There’s a lot to think about when moving to a new home, and for many people, the local water source isn’t one of them – but it should be.
Why? Well water is more common in North America than you may think. According to the United States Geological Survey, about 40 million people rely on domestic wells for their drinking water. Additionally, about 3 million Canadian residents also use private wells.
Well water often requires a higher level of attention and treatment than municipal water does. If you’re moving to a home with well water, read on below to learn what makes well water unique, how to spot common well water problems and what you can do to address them.
Adjusting to having well water for your new home requires an understanding of where this water comes from and how it may be different from municipal water.
Water Quality Regulation
If you’re coming from an area where you had access to regulated city water, switching to well water will be an adjustment. The sole responsibility for ensuring the quality of well water falls on the well owner – you – as private wells aren’t federally regulated. This means you’ll have to test your water regularly to ensure it’s suitable for use (annual testing is recommended), and you’ll be the one to handle well repairs and maintenance as needed. That doesn’t mean you should do the actual work yourself, but it does mean you have to partner with professionals to make sure the necessary updates get done.
The Source of Your Water Supply and the State of the Well
Well water is sourced from groundwater. As snow, rain and other forms of precipitation pass over rocks and soil before being drawn from the well, minerals may enter the supply, as well as potential contaminants.* The condition of pipes and plumbing that deliver water to your home could also affect the quality of your water. When purchasing a home with well water, it’s important to know certain factors like the age of the well, how it was constructed and the steps that have been taken to maintain it. Get maintenance records from the sellers, and ask for previous water tests, too. You should also have the well inspected.
Compared to water that’s treated by municipal systems, well water may have a relatively heightened proportion of contaminants as well as higher mineral concentrations and aesthetic issues. The quality of well water can also change from year to year. Fortunately, these problems are treatable. Here are some of the most important water quality problems you have to look out for when purchasing a home that has well water.
The Composition of Well Water
Excess mineral content, hydrogen sulfide, and possibly contaminants – like nitrates, arsenic and lead – may sometimes enter the water supply for well water users. Most of these issues result in aesthetic nuisances that can negatively impact the taste or smell of your water – or leave stains behind when you’re doing laundry or washing dishes. Some contaminants in well water, however, cannot be seen, smelled or tasted, and they can also have negative effects on the health and well-being of various household members.
Hardness in Well Water
Well water is particularly susceptible to hardness issues due to the often high concentrations of dissolved minerals like calcium, magnesium and others. Hard water can make it difficult for well water users to work up a lather or rinse away soap. New homeowners will also want to avoid hardness because it can lead to buildup in pipes, plumbing fixtures and drains, causing long-term damage. Water-using appliances may also be negatively impacted by hard water. Not only is hard water unsightly and unpleasant, but for homeowners who are relocating to an area with well water, it can be especially costly in the long run, if left untreated.
Well Water and Aesthetic Concerns
Last but not least, many people who are new to well water may notice something crucially important: It often just doesn’t taste or smell as good as city water. It may also sometimes contain sediment or look cloudy and discolored. As we’ve noted, because well water isn’t treated by a supplier before it comes out of your tap, the composition of your groundwater supply will influence how it looks and tastes. As a result, even well water that is totally safe to drink may benefit from some aesthetic improvements.
When you move to an area with well water, the key to ensuring that you have high-quality, great-tasting water as soon as you arrive is to be proactive. Know the state of the well, the composition of your water and what steps you’ll take to ensure you’re ready to hydrate right on move-in day.
Test the Water Before You Move, and Test It Regularly Thereafter
Make sure to test the water quality for your well before moving in. Then, by working with a professional, you can assess the results and explore treatment options. A water softener and/or water filtration system may already be installed in the home, but it could be time to replace, repair or upgrade them. It’s possible that water conditions in the area have changed since the existing equipment was installed, requiring new service alterations to ensure you have the best quality water possible.
Well water users should also be sure to test their water again at least annually. In addition, they should conduct more tests if they notice any perceptible changes in the quality of the water, after well system maintenance is performed and following natural disasters like flooding. Pay attention to ongoing developments in the area surrounding your home, too. Runoff from new neighbors that have a heavy environmental impact could alter water quality for your well.
Setting Up a Whole-House Filtration System for Well Water
Choosing a well water filtration system for use at the point of entry (meaning that it treats your water where it enters the home) that serves every tap in your home requires careful deliberation. This is the system that’s going to make sure you have cleaner water everywhere in your house, from the bathtub to the kitchen sink. Pay attention to the unique properties of your water. For example, if your test results reveal high concentrations of minerals like iron, selecting the right iron filter for well water may be a top concern for you. If your issue is with hydrogen sulfide (which causes that rotten-egg smell), you’ll need a filtration system designed to remove sulfur from your water.
Working with a professional during this process is the most reliable way to ensure you pick the right whole-house filtration system for your needs. They’ll also provide peace of mind for installation and maintenance, and they may be able to point out solutions that are customized for well water properties that are common to your region.
Choosing the Right Softener for Well Water
Considering how common hardness is for well water users, selecting the best water softener should also be one of your top priorities. Professionals in the industry can help you find a softener that has the capacity necessary to handle well water at your hardness level and for the size of your particular household.
Smart features, like usage monitoring and automatic notifications, also help you stay on track for regeneration and maintenance needs. With regular maintenance from a trusted provider, you can also increase the lifespan of your water softener, further protecting water-using appliances, pipes and plumbing fixtures throughout your new home.
Installing a Drinking Water Filtration System
Many new well water users find that a whole-house filtration system isn’t quite enough for them. An additional option that’s specifically designed for drinking water, like an under-sink reverse osmosis (RO) system, can offer the added support needed for providing cleaner, great-tasting water for cooking and hydration. In particular, this is a huge benefit for people who find the potentially unpleasant taste or off-putting discoloration of their well water to be an issue. If you’re new to well water, an RO system can be a useful tool for making sure you have satisfying water on tap in your new home at all times.
Ready to find out what the well water is like in your new home? Schedule a test today.
*Contaminants may not necessarily be present in your water.