Partner Blog

Bernalillo County’s Private Well Program, A Surging Success

What started off as a few workshops and PowerPoint slides has evolved into full-fledged private well program for Bernalillo County, New Mexico. Sara Chudnoff, the county hydrogeologist, launched her current private well outreach program in 2013 with a few workshop presentations for local well owners. Now, she helps monitor water levels in over 200 wells and will host the second annual Bernalillo County Water Fair.

The New Mexico Environmental Department’s Groundwater Quality Bureau and the New Mexico Department of Health have received grants from two federal agencies, U.S. EPA and CDC, to fund water fairs throughout the state of New Mexico . This funding supports the water testing component of Bernalillo County’s program. Chudnoff recognizes that this collaboration is foundation to the program’s success. She says: “As a county we are the catalyst that brings it all together, but without the willingness of our partner agencies we would not be able to accomplish this work.”

The success of the Bernalillo County program is a model that any County Health Department or County Cooperative Extension can follow. The first step is obtaining appropriate resources and information – Sara, for example, began teaching her initial workshops with materials provided by the Private Well Class. This year’s Water Fair will feature a free 2-hour short course for well owners.

In addition to offering a workshop-style learning environment, Bernalillo County’s annual Water Fair offers a unique outreach opportunity for resident well owners. Hosted in conjunction with other state, federal, and local agencies, the Water Fair features an expo with information on a variety of issues faced by well owners from well permitting to understanding hydrogeology. The two day event will also offer free water testing to Bernalillo County residents not connected to a public water supply.

In publicizing an event such as this one, listing the agencies that will be present and what services that are being offered (such as free testing) is also effective at drawing in the targeted audience. The county’s brochure ensures that attendees know how to participate by including specific instructions on how to correctly collect a water sample from their home, where to take it during the event, and what additional well information should be included.

Counties interested in starting their own program and want assistance in getting off the ground can contact Sara, who is willing to talk with others and offer valuable insight. She emphasizes that workshops and classes aren’t always enough; the key is developing partnerships with other state and local stakeholders. “There are many great resources in our state and very knowledgeable experts we work with to strengthen county programs and our outreach efforts,” Chudnoff says.

For information and tips on how to get your program off the ground, contact Sara at or (505) 224-1614 and visit or more information.