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Simple Fixes For Common Well Water Problems

Simple Fixes For Common Well Water ProblemsWhen looking to purchase a home in the country, there are a number of factors that you need to consider — many that urban dwellers need not concern themselves with. One such factor is water supply. You can never be too safe when it comes to water quality for yourself and your family; water is indeed a precious resource.

While a properly producing well can provide some of the best-tasting water you have ever had, a well that is not operating properly can pose a serious health hazard.

Prevention is always best

Like anything, prevention is always best when dealing with a well and septic system. Although prevention will not keep all problems at bay, it is a good place to start. When you are looking to purchase a home, it is of paramount importance to known as much about the land as you can. This includes knowing the condition of the existing well. If building in a very rural location, first drill the well before building the house. If the home is already built, do not make a final purchase until you have the well checked by a professional.

Types of wells

Most wells today are drilled by heavy and very precise, truck-mounted machinery. Dug wells that have been constructed by hand or using power equipment can be found in older homes but are not often constructed this way since there are more sophisticated methods available.

Common well problems

Here are just a few things that can go wrong with a well. Homeowners are wise to educate themselves before a problem happens so that they can make a quick diagnosis and initiate the necessary repairs to reestablish a safe water supply.

Loss of water

Drilled wells don’t usually go dry. Most often what happens is that the pump is not set very deep and when water levels drop, the pump begins pumping air. Sometimes, the pump can’t do its job if the pump intake is clogged with debris. The only way to solve this problem is to shut the pump down, remove clog if needed and let the well recover.

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Dug wells are generally as deep as drilled wells, and can also be poorly constructed. This makes them easily influenced by seasonal drops in the water levels or drought. To avoid this problem, it is best that dug wells be constructed by a professional during times when water levels are low so that they are deep enough to continue to produce water all season long. If you have a dug well that goes dry, the best solution is to drill a new well that is deeper and penetrates below the bedrock surface.

If homes are constructed close together and all have wells, the water level can be lowered simply by use. In addition, when domestic wells are constructed close to larger wells used for industrial, municipal or agricultural purposes, it can also put a strain on the water table. It pays to be cautious of this if you plan to buy or build in such an area.

Water quality

Some issues with water quality are the result of human interaction while others occur naturally.

  • Hard water: Hard water contains dissolved magnesium and calcium ions. When you wash clothes in hard water, they often feel hard and scratchy and dishes may be spotty when dry. Hard water can eventually clog drains and damage water pipes. There are a number of ways that you can soften hard water, the best being the installation of a home water softening system or a magnetic water conditioning system.
  • Contamination by salt: During the winter months, many roads are coated in salt or a salt and sand mixture. Salt easily dissolves in water and makes its way into streams and lakes and eventually into ground water. In addition, large piles of salt that are not covered run off and contaminate aquifers and wells. If your well becomes contaminated with salt, the best solution is to install a new well uphill and away from drainage.
  • Methane gas: Flammable gas inside a well, well pump enclosure and even a basement is a serious hazard to well owners. Although in some cases, gas dissipates after a well is installed, other places battle a constant supply of methane. Because it is flammable and odorless, a vent is necessary to prevent an explosion. It is also advised never to build a home over a well.
  • Oil: Spilled oil fuel can contaminate wells. Many rural homes have fuel tanks underground or close to the home, making leaks a risk. Homeowners who experience an oil leak may be able to slow their pumping speed, which reduces the drawdown. Oil will float on top of water, above intake area. However, by far the safest thing to do in the case of an oil leak is to drill a new well.
  • Bacteria: Bacteria contamination from septic tanks is a very common rural well problem and can be quite dangerous. In addition, if rural homeowners dispose of other waste products, including toxic materials into their septic system, these chemicals can accumulate in the aquifer. Deep wells are less likely to draw septic waste.
  • Fertilizers and pesticides: Recently, there has been an increase in the number of large pieces of once agricultural land being sold for residential purposes. Homes are built on land where chemicals were once used or close to a location where they are presently used, and are a threat to water quality. No one knows for sure how long these chemicals remain dangerous, how long they take to seep into the soil or water, or how long they take to decompose.
  • Animal Waste: If your well is downhill from a barnyard or place where animals are kept, animal waste runoff poses a serious threat to your water quality. Many older farmsteads placed the water supply uphill from animal pens. However, there are many cases today where water supplies are not carefully placed, resulting in contaminated wells. To remedy the situation, animal waste can be redirected or a new well should be dug.

Testing water

Many banks and lenders require buyers to have a well check which shows that the water is safe prior to obtaining a mortgage. Oftentimes, if bacteria is found, the water is chlorinated.

