If you have lived your whole life in apartments or housing serviced by city water, you may be surprised by your new responsibilities when you move into a new home with well water. Because the two systems differ significantly, there are some things you should know.
Well Pumps, Pressure Tanks and Plumbing
When your home is serviced by city water, the municipality takes on the responsibility for storing and delivering your water and maintains the plumbing to your home. But that all changes when you have a private well for your water supply. Not only are you responsible for the well itself, but also you must maintain the well pump, a pressure tank and the plumbing used to deliver the water to all parts of your home.
Health and Safety
City water is tested and treated routinely to ensure that it is safe for all members of your family, but when you use well water, you need to do this yourself. To ensure your drinking water is safe, it should be tested once a year. This involves taking a sample of your water from both the tap and the source (the well) and sending it to a qualified water testing facility. Follow all instructions carefully to avoid contaminating the sample. It may be tempting to assume that if your well water has been tested in the past and the water was determined safe to drink that you don't really need to test it again. However, many things can affect the quality of your water. Chemicals from agricultural areas or manufacturing facilities can leach into the soil and enter the groundwater. Likewise, parasites and bacteria can find their way into your water source. If small critters find their way into your well, the dead and decaying matter can contaminate the water. Be on the safe side and test your water frequently.
Water Treatment Systems
It is not uncommon for well water in certain parts of the country to contain high amounts of minerals, like iron and calcium. This is referred to as hard water. While it is not harmful to humans, it can cause a number of problems in the household, such as:
- Dingy Laundry
- Excessive Scale and Soap Scum in the Bath
- Low Soap Suds from Shampoo or Body Wash
- Unpleasant Taste
Many choose to install a water treatment or water softening system for the entire house. If you choose to do this, you will be responsible for servicing and maintaining the system.
TROUBLESHOOTING A LOSS OF WATER
You may experience a loss of water from time to time. There are a number of reasons this may happen. Knowing the common causes and what to do about them will make your life in your new home easier.
- No Electricity: Unlike city water, well water depends on electricity to run the water pump that transports the water from the well to your home. If the electricity goes out during a storm, you will not have running water. Preparing for this ahead of time by keeping fresh water on hand during the winter when storms are likely to knock out the power will lessen the effects of temporarily losing water.
- Tripped Circuit Breakers: If you do not have water, but the rest of your home has electricity, check the circuit breakers that control your well pump and pressure tank. If the circuit is broken to either of them, you will not have water.
- Dry Well: Although it does not happen often with drilled wells, if you have an older home with a dug well, you may run into issues when the ground water drops too low during periods of drought. This can cause your well to "run dry" and leave you without water. Sometimes, the well will be dry for several hours, but will gradually refill overnight or late in the afternoon. If you suspect you well may be dry, check with neighbors to see if they are having issues, too.
- Failed Well Pump: If none of the other instances apply, you may have a bad well pump that needs to be replaced.
If you experience problems with your well water and aren't sure what the cause is, call a plumber right away. He can assess the issue and correct the problem for you.