U of Guelph: Factors facilitating and constraining private water well stewardship

J Environmental Management. 2011 Apr;92(4):1104-14. Epub 2010 Dec 24.
Understanding stewardship behaviour: factors facilitating and constraining private water well stewardship. — Kreutzwiser R, de Loë R, Imgrund K, Conboy MJ, Simpson H, Plummer R.

Department of Geography, University of Guelph
, 50 Stone Rd. E., Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.


Regulatory frameworks to ensure municipal drinking water safety exist in most North American jurisdictions. However, similar protection is rarely provided to people reliant on water provided from private wells.

In Canada, approximately 4 million people depend on privately owned, domestic wells for their drinking water. Numerous studies have shown that people who rely on private wells for their water supplies are at risk from nitrate and bacterial contamination. Given the fact that regulations relating to private wells tend to be weak or poorly enforced, actions taken by well owners to protect their own drinking water safety are extremely important.

Drawing on one of the largest and most comprehensive surveys of private well owners ever conducted in Canada or elsewhere, this paper explores factors that influence well owner stewardship behaviour. Key behaviours examined included annual testing of well water and inspection of wells, measures to protect water quality, and proper decommissioning of unused wells. A geographically-stratified survey, sent to 4950 well owners in Ontario, Canada, resulted in an effective response rate of 34% (n = 1567).

Logistic regression analyses revealed that motivations for well stewardship behaviours included reassurance, the perception of problems, and knowledge of the environment. Knowing how to perform stewardship behaviours was an important antecedent to action.

Barriers to stewardship included complacency, inconvenience, ignorance, cost, and privacy concerns. To promote stewardship, local initiatives, better educational materials, and enforcement through real estate laws are all required.

Ultimately, drinking water safety for people reliant on private wells is shown to be a responsibility shared by governments and private well owners.


Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

PMID: 21185114 [PubMed – in process]


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