A new survey has found as many as three out of four Iowa households who rely on private well water may be at risk for unhealthy levels of nitrate or bacteria in their drinking water.

The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach survey found 90% of households do not test their water annually.

Jamie Benning is the assistant director for Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension at Iowa State.

She says part of the issue is because regular testing is not required by state law. But it’s important to make sure drinking water is safe.

“Put it on your calendar, maybe around your birthday, maybe ahead of the holidays, a time that you’ll remember and treat it like any other health action that you take.”

Benning says about 33% of well owners are considered to be at the highest risk because they haven’t installed filters to remove nitrate and don’t seek alternative sources of drinking water.

It’s estimated about 7.6% of Iowa households use well water.

Reporting by IPR’s Natalie Krebs