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Although this will solve the problem in the short term, if the source of the bacteria or contamination is not addressed, the problem will return. This means that a well that is bacteria-free shortly after treatment may not remain so in the long run. A better solution is to chlorinate water that is pumped from the well. If this is not done, a new and deeper water source should be obtained.

Know what the land was previously used for

It is very important to know what the land that your home or prospective home may sit on was used for in the past. Many home sites were once commercial and industrial dump sites. There is also a risk in building on or buying a home that sits on land previously used for orchards or other crops. Chemicals can remain in the soil and shallow ground water for a very long time.

Before purchasing a home in a rural area, it is very important to know the quality of the well, the well water and the waste-disposal system. Be sure that you see a copy of the well record that describes the type of material that the well digger encountered as well as information about the yield.

Many problems with wells are related to older wells and septic systems and also with dense housing developments. Drilled or deep wells are generally safer than shallow water sources. Be sure that the company that you have dig your well is knowledgeable of the area and can place the well in the best location on your land.

Being educated, informed and observant can save a whole lot of time and money when it comes to owning a well.

What tips or questions about wells do you have? Share them in the section below:

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  1. The wells in our area have a lot of rust but recently I have developed much more then the filters can handle. When they replaced the pipe several years ago they used galvanized although I asked them to use something else. Could this be the cause of my increased rust
    Thank you

  2. I have a community well the serves eight mobile home. It has one main electric pump house the goes down when the power goes out. Can I drive a water pipe down into the underground well to pump my own water by hand for emergency’s?

    • I am not a well expert although I own one. I suspect that you probably cannot do exactly what you described, but here is a work-around – is a fantastic store in the Amish country of Ohio which sells a 1.9 gallon rope operated bucket that goes down the well pipe for about $70. You may have to remove the submersible pump to use it, but if the power is out and you need water, you are only limited by the amount of rope you have as to the depth you can use it at. They have a bunch of other well parts and gismos also.

    • Here is another option for you James. The Emergency Well Tube is designed for use without having to remove the pump or any of the mechanical components from the well casing. When filled the Emergency Well Tube weighs less than eight pounds so any family member can assist in water gathering. Here is the website if interested

      • You could also buy a water storage tank with a check valve on the inlet and put it on your property. When your lights go out you would know the pump is down and you need to start to conserve water, but you would have water after others used up the main supply. This would be good for short term power outages. The bigger the tank the longer you could last. I have 3 tanks, around 600 gallons. I had water after 8 days when my pump went down.

  3. You mention nasty chlorine to clean up bacteria but did not mention UV light treatment which is just as effective. U.V. light will kill or sterilize (and thus render unable to reproduce) any bacteria/cysts in the water. Do an internet search for Sterilite is one example brand name. In my case, we have a 5 gpm well pump (gpm = gallons per minute) so I selected the Sterilite model that is rated for 8 gpm for a little overkill. The unit is simply a stainless steel tube with standard 3/4″ inlet and 3/4″ outlet, and an externally accessible iclear crystal tube which holds a long U.V. tube light. (You can change the tube light out without turing off the water) This is the same U.V. light frequency used in hospitals to sterilize things, and is also used in special enclosures for new born babies with yellow jaundice. You’ve probably seen the little new born babies in the hospital, lying under the U.V. lights with their eyes carefully covered to protect them.

    Anyway, if the only problem is bacteriological, run the incoming water through a sediment whole house filter to catch the worst of the sediment and make the following filter last longer, followed by a whole house 5 micron rated charcoal filter (5 micron is recommended by Sterilite to ensure thorough sterilization) and then through the stainless steel Sterilite U.V. sterilizer, and that is that. The water is sterile enough for showering and washing clothes and whatnot. I still buy and drink bottled spring water but that is a choice. In an emergency a 240V generator to run the well pump and power the 110v UV light will mean filtered drinkable water – not to mention being able to flush the toilets. Our power goes out from time to time so we have developed ways to get by as needed. 🙂

  4. The well on my property is a silver well. Not really sure what to do with it.

  5. Sulfur not silver

  6. This aritcle didn’t help at all.It said common problems with well water and then says to buy a dam conditioner.Well, being on the 4th! Conditioner that costs 3000.00 a pop that lasts only 6 months and stops working correctly,I will tell you this article is lame.
    And being in Florida at the mercy of EVERY GREEDY RIP OFF water conditioner company,I will say I will deal with calcium on my dishes. I just use vinegar in the dishwasher.

    Our clothes seem fine,never had a problem.
    What our problem is is that everything the water touches (Appliances) they just rust out. Like our bathtub has a baseball size hole in it. and the sinks are rusting.

