Washington County Water Testing


Impact Statement: 
Using quality improvement to raise community awareness of the importance of annual private well water testing increased the number of tests performed, assuring a safe water supply for county residents all done without increasing processing costs!

Private well water users should test their water annually for nitrates and coliform bacteria. Testing numbers for Washington County, Minnesota, have been relatively low (fewer than 200 per year) and stagnant relative to the 10,000 wells in the county. To test the quality improvement (QI) initiative chosen, the QI team targeted a specific community to try to increase testing rates. Baseline testing data for the city of Grant showed an average of about 7 tests per year before the QI initiative. For the test period, the number of tests increased to 30 (an increase of more than 300%). An unintended consequence of the QI initiative in Grant also resulted in an increase in county-wide testing—an additional 21%. To be cost neutral on printing and mailing costs to send water testing kits, a minimum of 30 additional kits needed to be processed. The actual number of additional kits processed during the test was 45 (50% increase).

Organization that conducted the QI initiative: 
Washington County Department of Public Health and Environment

Souter, S. Public Health Quality Improvement Exchange. Washington County Water Testing. Tue, 10/10/2017 - 11:35. Available at https://www.phqix.org/content/washington-county-water-testing. Accessed May 23, 2024.

Submission Status: 
1 user has voted.


Megan Davis's picture
Submitted by Megan Davis on

This is an inspiring project! I like the measures, the approach to next steps and maintaining improvements, and the results. Great work!

Given the increase in tests, will staffing become a problem? How will you keep the folks going with annual testing?

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Megan Davis
Accreditation Coordinator
Washington State Dept. of Health

Submitted by ssouter on

Hi Megan,

Staffing is not an issue, the overall water testing program has been in place for many years and so our staff are able to handle a slightly increased volume, and are warned ahead of time about extra testing during a promotion period. Some of the water testing resposibilities have shifted within our department, so this promotion and QI work is part of the discussion. We envision continuing an annual promotion event where we target cities/towns that have a lot of private wells, to keep numbers up. We still struggle with making sure water testing is on people's radar. There is a perception that if you test your well once, its fine forever. We try to make sure people understand that for a private well, no one else is going to be testing your water, so you should mnake sure to do it annually or every other year.


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Stephanie Souter

Submitted by Amanda Kelly on

Thank you for sharing this project idea - we have just started our Quality Improvement Council and are using this website to come up with ideas for our own projects!  This one was interesting and we will be following your process!  Thank you!

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