Have you ever wondered where does well water come from? How does well water work? If you’re about to move into a home with well water and want to find out more about it, you’re in the right place.
Well water is groundwater water found in the underground in aquifers. Most aquifers consist of sand, sandstone, fractured rock, and gravel. Water moves through the large spaces between these materials and eventually finds its way to the surface, ending up in springs, rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans.
Wells are holes drilled into the ground to access groundwater contained in aquifers. The depth of the well depends on the depth of the aquifer. A pipe and pump pull the water out, while a filter system removes unwanted particulate and purifies the water.
Understanding how well water works, however, takes more than a brief explanation. Let’s have an in-depth look at the matter.
Well Water – A Brief History
With numerous homes across the US using well water, you might believe the system is new. However, water wells have been around for thousands of years.
Some of the oldest wells in the world were discovered in Cyprus and date back to 10,000 years ago. More recent traces, dating to 600 BC, were found in China(1). It is easy to understand that these rudimentary wells looked nothing like those we use nowadays. Yet, they provided reliable sources of potable water to rural and developing areas.
Until the early 19th century, water wells were dug by hand. In 1808, the Ruffner Brothers invented the first mechanical well drill and successfully used it to access water at Great Buffalo Lick, West Virginia.
This invention spread throughout America but was soon outclassed by the auger boring machines that came onto the scene a few decades later. These machines not only allow people to drill faster, but they were also maintaining the water uncontaminated as it came up through steel pipes.
With the advancement of technology and updated drilling methods, water wells have made it possible for many communities to access a source of clean water. Despite the vast networks and supplies of municipal water, water wells are still widespread in suburban and rural areas.
Where Does Well Water Come From?
All well water comes from underground aquifers, which are underground layers of water-bearing permeable rocks.
Water enters aquifers as precipitation seeps through the soil and resurfaces through natural springs and wells. Some of the water in aquifers ends up forming rivers and lakes or makes its way to our seas and oceans.
How Deep Should A Drinking Water Well Be?
The depth of a well depends on the depth of the aquifer. As a general rule, however, your well should be at least 100 feet deep if you want the water that reaches your faucet to be clean enough to drink.
Keep in mind that 100 feet should be the minimum depth. The deeper the well, the cleaner and healthier your water will be.
Deeper water is typically rich in minerals and has fewer chances of being contaminated. You should still use a water filtration system before cooking or drinking it to remove any potential contaminants and impurities.
Types of Well Water Systems
There are three types of well water systems (2) you may have on your property. Whether the water is safe to drink without purifying depends on the type of well you have. Let’s check them out in detail.
These wells are dug in the ground with a shovel and are shallow – approximately 10 to 30 feet deep. They are cased with brick, tiles, stones, or other heavy materials to prevent collapse.
However, because the water is drawn from an aquifer very close to the surface, it can be contaminated. If you want to use water from a dug or bored well for cooking or drinking, you should either boil or purify it with a water purifying system before consumption.
These wells are deeper than dug/bored wells but are still not deep enough to provide clean drinking water.
They have a depth of approximately 30-50 feet and are constructed by driving a pipe into the ground. Water from these wells must be purified before consuming it.
The deepest type of residential wells, drilled wells, are made with percussion or rotary drilling machines. They can reach depths of thousands of feet and require professional casing installation.
Even if they are the most expensive to make, water from these wells is usually clean enough to drink without purifying it. Because the water travels through different soil layers to the aquifer, it is also enriched with healthy minerals and micronutrients.
Water from drilled wells should be tested before consumption to check its contamination level and see if it needs purification.
How Do Wells Work?
A well works by collecting groundwater and moving it through your home’s plumbing. To do this, every well system consists of multiple parts that work together.
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The lowest part of the well is the screen, a filter system that blocks sediment and debris as water passes through it. Once passed through the screen, the water ends up in the well’s casing. The casing is a length of pipe that connects the underground water to your plumbing system.
