7 Things To Know About How Well Water Works
Water is a big deal. We drink it, cook with it, clean with it, even bathe in it — it’s part of almost everything we do. That’s why it’s smart to spend some time learning about where your water comes from, what problems it might face and how you can take care of it.
This is an especially important task for homeowners with private wells. When you have your own water supply, you become a water warden — which means you have a few special responsibilities.
Ready to learn more? Sit back, relax and brush up on these seven things you should know about well water!
How Does Well Water Work?
When you turn on a faucet in your home, the water comes from one of two places: your municipal/city supply or a private water well. These water types have a few big differences:
- City water supplies come from a variety of sources, including lakes and rivers. This water is protected by regulations such as the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality and the Safe Drinking Water Act.
- Private wells are fed by groundwater, which exists naturally under the surface of the Earth. Because private wells are separate from city water supplies, they aren’t protected by the same regulations.
So, if well water doesn’t come from the city, where does it come from? Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how wells really work:
- Rainwater and some surface water filter down through layers of rock and sediment. It ends up in an aquifer — nature’s holding tank. As the amount of available water changes according to the season, the amount of water in the aquifer changes too, and the water table or water level rises or falls.
- At some point in the history of your property, a dug well or drilled well was built by breaking through the ground to reach the aquifer. This is achieved through a water system of pipes, jet pumps or submersible pumps, casing and caps (which work together like lining and a lid to protect water quality).
- Groundwater from the aquifer is pulled up and sent to a pressure tank, which is installed under your home. Using compressed air, this pressure tank controls — you guessed it — water pressure.
- You can use this water for years to come. In fact, according to USGS, most drilled wells don’t go dry — instead, they may run into issues if “the pump intake is not set deep enough to allow for a potential decline in water levels.” Similarly, dug wells usually only go dry if they’re placed too close to the surface or in an area with “low permeability,” which means rocks and sediment don’t allow much water to seep into the aquifer.
This process creates water that can be safe for drinking, cooking, bathing and more — with a few precautions, that is.
Is Hard Water An Issue For Well Users?
You may have heard of hard water and how it can be bad news for your skin, hair, shower walls, dishes and even water-using appliances. As the Government of Canada reports in a survey of the national water supply, water hardness can vary according to location — but the unfortunate truth is that no matter where you live, you’re particularly susceptible to hard water if you use a well.
Signs of water hardness include:
- Soap scum on shower doors and walls
- Buildup on showerheads, faucets and water-using appliances
- Dry, breaking hair
- Skin irritation
The good news is that hard water isn’t dangerous — just irritating.
Can Wells Have Water Softeners?
If you and your water-using appliances are tired of hard water, there’s a solution right at your fingertips: a water softener. Because water softeners are often placed in basements or garages, these devices can be installed no matter what your water source is — so city water-users and private well-users alike can benefit.
Hard water is caused by a buildup of calcium and magnesium, which are both positively charged molecules. Water softeners use negatively charged resin beads to attract those molecules like a magnet — then a saltwater solution rinses the beads and sends those excess minerals right down the drain.
Can Wells Have Other Issues?
Because well water resources are primarily groundwater, there is potential for contamination.* As the Government of Canada explains, “contamination problems are increasing in Canada primarily because of the large and growing number of toxic compounds used in industry and agriculture.”
According to the EPA, possible contaminants can include:
- Microorganisms including viruses and bacteria
- Excessive amounts of fluoride
- Organic chemicals
- Heavy metals
Luckily, you don’t have to guess whether these contaminants are present — you can perform regular water testing to stay informed.
Should You Test Your Well Water?
It is generally recommended that you test your water once a year, no matter what type of water system you have. Culligan offers a free, in-home water test that makes it easy to keep up with annual water quality checks — just reach out to us and let your local Culligan Water® expert do the rest! If you need to test for more complex water quality issues, additional testing can be done through our IL EPA-certified lab.
It’s also important to remember that the yearly test is just a rule of thumb. You should also perform well water testing if certain events occur, such as:
- Power outages
- Known problems with the water supply in your area
- Changes in water taste, appearance or smell
- Repairs or maintenance on your water pump
- Nearby septic tank or septic system issues
Are Water Filtration Systems an Option for Well Users?
Since water wells do most of their work underground, it can be tricky to feel like you’re in charge of your water supply. Luckily, there are different filtration systems available to help put you in control of drinking water, water quality and more. Here’s what you have to choose from:
- Point-of-entry water filtration systems work hard to solve common well water issues like too much iron, hydrogen sulfide, arsenic and other problems. They’re called whole-home filtration systems, and for good reason: By placing the system at the point where well water enters your home, you make sure all your water is filtered.
- Point-of-use water filtration systems live under your sink. Think of them like a personal drinking water filter for individual faucets: reverse osmosis systems work in only one place rather than filtering the water supply to your entire home. They’re a great solution if your focus is on cleaner, safer, great-tasting drinking water.
What Does It Mean to Be Responsible for a Private Well?
Last but certainly not least, it’s important to know exactly what it means to have a well.
Put simply, being a well water user means you’re responsible for a few big things:
- Water comfort: Issues like hard water, while not dangerous, can be irritating — and cause real damage to your home. Luckily, you have the power to fix these issues and make well water work for you.
- Regular water testing: Unlike city water users, well water users have to take charge of their own testing schedules. Just remember to make testing an annual habit!
- Water vigilance: Remember, it’s up to you to notice when and if more testing is necessary. For example, if you notice an odd taste or unpleasant smell coming from your drinking water, it’s time to perform water testing to make sure contaminants didn’t sneak into your well.
- Well responsibility: It’s also important to take responsibility for your well itself. If repairs or maintenance are necessary, make sure to have them performed promptly — otherwise, your water quality, water pressure or water supply could suffer.
- Well placement: Although private wells already exist on many properties, you may need to create a new one. If that’s the case, choose a building location that’s safe from potential threats to your well, like septic systems, animal waste or vehicle parking. You should also learn more about the aquifer you’ll be drawing groundwater from, as the depth will impact which type of well you’ll need.
Get Your Well Water Questions Answered
Do you have more questions about private wells, well water quality and well water testing? You’ve come to the right place. At Culligan®, we know how important well water is to you, your household and your community — so we’re here to help everyone become a water warden.
Get started today by scheduling your free in-home water test.
*Contaminants may not be present in your water.