Drinkable H2O: How to Take Care of Your Well Water

The perks of being your own well owner come bundled with a few chores.

If you have recently acquired a property with its own well, you may have some questions about it. Or perhaps you have had a trouble-free well for a long time, but now there is fracking in your neighborhood. Or perhaps you just realized that it’s been a while since you had your water tested. Whatever the case, the perks of being your own well owner come bundled with a few chores.

Water Testing

Wherever you live, there are inexpensive testing services available. Contact your local extension service, or this table of providers put together by the Water Systems Council. Make sure you follow the testing kit protocol closely, or you are wasting your time.

Not all water quality issues are deal-breakers. Sulfur gives water a bad odor, but it is quickly evaporates. “Hard water” can damage appliances, but is not a health problem (in fact, calcium- and magnesium-rich water is good for you). Water with particulates can be filtered. On the other hand, some contaminants (e.g. lead, arsenic, bacteria, or pesticides) can be more serious issues.

Protecting Your Well

Apart from fracking or serious pollution, it is unlikely for a drilled well to become contaminated from “outside”. The most common source of contamination is when pumps get replaced, or other maintenance work occurs. Another fairly common culprit is damage to the well cap, which may go unnoticed.

To prevent this, make sure that all your pump and well maintenance is done by qualified professionals. Also, if possible, landscape around the well cap so as to prevent it from being hit by trucks or tractors, the usual suspects.

Handling the System Itself

The water system downstream of the well is also a common source of contamination. Underground pipes can sometimes leak “in reverse”, sucking groundwater and contaminants. Older plumbing systems may be contaminated from various sources, and bacterial contamination in a plumbing system can be surprisingly persistent.

The good news here is that if you find bacteria or algae in a water test, it may not mean that your well itself is a problem. The bad news is that pasteurizing or replacing a plumbing system is fairly expensive in its own right.

A drilled well is one of the most reliable mechanical systems in your home, but it does require some maintenance. Get your water regularly tested by the pros, and take care of the system well. It should last you as long as the house.

Lizzie Weakley, the author of this article, is a freelance writer.


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