Well Water Testing: Everything You Need to Know

For millions of North American households, a cool drink on a hot summer’s day or a load of sparkling clean dishes means relying on well water. Wells can be an almost-endless source of water; however,  because well water quality isn’t federally regulated like municipal water, there are a variety of potential issues — both aesthetic and health-based — well owners should be aware of. That’s why it’s important to perform regular water quality tests.

Here’s everything you need to know about well water testing.

Well Water Basics

Whether you’re moving to a location with well water for the first time or have been using a well for years, it never hurts to brush up on the basics. Here are a few important things to know about where your water comes from:

What Is Well Water?

Well water is actually groundwater, which is water held underground in natural “tanks” made of permeable rock. These tanks are called aquifers, and they’re refilled when rainwater filters down through layers of earth.

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Although rainwater can potentially pick up bacteria and other impurities, it’s naturally cleaned to some degree as it seeps down into the aquifer. However, you should keep in mind that the water supply may require additional filtration.

How Are Wells Constructed?

Wells are constructed in different ways depending on the depth of the aquifer. According to the EPA, there are three basic types:

  • Dug: Dug wells could be created with a shovel and a lot of elbow grease. They’re best for aquifers that are close to the surface.
  • Driven: This well type is built by driving pipes into the ground. It targets aquifers between 30 and 50 feet underground.
  • Drilled: To create drilled wells, you’d need heavy-duty equipment — but they can reach aquifers thousands of feet under the surface.

Can You Drink Well Water?

Wells can be a source of safe drinking water — but first, water quality testing is in order. Let’s take a closer look at why this step is so important.

Why Test Well Water?

Unfortunately, you can’t just “eyeball it” when it comes to safe drinking water. You won’t be able to identify problems based on taste, odor or color alone — and even if your next-door neighbors’ wells are tested and cleared, that doesn’t guarantee yours is always providing safe water.

Why? Private well water isn’t subject to the same human and environmental health guidelines that protect the public water system and create expectations for water treatment. This means you’re responsible for testing your own drinking water.

Here are a few issues you should test for as a well water user:

Hard Water

Hard water, one of the most common challenges faced by well water users, is caused by a buildup of calcium and magnesium. It can leave stains on shower doors and walls, dishes and faucets and can also lead to hair breakage and skin irritation.

Potential Impurity

There are several potential contaminants that could be lurking in your well water, including:*

  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Nitrates
  • Total dissolved solids (TDS)

These substances could potentially impact water quality and make your water unsafe for drinking, washing and other uses.

Aesthetic Issues

Aesthetic issues are any problems that make you second-guess that cold drink of water in terms of how it looks, tastes or smells. From rotten egg odors that can indicate the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas to rust stains or metallic tastes that might signal too much iron, aesthetic issues can impact how you feel about your water quality.

How Do You Test Your Well Water?

So, now that you know what you could be up against, how do you test for calcium, lead, bacteria, nitrate, E.coli, hard water and anything else that could be present in your well?

Simple: It’s time to have a water test performed.

Depending on where you live, you have a few options for well water testing — but one fast, easy option is to call your local Culligan Water® experts. Schedule a convenient testing time, then sit back and relax as our experts do the rest — no call, water test kit or trip to the local health department required.

Our in-home water testing is free, and it doesn’t require you to take your own water samples or interpret the results of multiple test kits. In fact, all you have to do is wait about 30 minutes, and our experts will have answers about water hardness, iron, aesthetic issues and more. For an even closer look, you can choose to have your water sent to our IL EPA-certified lab, where you can get information on any presence of lead, harmful bacteria, E. coli and other substances.

A water quality test should be performed every year. However, you should test again after events including:

  • Drought
  • Floods
  • Heavy rain
  • Natural disasters
  • Issues with nearby septic systems like leaks
  • Repairs or work on your well

You’ve Tested — Now What?

When you have the test results from your deep dive into well water quality, you may wonder what happens next. Depending on what issue you’re facing, you could take one or more of the following steps:

  • If you have hard water, you should research water softeners. These systems reduce the presence of minerals like calcium and magnesium that cause hard water, leaving your dishes sparkling, your shower walls cleaner and your hair and skin feeling better.
  • If your well is allowing contaminants into your water supply, whole-home water filtration system can help. After being installed where your main water line enters your house, these systems can reduce iron, sulfur and other elements in your water.
  • If drinking water is your main concern, you may prefer a reverse osmosis system. These systems work under your sink to reduce the presence of contaminants and make tap water safer and purer-tasting, often using reverse osmosis to get the job done.

Get Clarity With Culligan®

Want to know what’s really going on inside your well? We’re here to help. From expert advice to free in-home water quality testing, we can provide the peace of mind that comes with a cleaner, safer, pure-tasting drink of water.

Schedule your free water test today.


*Contaminants may not be present in your water.