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Can You Drink Well Water?


With the right precautions, you can certainly drink well water and use it for cooking, cleaning, bathing and more. However, since private well water typically is not treated or tested by a municipal organization, you will need to make sure that you take a proactive approach to assessing the quality and safety of your water supply. Well water is particularly susceptible to certain water quality issues, including both aesthetic factors and concerns that could impact your health.

Well water requires regular testing – and often, treatment – to ensure that it’s safe and pleasant to drink.

Potential Well Water Problems

While aesthetic issues like hardness, iron and hydrogen sulfide are among the most common problems well water users experience, there is also the potential for contaminants that can negatively impact health.* Nitrates, arsenic and lead rank among the most common chemicals that could be found in well water, according to Health Canada. Total coliform bacteria is another component well users may want to test for, as this could indicate the presence of harmful germs and bacteria.

In addition, some other possible contaminants in well water could include organic chemicals and heavy metals such as lead, chromium, copper and others.

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Excess Minerals and Well Water

Besides contaminants, high concentrations of certain minerals are another common problem for well water users. Well water sourced from groundwater in areas with high mineral content may be more susceptible to this issue. In particular, iron may impact your water quality. Hydrogen sulfide may also produce aesthetic concerns.

Iron in drinking water is a common cause of rust stains throughout the home, including on dishes and in the laundry. Minerals like iron can also leave a metallic taste. If hydrogen sulfide is present in your well water, you may notice a rotten egg smell.

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Health Effects Related to Some Common Well Water Problems

Some of these well water concerns and contaminants may have an impact on the health of various household members. Considering the unique risks presented by these potential water quality problems, it’s important to test regularly, so you can identify issues before they affect your health.

What Types of Health Issues Can Be Related to Drinking Water Quality?

Health concerns for well water vary depending on the source of the water quality issue. Specific contaminants like nitrates, arsenic, coliform bacteria and others each present certain health risks.

Contamination from nitrate may be connected to methemoglobinemia, particularly in bottle-fed infants, as well as affecting thyroid gland function and demonstrating an association with cancer.

The potential health effects of arsenic exposure from drinking water could include cancer, abnormal heart rhythms and blood vessel damage as well as other issues, ranging from nausea and diarrhea to muscle pain and loss of movement.

Coliform bacteria, which is essentially a large group of different types of bacteria, may or may not cause illness depending on what variety is observed. However, the presence of any amount indicates that harmful bacteria, such as disease-causing fecal coliform or E. coli, may also enter the water supply, causing gastrointestinal issues.

Consuming high levels of heavy metals can be associated with acute and chronic toxicity as well as damage to the liver, kidneys and intestines. These harmful contaminants may also be associated with anemia and cancer.

Various other microorganisms may also cause infections and gastrointestinal illness.

Is It Safe To Drink Well Water?

The quality of well water can vary from one location to the next, and it can shift over time due to changes in the area, natural disasters and more. In addition, well water quality can be influenced by the state of your well system and recent changes to the equipment you use. Unlike city water, private wells are not federally regulated. Owners must conduct their own testing to ensure the safety of their water supply.

Can you drink well water? The answer is most likely yes, but testing and treatment are crucial. As long as you closely monitor the condition of your water supply and take appropriate measures to ensure its quality, well water can be safe to drink. 

How Can You Make Your Well Water Taste and Smell Better?

Safety is an important concern for well water users, but aesthetic factors are also essential to address. Testing your drinking water can help you identify what is causing the unpleasant taste or odor. With this information, you can implement the right water filtration solutions to handle the issue.

The Importance of Testing Well Water

Well water users should test their water supply at least annually for contaminants and other issues. Professional analysis can help you discover the source of possible problems with your well water.

What Is Going on in Your Area That Could Affect Your Well?

In addition to testing your drinking water annually, certain events in the surrounding area may affect your groundwater supply, potentially introducing new sources of contamination. As a result, you may want to conduct additional water testing after certain events.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that well water can be affected by:

  • Flooding and land disturbances
  • The operation of nearby waste disposal facilities
  • Updates to the well system

Test regularly for nitrate and coliform bacteria. Consulting with a professional can help you determine when to test and what else to look for, including arsenic, heavy metals, certain minerals and other types of microorganisms and bacteria.

Where Can You Have Your Well Water Tested to Ensure It Is Safe to Drink?

Assessing your water source to make sure that it’s safe to drink can start with professionally conducted in-home testing from your tap water. While this method can give you some quick results, your local water treatment experts can also let you know if you also should use analysis from a certified laboratory to complete a more thorough review. 

Does Your Well Water Need To Be Treated?

Well water treatment may be required depending on the presence of contaminants in your drinking water. In addition, aesthetic issues associated with certain minerals, including foul taste or smell, can lead many well water users to pursue drinking water treatment options, depending on their water source.

Well Water Treatment Options

With an in-depth understanding of your well water’s quality, you can identify potential treatment options. It’s likely that specific whole-home and reverse osmosis systems for well water will be part of your treatment plan. Professionals can help you find the right solutions for your unique needs.

Can You Boil Well Water to Drink?

During emergency situations, well water users may temporarily be advised to use bottled water or to boil their drinking water to kill microorganisms. This is not a permanent solution, and it does not replace the need for additional filtration systems. For example, boiling drinking water does not remove non-living contaminants such as chemicals and heavy metals. The process also takes extra time and effort.

How Do You Filter Water at Home if You Are Concerned About Water Quality?

Selecting a well water filtration system involves shopping for a solution that will meet the specific needs revealed by your test results while also seeking out options that offer customization and superior customer service from the provider.

In general, whole-home filtration systems can help address issues like staining due to excessive iron and the undesirable smell associated with hydrogen sulfide. A reverse osmosis system is often recommended for drinking water.

What Is a Reverse Osmosis Drinking Water Filtration System?

A reverse osmosis (RO) system treats drinking water at the point of use through a multistep filtration process to provide you with cleaner, safer water. Using an RO system to treat drinking water sourced from a well can help you address water quality issues, improving the taste and smell of your household drinking water.

Well water can be safe for drinking and all other household needs, as long as you make sure to test your water supply regularly and select treatment solutions in line with your results. Learn more about the well water treatment options that are available for your specific needs.

*Contaminants may not necessarily be present in your water.


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