• Homestead Inspections

What Makes For a Good Water Well

The past few weeks we've been out to a number of acreages which are serviced by well water. Clients have all had questions about the wells, from flow rate to water quality here are a few helpful tips when determining if a water well is sufficient in your potential new home.

What’s in well water?

Well water is more likely to be hard water, meaning that it contains minerals like calcium and magnesium. Water containing minerals can be a good thing. Still, too many minerals can create build-up in pipes and heating systems, leading to costly repairs. Hard water also performs poorly with soaps and detergents, leaving spots on dishes, shower doors, and generally not cleaning things as well as soft water.

Water coming from your well is also more likely to encounter other contaminants. Depending on where you live, iron, sulfur gas, arsenic, nitrates, tannins, and various other items found in nature could be present. Some parts of the country do not have iron issues. In contrast, other areas might have entire neighborhoods with whole-home iron filters to prevent rust stains from forming on everything their water touches.

Homeowners with well water should have their water tested by a licensed professional at least once per year. Many contaminants cannot be seen or smelled, so you’ll want to make sure there isn’t anything present that might affect your family’s health.  

Keeping contamination away

Besides the environmental factors that could be in your well water, you’ll also want to make sure the well casing is in good condition. This chamber holds your well pump and should stay wholly enclosed to help keep your water source clean. Cracks in your well cover or casing walls will leave your well exposed to dirt, insects, or rodents that can cause e.coli bacteria to grow inside your well.

Having this bacteria in your water isn’t so bad if you’re using it for your laundry or taking a shower. Still, it can become an issue when it comes to the water you drink and use for cooking. While not harmful to your health, consuming e.coli bacteria can give you a stomach ache and diarrhea. The only way to know for sure if you have bacteria contamination in your well is to have it tested. If the test results come back positive, don’t worry, there is a solution! A local water expert can “shock” the well using chlorine, but make sure to inspect the well itself to ensure that it will adequately seal again once finished. Otherwise it will just get contaminated again.

Here’s a checklist for keeping your well in good working order:

  • Always use licensed or certified service technicians for any maintenance on your well

  • Conduct testing annually, or when a change in taste, appearance, or odor are detected

  • Keep hazardous chemicals away from the well

  • Occasionally check the well cover cap to make sure it’s secure and in good shape

  • Make sure the cap is at least 6” above ground

  • Keep the well cap area free of debris and take care when mowing or moving around it

There are a variety of products that can give you peace of mind that you’re drinking and washing with quality water. For example, a water softener will help filter out excess minerals which can make your hair limp, skin itchy and cleaning difficult. A filtration system will tackle elements like chlorine, iron, manganese, and more, which will eliminate unwanted tastes and stains. And, you could consider a reverse osmosis system to eliminate harmful contaminants in your drinking water.

Remember, a well system transports water from the ground to your home; it doesn’t do anything to treat or sanitize the water. With water testing, an accurate diagnosis and recommendation, you can overcome even the most challenging well water.

Water Storage

A drinking water well capable of providing a sufficient quantity of water for homes that are not served by a public water system. Low yielding wells may be able to provide sufficient quantity for daily use, yet be unable to meet peak demand. Supplemental water storage can allow low yield wells to meet peak water use demand.

Well Yield, Water Demand, and Storage

Well yield is a sustainable rate of water flow, usually expressed in gallons per minute (gpm), that a well can draw continuously over an extended period. It’s best practice that all new, replacement, and redeveloped drinking water wells be tested for yield.

Daily water usage can be estimated for typical households based on the number of occupants or bedrooms. A household with moderate water use will typically need 110 gallons of water per day per bedroom. This number, however, does not take into account extra water needed for homes with high occupancy, lawn irrigation, spa tubs, and other activities and plumbing fixtures that have a high water demand. Higher water use activities and fixtures are not recommended for homes served by low yield wells.

Peak residential water demand typically occurs in the morning and evening when more than one water use is occurring. Peak demand can vary greatly based on the number of simultaneous water uses, the flow rates of individual water fixtures, and the length of time fixtures operate. 5 gpm (two fixtures running simultaneously at 2.5 gpm) is a good estimate of peak demand, for the typical household. Water wells that reliably yield 5 gpm should be able to meet peak and daily needs for most residences.

Wells yielding less than 5 gpm, however, are sometimes the only water source available. These lower yield wells can often meet the total daily water demand, but may not be able to satisfy a household's peak demand. 

Incorporating supplemental water storage into a household water system can allow low yielding wells to meet both daily household and peak demand. This can prevent low pressure and inadequate water flow when multiple fixtures are in use, reducing the need to schedule showers, laundry, and other water uses for inconvenient times.

Questions about your well or the quality of the water coming from it? Give our office a call at 1-403-679-9073

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