7 Ways to Keep Well Water Safe for Drinking

When a water well is correctly drilled and maintained, it can provide some of the cleanest, best quality domestic drinking water available.

The natural bedrock filtering that produces groundwater in wells creates pure mineral water that regularly beats city water for taste and contamination levels.

However, as anyone who’s owned a domestic well knows, there’s also a flip side of the coin: using a private water supply means extra work, increased responsibility for water safety, and dealing with environmental factors that may be beyond your control.

The good news is that caring for well water (and keeping it safe for your family) gets much easier when you’re proactive about understanding your water risks, using the appropriate well water filtration system, and being on top of the regular maintenance.

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Here are 7 tips to help you make your well water safe for drinking for many years into the future.

1. Read up on your well's history

When you come into possession of a property that contains a well, you should expect to be supplied with well-maintained records of the well's history.

The exact details of what information you might receive about a well can differ according to state legal requirements. But in general, you should get a copy of the well log, which details the dates and nature of past issues, maintenance, and construction.

You may also get documents about the water table and/or watershed surrounding your property. This includes how many other wells draw from your aquifer, and any potential risks to water quality in the area (factories, industrial activity, flood plains).

Of course, not every handover of well owners is done according to best practices. It may take a few fact-finding missions to gather all the required information on your new well.

But the more useful information you can gather, the more prepared you'll be to make maintenance decisions. You'll also have a better idea about well-maintenance costs, schedules, and what contamination threats to give your attention to.

2. Shock chlorinate your well on an appropriate schedule

Every well can become contaminated with bacteria, whether it's from flooding, storm runoff, septic tank failures, or well integrity issues (see #3). Even the deepest and most rural wells aren't immune to microorganisms.

To solve one-off contamination events and keep a well environment inhospitable to bacteria, wells should be shock-chlorinated. This process involves circulating high amounts of chlorine throughout the well and home plumbing system to kill any microorganisms harbored there.

When performed correctly, shock chlorination should last for anywhere between several months and two years. However, the appropriate schedule for chlorinating a well depends upon many features, such as well age, depth, and the number of potential contamination channels in the local area.

3. Focus your attention on the well pump, lid, and seals

Wells are outside components that get exposed to everything the great outdoors has to offer. That includes freezing temperatures, extreme heat, high rainfall, or long droughts.

As your well ages, this kind of wear and tear can affect its integrity—particularly the well lid and sealants between the well shaft and pipes. Cracks, small holes, or loose fittings are all places where contamination can occur. Keep a regular maintenance schedule to protect the most vulnerable parts of the system.

The well pump is another area where wear and tear can occur. Check the pump and screen periodically for clogging or corrosion, especially if you notice a gradual drop in water flow rate.

4. Check your plumbing after extreme cold and heat

For many people, summers and winters are bring more extreme weather conditions, be it record high temperatures or prolonged cold snaps. Some areas of the country are also experiencing wide swings in temperatures as the season changes.

these more significant temperature events can put pressure on your system, especially joints and valves, and anything made from plastic.

It's good practice to perform a brief survey of your well system are a big freeze or heat spike. Look for frozen pipes, cracked plastic, or warped rubber.

5. Don't use industrial or organic chemicals near your well

One of the advantages of well water is those years of natural filtration, which help to purify water of the many dissolved chemicals that can be found in your average glass of municipal tap water.

Even when drinking water complies with all EPA safe water standards, it can still contain small amounts of pesticides, fertilizers, disinfectants, and industrial solvents.

So, don't lose that benefit by using chemicals in your garden or tool shed that might find their way down into your well supply.

6. Test your well water after local contamination events

Whenever an official local body announces a boil water advisory, read the announcement carefully and decide whether a contamination pathway could exist between the incident and your well. It's also a good idea to test your well water every year.

Drinking water testing kits can be bought online or from hardware stores. Many will allow you to test for specific types of contamination, such as coliform bacteria or lead.

7. Replace any filtration cartridges and screens according to manufacturer advice

Finally, a tip that doesn't relate directly to your well, but one which can make a big difference to the quality and safety of your well water: look after your water filter stages.

Running a filtration system with old tanks, clogged screens, or expired cartridges will likely result in a number of issues. These include inconsistent water pressure and flow rate, as well as bad tastes or odors in your well water.

More worryingly, expired filters leave you unprotected from those contaminants that the system was originally installed to combat. Be sure to replace filter cartridges according to instructions and have any more complex components—like UV bulbs or injection tanks—serviced on an annual basis.