— An Online Technical Assistance Program for Private Well Owners

Presented on Thursday, December 5, 2013
Steven D. Wilson1, Jennifer Wilson2 and Cassia Smith1, (1)Illinois State Water Survey at the Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL, (2)Illinois Water Resources Center, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL

An innovative, email-based class that helps private well owners better understand the geology, hydrology, and construction features of their wells has been developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A series of 10 lessons, delivered via email using a staggered, self-paced approach, provide guidance on dealing with common well maintenance issues and problems. Other topics include source water protection, sampling, interpreting results, home treatment, and emergency situations.

The lessons were developed to be a basic, but comprehensive, class that well owners could use to become better stewards of their wells and nearby groundwater. One lesson is sent to the participant’s email address each week for 10 weeks. Pre- and post-tests, as well as an evaluation, allow students to provide feedback for improving the class.

The program has been marketed through state agencies responsible for well construction and driller registration, cooperative extension, and public health agencies, all of which were contacted by phone and/or email. The Rural Community Assistance Partnership has marketed the program throughout their network of technical assistance providers and trainers. Social media provide additional marketing and a more personal approach to participants who have questions. The website includes an email address for participants to ask specific questions. 

In the first six months of the project, nearly 2200 people nationwide have signed up for the lessons. Participants include private well owners, sanitarians from local health departments, operators of small water systems, and other interested stakeholders. We will provide an overview of the material covered, discuss how marketing and social media have been used to support the project, and provide results from the pre- and post-testing. We will also share results from participant evaluations which describe what they liked and didn’t like, what they would change, and their suggestions for improving this new well owner education program.

Steven D. Wilson
Illinois State Water Survey at the Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL
Steve Wilson is a groundwater hydrologist at the Illinois State Water Survey at the University of Illinois. Wilson has been involved in numerous groundwater assessment projects dealing with both groundwater quantity and quality issues. He manages, which provides free resources and support for small water and wastewater system operators, and, a free online class and education program for private well owners and very small water systems. Wilson holds and MS in Civil Engineering and a BS in Ag Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Jennifer Wilson
Illinois Water Resources Center, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL
Jennifer Wilson is the lead for and's online communication and social media marketing activities, as well as supporting the website's content development. She brings expertise in developing programs for sustainable small systems with the U.S. EPA's drinking water program as well as experience in marketing public programs, Internet education, and project management. Wilson holds an M.S. in soil and water science from the University of California, Riverside.
Cassia Smith
Illinois State Water Survey at the Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL
Cassia Smith performs a number of support roles for, including initial outreach to public agencies, lesson and materials editing, and assisting with webinar hosting. She has a B.A. in creative writing from Miami University and worked for more than four years in public libraries before coming to the Illinois State Water Survey. She also assists with data management, blogging, and special projects coordination for
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