In modern wells, the casing is fitted with a submersible pump (some older wells may have a ground pump) that pushes water up the casing and into your home’s distribution pipe. The pipe leads to a pressure tank connected to all plumbing in your home. This part ensures adequate water pressure for all faucets and fixtures.
The last part of the well is its head which is the tip of the casing sticking out of the ground. This point of access allows you to sanitize the water in the well with specifically designed products. It is typically covered with a cap that prevents debris and pets or wildlife from finding their way into the well.
Well Water Advantages and Disadvantages
Well water is often seen as a rudimentary thing to have in a home, but the truth is that it comes with more advantages compared to city water. Let’s have a look at its pros and cons.
Well Water Advantages
Fresher, Healthier Water
Well water comes from aquifers buried deep in the ground. It is purer than city water (often collected from the ground or shallow underground sources, such as lakes or rivers).
While it travels through layers of sediment, well water is enriched with healthy minerals, including calcium, magnesium, sodium, and other micronutrients our bodies need.
Minerals naturally found in well water improve its taste and give it better thirst-quenching properties. On the contrary, city water often has a dull taste due to the chemicals used to treat it.
No Water Bills
Getting water from your private well helps you save money on utilities.
Lower Risk of Contamination
In natural disasters, such as floods, city water often gets contaminated. Wells are typically immune to this problem unless the disaster is terrible.
Endless Water Source
Unlike city water that is controlled by a municipality, well water is (almost) endless. In case of drought, most cities limit water supply.
Even if the water level in your well will be dropping during a particularly rough drought, you’ll still be able to use as much water as you please.
Well Water Disadvantages
Well Water is Dependent on Electricity
The pump that brings water from the well to your home uses electricity, and your water supply will be ceased if there is an outage. If you live in an area prone to power blackouts, you should invest in a power generator.
You are Responsible for Your Water Quality
You will have to test the water to make sure it’s free of contaminants and have to take care of any well-maintenance works.
Most Well Water is Hard Water
While the minerals in well water are healthy, they can also cause various troubles. The most frequent is limescale deposits on your plumbing. These deposits can also damage your dishwasher or washing machine.
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Too much of any minerals can also lead to health issues; thus, you should get the water tested and invest in a sound filtration system that can adjust any shortcomings.
Moving to a House with Well Water: Everything You Need to Know
With over 13 million homes using well water in the US, chances of coming across such property when searching for your dream home are high. Here’s what you should know if you’re contemplating the idea of buying a house with well water.
1. You will have to test the water regularly
Well water is essentially rain that moves through various soil layers down to the aquifer. This water isn’t tested nor treated, and it can absorb contaminants along the way. For this reason, you should test the well water regularly or install a water filtering system.
2. Most well water is hard
Besides a water filtering system, you may also have to install a water softener. Some filtering systems can also soften water.
3. Well water can smell and stain
High sulfur and iron concentration in your well water can be responsible for unpleasant smells and stains. Sulfur smells like rotten eggs.
Iron gives water a metallic taste and can also stain your fixtures. These issues are easy to fix but are nuisances nonetheless. That said, well water comes with more advantages compared to city water.
Well Water FAQ
How Many Years Does a Water Well Last?
Wells typically last anywhere from 25 to 100 years, depending on the area you live in. The more precipitation in your area, the longer the well will last. After this time, further drilling could be required.
Does Well Water Run Out?
Well water can run out if the underground water level drops below the water intake depth. This can happen during a drought. However, it is improbable to run out of well water.
Is it Better to Have a Well or City Water?
Well water comes with many advantages of city water, but city water is already tested and takes well maintenance off your shoulders. Ultimately, the choice is yours.
Is Well Water Safer Than Tap Water?
Well water is often healthier and safer than tap water. However, you should always test well water to ensure it is not contaminated or filtered before consumption.
Living with well water comes with many advantages, but it also has responsibilities. Moving into a home with well water isn’t a decision to take lightly.
Consider your lifestyle and whether you have the time to take care of maintenance to figure out which water source works best for you.