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Penn State: Pennsylvania’s Master Well Owner Network

Penn State Master Well Owners reach out to assist adults and children understand the value of proper well location and construction and the importance of proper testing and treatment of their drinking water supply.

            Over three million rural residents and farmers in Pennsylvania rely on a private water well, spring or cistern for a water supply.  Research has shown that over 40 percent of these water supplies fail at least one safe drinking water standard and Pennsylvania remains one of the few states that lack requirements for the construction of private water wells.
            Since its inception in 2004 by Penn State Extension, the Pennsylvania Master Well Owner Network (MWON) has provided education for tens of thousands of private water system owners seeking unbiased information about the proper location, construction, testing and treatment of private water supplies.
            The program is funded by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Ground Water Association.    
            In 2011, MWON trained an additional 59 volunteers bringing the total number of volunteers statewide to over 400.  MWON volunteers donated nearly 1,000 hours of their time to provide direct education to over 2,500 private water supply owners through individual consultations and group presentations.
            Thousands of additional water supply owners were reached through indirect educational methods including newsletters and newspaper articles.
            MWON volunteers and support staff from Penn State Extension also provided a variety of specific educational programs for private water system owners in 2011 including:

-- Drinking Water Test Interpretation Workshops - Based on a critical need within the Marcellus region of Pennsylvania to assist private water supply owners with interpretation of complex pre-gas drilling water test reports, MWON partnered with Penn State Extension to conduct numerous workshops entitled “Interpretation of Pre- and Post-Drilling Water Test Reports.”
            There were 495 attendees at 13 Water Test Interpretation workshops.  A follow-up email survey to attendees found that 95 percent had taken actions to protect their water supply including follow-up water testing (39 percent), improved construction (11 percent), additional gas drilling lease stipulations (14 percent), and water quantity measurements before gas drilling (15 percent).

-- Safe Drinking Water Clinics - MWON sponsored eight Safe Drinking Water Clinics for 620 private water supply owners throughout the state. These clinics resulted in free water testing for 358 private water supplies. 34 percent of water supply owners indicated that their water supply had never been tested before this program and testing results showed that over half of the water supplies failed at least one safe drinking water standard. 
            Water supply owners were notified of water test results and provided with recommendations to solve drinking water issues.  An email follow-up evaluation found that 86 percent had taken some action to improve their water supply as a result of the programs.

-- Pennsylvania Children’s Water Festival – MWON staffed an educational display at the PA Children’s Water Festival in Gettysburg, PA in May 2011.  200 students attended the display where they learned about watersheds, groundwater pollution and drinking water supplies.
            Students were given pre- and post- program test questions to measure learning and test scores increased by 5 percent to 36 percentfor individual questions as a result of this program. 
            If you are interested in becoming a Master Well Owner or would like more information about the program please visit our website.

(Written By: Bryan Swistock, Sr. Extension Associate, School of Forest Resources, Penn State University and reprinted from the Watershed Winds online newsletter from Penn State Extension.)

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