conserve water on my property?
- Irrigation Scheduling: The Water Balance Approach
- Irrigation for Small Acreages - how to do a small acreage irrigation audit for furrow and side-roll sprinkler
- Lawn Irrigation Self Audit (LISA) - contains videos and instruction on how to save energy and water by adjusting your irrigation system
- Rainwater Reuse and Rainwater Harvesting
- Rainwater Harvesting - Senate bill recently passed
- SARE Smart Water Use
- Save water with efficient irrigation systems and low water use plants, NRCS Water Conservation Tip sheet
- Taking Care of Your Groundwater DVD - Mountain and Plains Regional Water Project produced through Montana State University
- Water Conservation In and Around the Home
- Xeriscaping: Trees and Shrubs
More Information on being Water Wise
- ATTRA Water quality, conservation, irrigation, and drought
- CSU Extension Colorado Water Knowledge
- Colorado Foundation for Water Education
SAM Newsletter Articles
- Water Wells & Oil/Gas Reserves in Northeastern Colorado
- Assessing Your Small Acreage for Water Quality and Environmental Protection
- WaterWise Landscapes on Small Acreages
- Colorado Water 101 for Small Acreage Landowners
- Understanding Colorado Drought
- Water Etiquette in Colorado During a Drought Year
- Septic System and Well Basics
- Planning for a Sustainable Homestead
Guide to Planning on Your Property
Updated Thursday, May 23, 2013