Tips for Taps Blog
As a private well owner, you have greater control over the water entering your home, but this also means you are primarily the one responsible for its maintenance and safety. Proper installation, regular testing, and selecting the right water treatment prevents contamination from damaging your well. These steps will also save you money and keep your water supply safe for everyone who uses it. We’ll cover some essential tips for keeping your private well system in top shape while covering:
- Protecting your well
- Monitoring well performance
- Retiring unused wells
- When to inspect and test your water
- Well water treatment options
How to Check Your Well for Proper Construction and Installation
Poor construction can lead to issues, like sediment and contamination, that can affect the well’s yield and safety. There are a few well components and features you can check to make sure it was built correctly:
- Well casing: The top of your well casing should be at least a foot above ground. This keeps unwanted pests and surface water from getting into your well. The space between the outside of the well casing and the borehole wall (or annular space) should also be fully sealed with grout.
- Well cap: A sanitary well cap is your first line of defense against surface contamination. Regularly check the condition of the cap, making sure that it is securely attached and able to keep out insects and rodents.
- Location: Also be sure your well isn’t located in an area prone to surface runoff (e.g. a low lying field next to agriculture or a busy road).
- Elevation: The ground surrounding your well should slope away from the well in order to prevent water pooling.
How To Protect Well Water
It’s important to keep the area surrounding your well free from any possible sources of contamination. While states vary in the distance required to create a protective zone, common guidance states:
Avoid using any chemicals within a 100 feet radius of your well.
Consider this your well’s protection zone and don’t use anything inside of it that you wouldn't want to end up in your drinking water. This includes substances like:
- Motor Oil
Extend the protection zone if there is any slope above your well that might lead to run off from a wider area. Also make sure this area is protected from any pollutants that might be coming from nearby roads or surface water.
Gardening and Landscaping
When landscaping near your well, take care when performing activities that could damage your casing, like using a lawn mower. Roots from plants and trees can also potentially damage your well casing.
Wells should be installed a minimum of 50 feet away from your septic tank and at least 100 feet from the septic system’s drainfield, although these suggested distances can vary among states.
A part of good well maintenance also means taking care of any waste systems you have on your property. Pump your septic system at least every 3-5 years to avoid unprocessed water flowing into the drainfield and potentially reaching your groundwater.
New home additions, like waste or chemical storage, should be built in accordance with your well’s protective zone requirements.
Is My Well Performing Normally?
Good maintenance can help sustain the amount of water you are able to pump from a well (also referred to as well yield, flow, or performance).
Well yield tends to decrease over time, especially if it was not initially installed correctly. While decreases in flow are sometimes caused by persistent droughts, more often decreases in well yield over time is related to changes in the well’s water quality.
This can include occurrences like:
- Build up from mineral deposits and microorganisms
- Sediment blocking the well from the aquifer
- Damage from pumping sand and sediment
- Corrosion in the well screen or casing
Various contaminants, both microbial and chemical, can be the cause behind these changes. Regular water testing and inspection can help you identify and successfully treat the culprit.
How Often Should You Perform Well Inspections?
You should give your well an inspection at least once a year, even if you know your well was properly constructed. Over time, cracks and other forms of corrosion can occur that compromise the integrity of your well and the quality of your home’s drinking water.
Your annual water well checkup should include:
- A flow test
- Visual inspection
- Checking valves
- Electrical testing
- Bacteria and nitrate tests
Signs You Need a Well Inspection
You should schedule an inspection after any drastic changes in your well’s water quality or flow.
Other signs that your well may need inspection include:
- Unusually high electricity bill
- Sputtering faucets
- Strange sounds from pipes or pump
- Damaged well cap
If you observe any issues, or if it has been over three years since a professional has inspected your well, contact a contractor licensed to perform well inspections.
- Test your water’s pH, hardness, and total dissolved solids (TDS). These readings can serve indicators of other contaminants in your drinking water to test for.
- Test for volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and synthetic organic chemicals (SOCs), especially any related to nearby land use risks—like trihalomethanes (THMs) and pesticides.
Test for lead.
Test for organic contaminants, inorganic chemicals, and radiological pollutants—like iron, pesticides, and uranium (see the table for more examples). However, test for these pollutants more frequently if there have been noticeable changes to your water quality or nearby land use—like agriculture or drilling—that could lead to runoff in the local groundwater.
It’s also a good practice to test your well water whenever there are major land use changes visible from your property, like gas drilling, agriculture, or industrial activity.
Check your state’s well maintenance requirements to see if additional routine testing is needed.
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