Last Updated: April 14, 2020
Did you know that approximately 15% of US citizens living in America use a private well to access drinking water?
More and more people are choosing to use a private well because of the freedom and control it gives them. It is an ideal source of water if you don’t trust your local authority to get things right.
Although there are issues with this form of water supply, there are also very good reasons why getting one is a good idea.
- Water Well Definition
- 4 Common Well Water Problems
- Types Of Water Wells
- Well Water vs City Water
- Where Does Well Water Come From?
- How Much Does Water Well Cost?
- Well Water Pros and Cons
- Well Water Filtration System?
- 3 Whole House Well Filter Methods
- Is Well Water Good For You?
- The Key Reason You Should Get A Well …
Water Well Definition
A water well is an extended whole dug into the ground to access water located underground. This water can be accessed by boring, digging or even drilling into the earth. In the US, you can find around 20 to 30x more water underground than in streams, rivers and lakes.
4 Common Well Water Problems
Before talking about why getting a well is a good thing, let’s look at the problems. Below are 4 common well problems, their symptoms, consequences and how to solve them. The most common well problems are 1) hard minerals, 2) acidic water, 3) fluoride / mineral contaminants and 4) faecal bacteria.
1. Hard Water
This is one of the most common issues with all water supplies, not just an issue for well owners. Hard water is caused by high levels of calcium and magnesium in your water making it “hard”. Around 85% of the United States suffer from high levels of hard minerals:
- Limescale stains around your sink and bathtubs.
- You will also see scale buildup around faucets and other appliances like kettles.
- Dry laundry may make your clothes feel harder and slightly rougher. Overtime they might lose their color too.
- It might be possible to spot white residue in your dishwashers and on dishes.
- Hardness can also lead to mineral build up that cam clog up your pipes.
Soften, soften, soften! The fast and most effective way to cut through hardness is to use a softener. If you don’t want to use sodium (i.e. salt) to remove hard water then you can opt for a salt-free softener or magnetic softener machine.
Consequences of doing nothing
If hardness is not treated or softened for a long period of time then it will cause problems. For instance, long term chronic hard water issues can create scale build up in your pipes, home appliances. Overtime, this can lead to the ineffective running of your home appliances and shorten their lifespan. Not to mention the ugly marks you get around your kitchen sinks, faucets and bathtub.
2. Acidic Water
Yes, acid rain is real. It can runoff from nearby mining operations, industrial locations and it’s even possible for plant life to drop your water’s pH levels.
A pH range that is below 7.0 is considered to be acidic.
Symptoms of acidic water
- It tastes bitter and metallic.
- You find pinhole leaks in your pipes and plumbing.
- Pipe fixtures and faucets are corroded.
- It may appear cloudy in some cases.
- You find rusty or blue-green stains around your bath tub and sink.
Solution To High Level of Acid Water
One of the best and quickest solutions is to get something that will neutralise the acidity. For instance get a soda ash injection in the well to raise the pH. Another option is to buy an acid neutralizing filter to neutralise the acidity. Finally, you can consider replacing metal pipes with NSF-approved ones. This makes an environment that is less welcoming to acid water.
Consequences of doing nothing
If untreated, acidic water will corrode your pipes and plumbing over time. This raises the risk of your pipes bursting and leaking. You can also expect to find stains that indicate corrosion from leached lead from old plumbing.
Fluoride is a mineral that naturally occurs in all water but in differing amounts. It usually appears in tiny traces that can only be detected by using sophisticated well water tests. The EPA makes a recommendation level for fluoride to be around 0.7 mg/L so bear this in mind when performing these tests.
Bear in mind that you need to consume a hell of a lot of fluoride before you see any harmful effects on your health. However, assuming you do then one issue with an over consumption of fluoride is dental fluorosis. This manifests as brown or white stains on your teeth, this is especially the case for children.
A reverse osmosis filter is one of the best ways to remove fluoride from your well water. Although slightly impractical for your well, you should also consider water distillation (Read: How To Remove Fluoride From Water).
- One sign of fluoride is your water will smell like rotten eggs.
- Discolored copper, brass and silverware.
- Stains on bathroom fixtures and laundry.
4. Faecal Bacteria
Eww yes, an open air well can very easily be contaminated by human or animal waste like faecal bacteria. This might be in the form of E. coli and other bacteria, which can get into your well water via cracks in well walls. It can also be contaminated by things like sewage lines and overflowing septic tanks.
- Noticeable odor and small trace particles in your water.
- In some cases, it can cause rare cases of gastrointestinal illness.
- You should regularly test your water with a powerful water test kit to lower the risk because faecal infection is not always easy to detect.
You can kill faecal matter or bacteria in your well water by shocking it with chlorine. But only do this in small amounts because it is not healthy to drink large amounts of chlorine. Another option is to do a chlorine shock along with an extra layer of protection by using a UV water filter.
You should regularly test your water to lower the risk because faecal infection is not always easy to detect.
Types Of Water Wells
- Dug Wells
- Driven Wells
- Drilled wells
1. Dug wells.
These types of wells have been historically excavated with a hand shovel all the way down to where the water is. It is then lined with tile, bricks, stones or something similar to stop the well from collapsing. The main disadvantage of using a dug well is they are usually shallow and can sometimes lack continuous grouting and casing. This means it become subject to contamination from other surface sources. It also means the well can go dry in periods when the water goes below a certain level.
