If you've recently purchased a property with its own onsite well, you're probably looking forward to freedom from rising municipal water costs as well as having access to a plentiful source of good water. However, homeowners who have their own wells on their property need to realize that unlike city water, there is no regulating agency that ensures that their water source is safe to drink, cook with, or bathe in—so it will be up to you to determine whether or not your water is fit for you and your family to use.
Most homeowners with wells have their water tested on a regular basis as well as make themselves highly familiar with best practices concerning keeping their well safe from external influences that could potentially result in contaminated water. For instance, you should never store fertilizers, pesticides, or other yard chemicals uphill from your well, so think carefully about where you place your new garden shed. You should also limit the use of yard and garden products containing chemicals, particularly uphill from your well.
It's also essential that you learn to recognize certain signs that indicate that all might not be right with your well. If any of the following situations occur, you should have your well water tested as soon as possible and get another source of drinking water until you know for sure if your water is safe.
Persistent Intestinal Issues
If you or other household residents are experiencing persistent intestinal issues with no apparent cause, one of the first things you should do is to schedule a test of your well water. You should also boil the water before drinking it or using it to cook or buy bottled water while waiting for test results to be in. Intestinal issues can be caused by a variety of factors. If you live in an area with a lot of agricultural activity, for instance, the intestinal distress may be due to an abundance of chemicals in the drinking water. The presence of livestock such as cattle, sheep, or horses or even large herds of wild animals such as elk or deer may also contribute to poor quality well water.
Keep in mind that if your home is situated in a hilly landscape and there are other homes above yours, you have no control over what runs downhill and possibly into the groundwater that feeds your well.
Unusual and Sudden Changes in Taste or Appearance
If the taste or appearance of your water suddenly changes, that's another sign that it's time to have it tested. Even certain types of metallic chemicals, such as iron and zinc, that occur naturally in the soil can infiltrate your well water and change the way it looks and tastes. If this happens suddenly, it could be an indication that your filtration system is experiencing a malfunction or that the seals have become damaged to the extent that surface runoff water is accessing your well. Also, be on the lookout for unexplained stains on your clothing after running them through your washing machine. High levels of iron in the water, for instance, will produce yellow-to-brownish stains.
Residue Left Behind
Another sign that your well water has overly high levels of minerals is significant residue left behind after washing dishes, cleaning, or even after washing your hair and skin. This is usually due to excesses of calcium, iron, and magnesium. Although drinking this water is not considered to be a health hazard, it can cause serious problems in your appliances and can corrode your plumbing pipes.
An experienced well system contractor can help you determine which water treatment option will best suit your particular situation.
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