Bore water (groundwater) – It's best to test
Why test bore water
Bore water can be suitable for use provided it is regularly tested and the results confirm that there are no contaminants in the water that are harmful to human health.
How to test your bore: SA Health provides a list of laboratories that test for drinking quality water.
Bore water is underground water, known as groundwater, that can be accessed by a pump and used for a variety of purposes provided it has been tested by the bore owner. Like in many urbanised areas in the world, groundwater contamination exists in many places across Adelaide, especially in suburbs on or near former industrial land.
Chemicals such as heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (petroleum hydrocarbons, chlorinated hydrocarbons and other organic compounds), pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and nitrates are present in some areas of groundwater.
While private users are not legally required to do so, SA Health advises bore water should be tested and deemed safe before being used for drinking, cooking, use in swimming pools or watering edible plants such as home grown vegetables. If you require any assistance interpreting the results, please call the EPA on (08) 8204 2004.
Frequently asked questions
Is bore water safe to use?
Bore water can be safe to use provided it is regularly tested and testing confirms that it has no contaminant harmful to human health.
Testing bore water, especially from shallow aquifers (which are susceptible to industrial pollution), is required before drinking (including washing, food preparation, cooking, making ice or watering edible plants), bathing, filling a swimming pool, pumping through a sprinkler or topping up a rainwater tank. SA Health has a list of laboratories to test drinking quality water.
Water sourced from deeper confined aquifers (50 m or more) with intact casing and a well-head protected from contamination by surface runoff is generally of higher quality. Water-level gauging can inform you as to which aquifer you are using if you are unsure.
Is testing my bore water my responsibility?
While private users are not legally required to do so, SA Health advises residents bore water should be tested and deemed safe before being used for drinking, cooking, use in swimming pools or watering edible plants such as home grown vegetables.
Who can help me interpret my test results?
For assistance interpreting your test results, please phone the EPA on (08) 8204 2004.
What happens if my bore water is contaminated?
Preventing extraction of contaminated groundwater is necessary to protect human health and also to prevent the spread of contamination. If groundwater contamination is discovered, it is a legal requirement under the Environment Protection Act 1993 to notify the EPA.
If you are advised that your bore water is contaminated, please do not use it for any purpose. You will also need to notify the EPA on tel: (08) 8204 2004 or email.
What happens after I notify the EPA of groundwater contamination?
If your bore water is contaminated, it is important that you immediately discontinue use. Preventing extraction of contaminated groundwater is necessary to protect human health and also to prevent the spread of contamination. This can be caused by drawing water towards a property if the groundwater is being extracted from a bore.
Notifying the EPA is a legal requirement and also enables residents, industry and government to protect current and future generations from contamination caused by historical industrial practices – and ensures responsible parties take action to clean up contaminated sites.
The EPA is required to place this notification on its public register. The responsible party (or the EPA) also advises the affected community if a risk to public health is confirmed.
Future purchasers of land will be advised via the Form 1 letter that is provided at the time of sale, which advises that the EPA holds information on the property in relation to site.
Does contaminated groundwater mean I can’t grow my own produce?
Mains water and water from rainwater tanks are not affected by this contamination and home grown fruit and vegetables are safe to consume, provided they are not being watered with contaminated bore water.
Do I have to decommission my bore?
If a bore is damaged and cannot be fixed or is no longer needed, it must be properly decommissioned.
Filling the bore with grout or bentonite from the top to the bottom is the preferred method of decommissioning. This will eliminate any physical hazard (eg open holes) and prevent groundwater contamination.
For more information please visit the Department of Environment and Water.