A guide to safe well water maintenance

Thirsty hands taking water from a well.

Thirsty hands taking water from a well.

There are many perks to having your own private water well. Besides the free, unlimited water supply (after setup) and reliability that comes with having your own well, well water is also very healthy for consumption. And thanks to well water not being treated chemically prior to consumption, the taste is also known to be more pure and soft. But being responsible for your own water supply is not something to take lightly; you are after all, responsible for your family’s main source of safe drinking water. Below, a helpful guideline to maintaining a quality water well along with some useful tips to ensure smooth upkeep of your water well:

Keeping well water clean

Groundwater found in a well is generally clean and safe to drink from. Thanks to water wells being nestled comfortably in soil, the surrounding matter acts as a barrier that protects the water from contamination. Sometimes, however, contamination can occur. This can be caused by a number of factors:

  1. Improper installation. A well driller might have insufficiently installed a well casing or cap which can cause contaminated surface water to seep in.
  2. A break or crack in the casing.
  3. A well built in an ill-advised location that lacks a protective layer of soil.
A water well needs to be properly maintained in order to be used for consumption. There are several things you can regularly do to keep your well clean and safe. This includes:
  1. Making sure your well is built in a proper location.
  2. Regularly checking your well cap to ensure it is secure and tight.
  3. Inspecting your well to ensure there are no cracks in the well casing.

General well problems and how to avoid them

Without proper maintenance, a number of problems can arise aside from contamination. Well problems like corrosion, aquifer issues, incrustation buildup and biofouling are all issues one needs to take into consideration when operating an independent water well. Luckily careful observation and operation of your water well can keep all of these issues at bay:

Corrosion

Water well corrosion occurs when chemical substances corrode well casings. When building a well, the builder needs to consider the type of water supply present: generally, plastic liners and stainless steel well screens are your best option for fighting corrosive water.

Aquifer issues

An aquifer is a body of underground rock through which groundwater can easily move and be extracted using a water well. When an aquifer has a low yield or a lack of “recharge,” it could signal a decline in water levels. Water levels fluctuate throughout the year but when more water is being pumped than is available, aquifer depletion can occur. Regular aquifer checks are crucial in order to keep track of your water levels.

Biofouling

Biofouling is when bacteria in the water well form slime called biofilm. This biofilm traps chemicals and minerals. A build up of such biofilm can reduce water flow and severely affect the effectiveness of a water well. Luckily, shock chlorination can be used to keep the well environment free from biofilm buildup. The key is to use shock chlorination as part of your regular maintenance routine. This cleaning method won’t be of any use once the biofilm has formed in the well. Only suitable chemicals and physical removal of biofouling will help effectively remove such clogging material.

Incrustation build-up

Changes in temperature and pressure is common when water is being pumped in the well. This shift, however, can cause mineral formation on the well casing, screens and liner. Reduced pumping rates have been shown to be most effective in reduction incrustation build up.

Speaking of minerals…

It’s not uncommon to find at least one type of mineral growing in or around your well water. Each  type of mineral can mean something very different and can have different repercussions. It’s important to get your well water tested by a licensed contractor every year to ensure safe water consumption.

Calcium and magnesium: Calcium and magnesium are the two most common minerals found in groundwater. These minerals are formed when water comes into contact with a rock like limestone. While not harmful to your health, calcium and magnesium can be detrimental to your well plumbing.

Iron and Manganese: Iron and Manganese are two minerals most often found together in groundwater. These minerals cause the water to look murky and taste like rust. Most groundwater has some small amount of iron and manganese in it. In low doses, these minerals are not harmful for drinking consumption.However, the American Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommends sticking to 8 milligrams of iron daily for men and 18 milligrams of iron daily for women, as too much of iron can and will make you sick.

Sulfur: If it smells like rotten eggs around your water well, you most likely have hydrogen sulfide in your groundwater. Sulfur appears in two forms in your water- sulfide and sulfates. They come from sulfur-containing minerals found in rocks and often seep into groundwater. While not hazardous to your health, sulfur has a tendency to corrode plumbing.

The experts at Well Owner recommend chemicals like hydrogen peroxide and chlorine to dissolve sulfide, and a reverse osmosis system, nano-filtration system or a negative ion-exchanger to effectively reduce further sulfate formation.

Nitrogen: Nitrogen found in groundwater comes from the atmosphere, through plant root transfer. The most common nitrogen compounds are nitrate, nitrite and ammonia. Both nitrate and ammonia can be very hazardous to a human’s health; nitrate especially, for infants under six months old.

Removing the source of contamination is key to ensure clean water but oxidation and reverse osmosis systems are also effective treatment methods.

In conclusion

There are many factors to consider when running your own well. First and foremost, it’s important to hire experienced well drilling contractors to build your well for you. It’s also important to know the basics of water wells. Remember, regular maintenance and check ups go a long way in maintaining a smooth-operating water well system that produces quality drinking water. Don’t skip out on the details when it comes to wells! A little maintenance now goes a long way in keeping your private well running well into the future.