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Types of Private Water Systems

Private Water Systems

A private water system is any water system, other than a public water supply system, for the provision of water for human consumption.  A private water system has fewer that fifteen (15) service connections and does not regularly serve an average of twenty-five (25) individuals daily at least sixty (60) days each year.

Ensuring the safety of drinking water from a private water system, whether it is a water well, spring, pond or rainwater cistern, is important. The Ohio Department of Health establishes construction standards for different sources of water and types of systems, and requires that contractors who work on these systems are registered and bonded to protect public health.

The following links will provide information related to all private water systems types.

Below is a list of the different types of private water systems.  These links provide access to the information for each type of private water system.  This information should be helpful with the process of planning and constructing a new water system or altering or sealing an existing private water system. 


What is a Well? 

As per the definition in Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) rule 3701-28-01 (NNNN)

""Well" means any excavation greater than ten feet below the ground surface regardless of design or method of construction that is done or used for any of the following purposes:

  1. Removing ground water for the provision of water for human consumption; or
  2. Determining the quality, quantity, or level of ground water in or the stratigraphy of an aquifer, excluding borings for instrumentation in dams, dikes or levees or highway embankments."

Free Online Training for Homeowners with Water Wells at http://www.privatewellclass.org/

  • Sponsored by USEPA, RCAR, Illinois State Water Survey, Illinois WRC, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Well Safety and Maintenance Guides and Fact Sheets

Forms and Resources

Additional Guides

The following guides may not meet the current construction and sealing requirements in OAC Chapter 3701-28 (Private Water Systems Rules) effective April 1, 2011. Refer to the Private Water Systems Rules and contact your Local Health District prior to constructing, altering, and sealing a well.


What is a Pond as it relates to a Private Water System?

A "Pond"  is a man-made excavation at the ground surface that  collects surface water to be used for the purpose of providing water for human consumption. 

As required by Ohio Administrative Code rule 3701-28-14(B),"The pond and the watershed shall be under the complete control of one pond owner and the watershed shall be located on a parcel or parcels under one deed with the dwelling to which it is supplying water. If control of the watershed can not be maintained on parcels under the same deed then other private water system sources shall be considered. The board of health shall not consider a variance to this rule." 

OAC Chapter 3701-28 (Private Water Systems Rules)

Plans for Continuous Disinfection and Filtration for Ponds

Both methods are acceptable for use with pond systems. 

If there are concerns about Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), refer to the Health Assessment fact sheet "Pond Water - Drinking Water Treatment of Blue-Green Algae."


What is a Spring? 

As per the definition in Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) rule 3701-28-01(BBBB)

" 'Spring' means a private water system where ground water flows naturally from rock or soil onto the land surface or into a body of water or a shallow aquifer that is intercepted at a depth of ten feet or less.”  

Guides and Resources regarding Spring systems construction

Cisterns and Hauled Water Storage Tanks

What is a Cistern?

A cistern, as defined in Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) 3701-28-01(N), is "A private water system that uses rainwater collected from a roof or other rain collection device as a source of water."

What is a Hauled Water Storage Tank?

A hauled water storage tank, as defined in OAC 3701-28-01(TT), is "any tank used to store potable water for use as a private water supply delivered by a registered water hauler from an approved public water source."

Guides and Resources regarding Cistern and Hauled Water Storage Tank systems construction and maintenance

Water Delivered to a Hauled Water Storage Tank or to supplement a Rainwater Cistern Water Supply must be delivered by a registered water hauler.


Continuous Disinfection

Continuous Disinfection, as defined in Ohio Administrative Code 3701-28-01(X), is "the whole- house treatment processes that include chlorination, iodination, ozonation, and ultraviolet light to destroy or inactivate disease causing microorganisms to make the source water acceptable for human consumption."

Click here to go to the Continuous Disinfection page.

Water System Maintenance

Here are some steps you can take to help protect your well:

  • Wells should be checked periodically for mechanical problems, cleanliness, and the presence of certain contaminants, such as
    • coliform bacteria,
    • nitrates/nitrites, and
    • any other contaminants of local concern, (for example, arsenic and radon).
  • Periodically check the well cap (including the vent) to ensure it is free of damage and is properly secured to the well casing.
  • All hazardous materials, such as paint, fertilizer, pesticides, and motor oil, should be kept far away from your well. 
  • All spigots with the capability of connecting a hose should be protected with a backflow prevention device.  When mixing chemicals, do not put the hose inside the mixing container, as this can siphon chemicals into a household’s water system.
  • Housing or securing domestic and farm animals around and at the well should be avoided.

Ohio Administrative Code 3701-28-01(CC)

  • "Disinfect or disinfection" means the addition or use of chlorine or other disinfectant or process to the private water system to neutralize or destroy the growth of harmful bacteria.

Cleaning and Disinfecting Wells

For newly constructed, altered, and repaired private water system wells, all private water systems contractors are responsible for disinfecting the work they perform.  When two or more private water systems contractors (including the property owners) are involved with the work perform, it recommended that an agreement be made as to who will perform the disinfection once the system is complete.  If a long period of time passes between the well construction and the completion of the distribution portion of the private water system, a physical cleaning should be done of the well prior to the disinfection process. 

General maintenance, such as inspecting the well casing and well cap condition, cleaning and disinfecting, should be done periodically.  Evaluating the condition of the casing and well cap. Maintenance may include cleaning, disinfecting, and disinfection of your well may be needed periodically.  Changes in the water quality may be an indication that the well should be cleaned.  It is recommended that a registered private water systems contractor be contacted to evaluate your well prior to cleaning and disinfection.  Although it is recommended that a private water systems contractor perform any cleaning and disinfection, a procedural fact sheet is available for homeowners to disinfect the well themselves.

Physical or chemical cleaning of an existing well may expose existing problems with your well casing. It is recommended that the well be thoroughly inspected prior to cleaning the inside of a well. 

Newly constructed, altered, and repaired wells, cisterns, hauled water storage tanks should be disinfected prior to being put into use. Components on all private water systems such as the water lines and pressure tank should be cleaned and disinfected after an alteration or repair.  These components are capable of harboring bacterial growth that can affect the water quality from the well.  When altering a well, all components should be evaluated.  

Do you need additional information about Private Water Systems?

If you need additional information about private water systems, contact:

Laboratories certified to conduct water testing for private water systems

The private water system rules (Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 3701-28) require water samples collected from private water systems to be analyzed by laboratory certified by either the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) or the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) for system approval after new construction, alteration or repair. The department recommends that all water samples collected from private water systems for real estate transactions, or consumer information also be analyzed at a certified laboratory to ensure that proper procedures and water analysis methods are used to protect public health.