Water can be collected in a variety of ways and made available to support a thirsty population. But despite the great advances made in the process of bringing water to the masses, many people in all parts of the globe still rely on well water.
But what do you actually know about water taken from wells? Let’s have a closer look at this important point.
What Is Well Water?
Well water is basically water that comes from deep in the ground. A hole must be dug deep enough to reach an aquifer, which is a layer of permeable rock that can hold water. Once this depth has been reached, a pump can be installed to extract water from this layer of water and provide water to the home and residents.
Therefore, well water receives no treatment or testing from government water agencies.
Statistics have shown that 13% of Americans rely on water from wells to support their daily need for freshwater. That is just around 42 Million Americans.
What Are The Types Of Wells?
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) explains that there are three different types of wells in us today. These are categorized by their depth and the way they are created.
The 3 Types of Wells According to the EPA are:
Bored or Dug Wells
Bored or Dug Wells
A bored or a dug well can be created with the most simplistic of tools, even a shovel and bucket. They can also use more advanced machinery to dig or bore a well, like a backhoe. The well is then lined with stones or bricks to keep the well from collapsing.
These wells are not typically made very deep and are usually between 10 and 30 feet down.
A driven well is created by driving a tube deep enough into the ground to be used like a virtual straw. It will be sunk low enough to reach an aquifer and then be connected to a pump that can draw water upwards.
Driven wells are much deeper than dug wells and can drop to 30 or 50 feet deep.
More powerful tools are needed to reach the deepest aquifers that lay many thousands of feet below the ground. To reach these depths, a well must be drilled and this will require the use of a drilling machine. Because of the considerable depth these wells reach they must be reinforced well or they will suffer collapse.
Drilled wells are the deepest of all and can extend for many thousands of feet into the Earth’s crust.
Problems Associated To Well Water
Even though the private wells that people keep on their properties are well-built and protected from impurities, they can still house some unwanted substances and foreign contaminants best avoided. These impurities can cause some issues with the water you use in your home.
Well water can cause staining on some surfaces
Electrical appliances can breakdown faster
Well water can play Host To Contaminants
Have you ever had the unpleasant experience of a heavily stained toilet bowl or bathtub? This is a common occurrence when the water in your home has an especially heavy rust content. This problem can be even more complicated if there is a high mineral content in the water as well as this can produce scaly limestone deposits that also affect pipes, fixtures and appliances.
Appliances Broke Down Faster
Because well water has filtered through many layers of the earth’s crust it has become especially laden with minerals. These minerals, especially calcium and magnesium, mean that hard water will be flowing through your home.
Hard water may not cause a considerable risk to health, but it can certainly stain dishes, fixtures and containers that hold and heat water. Appliances that heat water like coffee makers, steamers and boilers can also be rendered inefficient by large amounts of limescale deposits.
Susceptible To Water-Borne Disease
Well water does not undergo the same type of treatment that is applied to water delivered through the city mains and therefore, it can be breached by a variety of toxins and pathogens that seep into the water supply through the ground soil.
Is It Safe To Drink Well Water?
Safety is always the number one priority when getting your hands on a fresh and clean water supply. But it can be difficult to know for sure just what kind of substances you will find in the average well water supply. There are also natural occurring chemicals that exist in the soil that can pose problems for the health.
Including that, the home can be a thriving hub of activity for a wide variety of microorganisms that can live in the deep waters below the surface of the ground. Remember, there is often a certain measure of protein in ground water and this can provide plenty of nourishment to a variety of minuscule living organisms that can feed other organisms which can make you and your family sick if they are ingested in large amounts over a long period of time.
Furthermore, it is quite possible for the residents of a home to become resistant or even immune to the toxins of their own well water, but a small sip from this sparkling elixir can send an unaccustomed drinker to the hospital.
Many different factors will affect the quality and hazards from drinking well water. The different types of wells dug, the care with which the well is constructed and the location of the well will all play a role in the quality of the water supply.
The only way to be absolutely sure that the water that you are drinking is clean and healthy for all, is to have it tested regularly at a certified laboratory.
Common Well Water Contaminants
There are many different contaminants that can be found in a well. Here are some of the most notable examples that are sure to appear in your well water testing if even in tiny harmless amounts.
The vast majority of wells on private property obtain their water from an aquifer and aquifers are excellent sources of fluoride.
