January 16, 2002
Extension offers homeowners, farmers water assessment guides
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. A Purdue University Extension specialist says homeowners and farmers can perform a free environmental assessment to find and prevent potential hazards to their drinking water.
"Doing an environmental assessment is something you can do proactively to make sure you are protecting the environment," says Brent Ladd, Purdue University Extension water quality specialist. "One of the important areas to focus on around farms and homes, especially in rural areas, is well water."
Purdue Extension's publication WQ-22 titled "Indiana Farmstead Assessment for Drinking Water Protection," or Farm*A*Syst, allows farmers to conduct a step-by-step environmental assessment of their farm and home.
"If you were to hire someone to do a typical environmental assessment, it would cost $500 to $600," Ladd says. "The real strength of these materials is that it has asked all the right questions and allows you to do the assessment at no cost, and it is confidential."
The assessment takes approximately half an hour and starts with an evaluation of the drinking water well with a series of questions to indicate potential high-risk areas that may cause pollution.
"About 38-40 percent of Hoosiers in rural areas get their drinking water from their own well," Ladd says. "There are no agencies or organizations set up specifically to help people with their drinking water well, but this program looks at it first and foremost. There are so many aspects going on around the farm or at home that people are not often aware of the things that may affect their own drinking water. Doing this assessment is a way they can get a handle on that."
Ladd says additional questions on the assessment focus on different elements beyond the drinking water well. He recommends examining underground fuel storage tanks and how pesticides and fertilizers are stored and handled. An assessment of manure management facilities also needs to be done if there are livestock on the farm.
After the assessment is complete, producers and homeowners can refer to specific resources in the publication that assist them in handling any high-risk areas or problems on their property. Ladd encourages homeowners and producers to do the assessment on their own; however, they can contact their local Extension educator if they have questions.
Once assessments are complete, another evaluation should not need to be conducted unless a major change is made to the property, Ladd says. Producers should do another assessment if they expand or change their livestock operation.
Rural homeowners can use the Farm*A*Syst publication to review their property; however, Purdue Extension publication WQ-25 titled "Home*A*Syst, An Environmental Risk-Assessment Guide for the Home," is designed to track potential problem areas around any home, Ladd says. The Home*A*Syst publication is designed like the Farm*A*Syst assessment and includes information that also can provide assistance in alleviating possible problems.
To obtain a Farm*A*Syst or Home*A*Syst packet, call Purdue Extension at 1-888-EXT-INFO and ask for the Media Distribution Center. The Farm*A*Syst packet is free and the Home*A*Syst publication costs $5. Both publications and additional information also are available online.
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