Generally speaking, yes, well water is safe to use and consume. However, it can sometimes become contaminated by chemicals, road salts, oil, gasoline, household waste, heavy metals, and microorganisms. The key is to pay closer attention to the safety of your well water by testing it annually.
There are more than 15 million homes with well water in the US but the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 doesn’t include private wells. For the majority of folks, their drinking water is regulated by state and federal governments since they get their water through community pumps and taps. But if you have your own source of water through a private well on your property, only YOU are responsible for ensuring its safety.
So, how to know if your well water is safe to drink? To start with, check out the EPA website to get an idea of what the acceptable levels are for the common contaminants in a well.
Your local health department can also be very helpful in providing information and assistance with testing your well. If your local college has environmental science programs, they can also sometimes help with testing the water quality of your well.
How To Know If Your Well Water Is Safe To Drink?
When your water supply comes from a community or private well, you need to do some research as opposed to a municipal corporation. Start with your state’s guide to private drinking well water; EPA has a comprehensive guide regarding this for every state.
If you find that the link for your state is not working (state government websites are notorious for that), feel free to contact your state government directly to see if they have more detailed or updated information.
If you’re struggling with how to know if your well water is safe to drink, here are some warning signs that something could be wrong with your well water:
- Scale buildup (hard, off-white chalky deposits) in the water.
- Muddied or murky water as it comes out of the faucet.
- Green-colored stains on your faucets and sinks; these indicate acid contaminants like zinc, copper, and iron.
- Red or brown stains on your dishwasher, clothes, and/or sinks indicate extremely high iron deposits in the water.
- A more-than-usual salty taste in the water; it indicates high chloride or sodium content.
- A soapy taste in the water.
- A metallic taste in the water.
- A chemical taste in the water; have you ever accidentally swallowed pool water while swimming? That taste of cleaning chemicals and chlorine is what we are talking about.
- A laundry detergent-like smell; it indicates that your septic tank may have leaked into the well.
- A rotten egg smell in the water; it indicates presence of hydrogen sulfide gas or sulfur bacteria in the well.
- An excessive chlorine smell.
Suppose you notice any of these signs in your well water, and you leave it unaddressed. In that case, it can lead to health complications, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, liver disease, kidney disease, and stomach cramps.
Signs Your Well Water Is Making You Sick
If you haven’t had your well tested in the last 2 years, there is likely bacteria and other dangerous microorganisms in your water well. Drinking it can lead to dangerous fevers, gastrointestinal issues, to name a few.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of drinking infected well water:
- Fatigue and loss of energy
- Fever symptoms
- Flu-like symptoms/severe flu
- Abdominal cramps
Symptoms of contaminated well water are easy to spot in the young and elderly as they don’t have the immunity of a full-grown adult.
Even if there are no children or elderly in your house, continuous consumption of unsafe well water can become deadly over time. So, if you source your drinking water from a well, have it tested by a reputable well water contractor in your area at least once a year.
How To Test Your Well Water?
Testing your well water is actually not as complicated as you probably think. There are two ways you can go about it: either hire a well water contractor who will do the testing for you, or do it yourself.
If you decide to test your drinking water yourself, the first step is to order a DIY home water testing kit. You can easily find them on Amazon or any other online website, and depending on what you want to test for, the cost can range from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars.
There’s another way to do the water testing yourself: contact your local health department and ask them how you can collect a water sample to send in for professional lab testing. Depending on your local and state conditions, you’ll have to determine how extensive the test should be.
For example, if you live in Florida, the recommended guideline is to test for nitrate and bacteria once every year. We recommend having the water tested for pesticides, inorganic compounds, and heavy metals as well, just to be safe. Knowing exactly what’s in your water will help you choose a water filtration system that’s most effective.
Is Well Water Good For You?
If you get your well water tested regularly and have a highly efficient filtration system in place, well water can be extremely good for you.
In fact, well water is cleaner, fresher, and higher in nutrients and minerals since it comes from the aquifer underground instead of surface water. If your well water has a high content of healthy minerals, it will taste better as well.
Plus, well water is typically safe from contamination in case a natural disaster (like flood) ever hits. Floods and earthquakes tend to disrupt a region’s ability to distribute safe drinking water to homes. Wells are usually immune from this issue.
How To Purify Well Water For Drinking?
If your well water has become contaminated, you can use several different options to treat it. Even if the water is not contaminated, but you just want it to taste better, you can have it treated.
So, how to make well water safe for drinking? Here are a few ways to achieve that:
- Water filtration systems; these use a biological, chemical process or a physical barrier to clean the drinking water.
- Under sink water filters; these can be installed under your sink for easy use.
- Counter-top water filters; these are cheap, compact, and low-maintenance.
- Water softeners; these reduce the hardness (amount of minerals) in the water.
- Distillation systems; these boil the impure water, collect the steam, and then condense it in a separate container.
- Disinfection systems; these could either use chemical (like chlorine or ozone) or physical (like UV rays or heat) processes to kill the pathogenic microorganisms in the water.
- Chlorination; using chlorine deactivates the microorganisms in the water, but it’s not very effective if you have ongoing problems with your well water.
Related Questions About Well Water
Is Well Water Safe to Shower in?
Yes, it is completely safe to bath or shower with well water.
Is Well Water Safe to Drink if you Boil it?
Yes, boiling is the surest way to kill bacteria, viruses, and parasites in the well water.
Is Well Water Healthier than Tap Water?
Yes, it is. Purified well water also tastes better since it doesn’t contain any added chemicals like fluoride and chlorine (unlike public water). So, you get all the health benefits of clean water with none of the man-made chemical additives.
Is it Safe to Cook With Well Water?
If you regularly test your well water and have ensured that it is 100% safe to drink, yes, it’s safe to cook.
How to Get Rid of the Bad Smell in my Well Water?
If your well water smells like rotten eggs or something similarly gross, you can take any one of the following measures:
- Use ozone gas in an atmospheric or closed tank; or
- Inject oxygen/air in the water or aerate it (using an aeration system); or
- Inject hydrogen peroxide in the water; or
- Chlorinate it to remove bacteria and sulfur from it
The Bottom Line
If you’re lucky enough to have a well on your property, you can use it to get water that is healthier, cleaner, and tastier than the public water most of us use.
Just get it tested for harmful elements once each year and use a system to treat/purify it. If you have any questions regarding making well water safe for drinking, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.