    I thought there would be a better answer to what to do with well water without spending yet another 3k on a conditioner.

    • you should be able to get a water softener much less than what you are paying for a “conditioner” what exactly is a conditioner? is that a softener? try ordering online I’m sure they are ripping you off!!

  7. Thank you for bringing these issues to light. Now I know what to look for for my wells.

  8. I have a drilled well ,I have plenty of water but when I use a lot of water it starts to get really dirty.. Fine silt like , I tried raising the pump but still have the problem . Any suggestions??

  9. I didn’t know that about drying wells. So if it starts to go dry, dig deeper? My well is starting to have it’s water levels drop, I will have to try this.

  10. My brother and sister-in-law just moved to Idaho. Their house is built on an aquifer and well. Do these tips apply to the well that my brother is using? I would hate for him to have some of the problems that you are mentioning.

  11. I recently moved into a new home, and there is a well in the backyard. I’ve never had a well before, so it is all new to me. I appreciate you going over the best maintenance routines and variation between wells, it’s really helpful to me! I agree that prevention is the ideal result of any maintenance routine. Thank you for such an informative article about wells!

  12. I appreciate the section on water testing, because this can get kind of tricky. As mentioned, just because contaminants don’t show up in the first round of testing, it doesn’t mean they won’t come back. It is best to find the root problem of the contamination before moving forward. Thanks for the great information!

  13. Veronica Teller

    Thanks for sharing your ideas about fixing your well. It is frightening to think that your home could have been build on a site that as previously used for dumping garbage or could be steeped in chemicals from agricultural use. I hadn’t thought of this. It will definitely be something to think about when I am buying a home.

  14. Do you think a water softener or a reverse osmosis system can remmve salt in water with salt contamination?

  15. I am new to having a well in my backyard. I didn’t realize that I could be losing water because of the placement of the pump. I love being able to get my own water every day. I will have to try your advice and remove my pump to see if the water level rises.

  16. what causes cloudy water and it clears up in seconds?

    • Don’t know, but I would like to find out as we are having the same problem, It is milky and then bubbles and clears up, if you find anything on this maybe you can share. Thank you

  17. I didn’t know that methane gas could be in wells. I guess it makes sense since wells go pretty deep in the ground. I always thought wells were always clean water since it comes from the ground, but I guess I can see how things can happen. Thanks for the info!

  18. Thanks for the article! I thought it was interesting that drilled wells don’t usually run dry and if your well stops producing water it could be that your pump is not far enough into the ground. Another problem that can arise is that the pump could be clogged and that can cause more issues if not fixed quickly. Drug wells in comparison to drilled wells can occasionally be poorly constructed and that could be why your well isn’t working for you. I really appreciate what you suggested, I will definitely be using these tips in the future.

  19. My well recently went dry due to irrigation systems around me. I had it drilled deeper and am concerned about the water coming out of well. The water looks very yellow-orangy which I’d attribute to the dirt coming up in the pipes. I will continue to bring in bottled water for cooking, but do I need to be concerned about any lead in the water while rinsing my dishes…the residue?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  20. We have a drinking well as of late we have been getting sand in the filters in the sink faucets. What can we do?

  21. I agree with your tip on how prevention is always the best when dealing with a septic system. I would imagine that looking into the condition of a well would be an important part of purchasing a home. My husband and I are looking for a new home so maybe we should find someone to come out and inspect the well before we buy.

  22. hat does it meaan o put a new point in your dug well? thaanx enes

  23. I didn’t realize that drilled wells don’t usually go dry, but your comments about the pump being clogged or being set too high make a lot of sense. I imagine that working with a professional to install and maintain the pump would be a good way to evade problems with loss of water from the well. Even if the system was initially placed too high, I’m sure a professional could lower it for you, or replace it with a higher-quality version.

  24. I like that you point out to have a professional check the water of the well at the house you are thinking of buying. I can see why this would help you get a better idea of what you are paying for. It seems like it would be a good idea to talk with the owner of the land about the well. I think that having a record of the past history could be helpful.

  25. I agree that when it comes to wells it is important to have a professional check it out before you buy. I can see how this would help you find out is the water in the well would be useful or if it’s too harmful to people and would take a lot of money to properly filtrate it. I would want to make sure I hire someone with the proper expertise and tools to help me get the best buy I can. Thank you fro sharing.

  26. You made a smart point that it’s important to try to prevent any problems in your well. I agree, and I think that you can do this by choosing a good water well pump installation company. I bet that they will be able to prevent problems the best.

  27. How can I check the water supply pipe for blockage or breakage between my house and the dug well?

  28. Clayton E Crowley

    How can I reduce or remove fecal matter in my well? Please help.

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