Fluoride is beneficial in small amounts in the water supply, but if it is consumed in large amounts, it can be very harmful. Some of the most common problems associated with too much fluoride in the water supply include skeletal fluorosis, dental fluorosis and discoloration of the teeth.
Heavy metals are another common substance found in well water that can have detrimental results if ingested regularly. Mercury, lead, copper and chromium are all common compounds found in the runoff agricultural, urban and industrial areas and can filter their way into groundwater supplies.
If these heavy metals are consumed in large quantities or for extended periods of time, they can have serious side effects for the body. Organ failure is just one of the unpleasant consequences of heavy metal consumption.
Bacteria are not the only harmful microbes living in your well water supply, there can also be a variety of viral intruders as well as parasites. It is very important that well water is properly treated to eliminate these microorganisms that can affect the health considerably, unless a laboratory testing has ruled out the presence of any such lifeforms.
The worst of these parasitic microorganisms are the ones that affect the digestive system as these can be the most problematic.
Nitrate and Nitrite
You will not have to worry too much about nitrate and nitrite if all the residents of your property are older, but these chemical substances can be especially detrimental to younger children. But infants are especially susceptible to these compounds and they can contribute to a condition called “blue baby syndrome” also known as methemoglobinemia.
Nitrite and nitrate can get into your well water the same way that any other heavy metal does.
Organic chemicals are in use extensively throughout our modern society and when they reach the point that they are entering the body through our drinking water, we know things have gone too far. These are most often found in petroleum products and all their many by-products including disinfectants and pharmaceuticals.
When these organic chemicals reach your water supply, they can cause problems if ingested regularly. Some of the primary problems include liver and kidney issues.
Radionuclides are not as common a problem as most other contaminants, but the effects of radionuclides are extensive and many locations abound with these radioactive compounds. Typically, radionuclides are found in areas where uranium mining or coal mining operations are in place. Radionuclides will seep into the ground water supply and can be especially harmful if ingested. Not only are these damaging to the kidneys, but they can also be carcinogenic.
Well Water Tests
The only way to know how risky your well water really is is by having it properly tested in a laboratory. To make sure your testing delivers the most enlightened results, it is best to have the water tested in a variety of ways.
Here are the tests that need to be conducted:
Basic Water Potability
Basic Water Potability
Probably one of the most important of all these tests that you will need to have done on your well water supply is the one that indicates the levels of substances such as chloride, dissolved solids, fluoride, manganese, sulfate, sodium, pH levels, coliform bacteria, nitrates and water hardness. This test will also indicate the need to run further tests at this time.
Coliform Bacteria — can cause illnesses.
Dissolved Solids – dissolved solids can affect the taste and smell of the water
Fluoride Test — keep an eye on the amounts here. Too much fluoride in the water can be problematic.
Irons Test — if your water begins to taste or smell funny, it could also have something to do with the content of iron.
Nitrate Test — it is essential to run an additional check to see what nitrates may exist in your water supply and in what quantities as these can be problematic to infants.
Sulfate — too much sulfate in your well water supply can lead to digestive conditions.
Other Substances — test for other serious risks such as the presence of arsenic and uranium in your water supply.
How Often Should I Test My Well Water?
Testing your well water supply is an important part of being just cautious enough. Including a profile of what substances exist in your water supply, regular testing can also help you see if the treatment solutions you have in place are actually working or just costing you money.
As a rule of thumb, you should have your water tested at least once a year. But it is an even better idea to have your well water tested with each season.
Well Water Vs. City Water
Now that we have a better understanding of what well water is and what risks it can pose, let’s compare what we have seen with the water most people get from the urban water supply systems. Is one better than the other?
Also referred to as Tap Water, city water is regulated by the government to meet the standards in place by the EPA. Here are some of the most important comparisons.
Drinkability — it has been purported that you can drink from the taps and suffer no health problems. But this is not always true about well water.
Test And Treatment — the government is in charge of maintaining a healthy water supply for the populace. If you choose to drink from a well you will need to handle this task yourself.
Quality Check — the government generally keeps a close eye on the quality of the water provided for the people. But well water testing must also be done regularly if you hope to stay clear of any potential risks.
Well-water is time-honored support to a thirsty population, but it does come with certain risks and responsibilities. Make sure you fully understand the risks involved with drinking water from a well before you rely fully on this water supply.