2. Driven wells.
This is more of a construction well that is created by driving a small-diameter pipe into an area that has the capacity to produce water. The key issue is that it needs to be relatively shallow because driven wells tend to be around 30 feet deep. While getting a machine-driven well can go as deep as 50 feet.
3. Drilled wells.
As the name suggests, this type of well is drilled with either a rotary-drilling machine or cable percussion tool. These tools are used to penetrate up to 1,000 feet deep. The casing around the drilled hole is sealed with a grout made up of either bentonite clay or neat cement. This is to stop your well from getting contaminated and makes a neat hole for your well to fit into.
Well Water vs City Water
Municipal or City Water
Where Does Well Water Come From?
To put it simply, well water comes from the abundance of water that is available underground. There is about 20-30x more water underground then all the streams, lakes and rivers combined in the US.
Wells that access this large amount of underground water have been drilled into the deep bedrock.
How Much Does Water Well Cost?
There are many costs involved in using a well as there are many things to consider. For instance, things like drilling, well casing, getting a comprehensive test kit and a whole house filter.
- Low estimates indicate a cost of $1500 or $10000 for well drilling in residential properties. Residents in places like Utah typically need to drill between 30-200 feet to access groundwater. However, you should expect a higher cost if you have difficult soil to deal with.
- Labour and professional plumbing costs can range between $1000-$20,000
- You need to get a strong comprehensive filter to periodically test your water. That will cost around $100-$350
- A good whole house water filter, specifically for your well will set you back around $600-$3500
However, my recommendation is to speak with your local plumber and well contractor. This way you can get a completely free no obligation estimate. Even more important is the advice and questions they can answer for you.
Well Water Pros and Cons
Cons – 3 Things You Should Consider Before Getting a Well
1. Note that getting a test kit for your well is not going to be the same as getting any type of test kit. You need to get a very comprehensive testing kit in order to get an accurate reading.
2. It is almost always necessary to get a powerful well filter because it comes from natural sources. This makes it more likely to be at risk of contamination from sediments and minerals like lime and calcium.
3. As a private well owner, you are responsible for maintaining and monitoring its quality not the EPA.
PROS – 5 Reasons Why Getting a Well is a Good Idea
- One of the biggest positives of getting a well is the fact that you will never have to worry about getting bills from traditional suppliers. Never ever again worry about how much it will cost when you take a shower or do your laundry.
- You will enjoy un-metered and completely off the grid supply.
- Complete control over your supply means you never have to be concerned about what you drink from the tap. You have complete control over its contents and so no more concerns about what the municipal authorities might add.
- No more concerns about an “outage” during an emergency.
- Well supplies can sometimes be VERY cold when it comes directly out of the ground meaning that you don’t need to put it in the fridge but you can drink it cold direct.
Well Water Filtration System?
All you need to do is make sure you get a strong comprehensive water test kit to know what you want your filter to remove.
Many expert swear by this cure-all filter that is a little expensive but means you don’t have to worry about filtering out specific contaminants.
Alternatively, you can check out the best 3 types of whole house wellwater filter methods below.
3 Whole House Well Filter Methods
The first thing you should do is to make sure the filter you choose has some sort of external award or accreditation e.g. “NSF Certification.” This is because a filter can not be NSF-certified until it has gone through very stringent tests to prove that it removes every contaminant that it claims it will.
1) Reverse Osmosis Well Filters
Reverse osmosis (RO) is by far one of my favorite methods of filtration. It is one of the most comprehensive ways to remove almost every type of water contamination. This includes things like trace minerals and fluoride.
The other benefit of reverse osmosis is that it doesn’t completely strip everything out of water like water distillation. Some types of filters remove EVERYTHING (good and bad) thereby making it pure but also tasteless. Reverse osmosis on the other hand maintains healthy minerals while also filtering out all the bad stuff. See more: Reverse Osmosis For Dummies.
2) Carbon Well Water Filters
A carbon filter is a cheaper option when compared to reverse osmosis. The downside is that it might not remove as many things. For instance, carbon filters does not remove things like dissolved solids or heavy metals. Nor does it remove things like fluoride. However, if you don’t have any serious issues or need to filter out anything like bacteria then this can be a great option.
Also remember that there are different types of carbon filters that are able to remove different levels of contaminants. Again make sure your chosen method of wellwater filtration has something like an NSF label to make sure it will filter what it says it will.
3) Whole House Filter For Wells
Many of them use several layers of filters and combine different methods to make sure it is completely dirt-free.
This is by far your best way to filter your well because it is the most comprehensive. You should ideally be looking at a multi-stage whole house filter.
Is Well Water Good For You?
Yes, it is good for you so long as you follow the EPA recommendations given to all private well owners. This includes regularly and periodically testing it to make sure it is safe to drink. You should do this with a powerful and sophisticated testing kit that can highlight everything no matter how tiny.
If you detect anything then take action by getting the right type of well filter to deal with it. The section that follows will help you identify and solve common problems.
The Key Reason You Should Get A Well …
Yes, there is no doubt that getting a whole house well system is expensive and a huge under-taking.
But it is worth the investment if you like the idea of being self sufficient and able to access water in the case of an emergency where the local authorities can’t supply water.
No more bills from your local municipal supplier ever because you create and control your own supply.
Because you have complete control over your water and what it contains.
The most important thing to remember is to get a comprehensive water test kit and check the water regularly.