Routine water well inspection and maintenance can help ensure your well is operating properly, prolong the useful life of the well system, protect your investment—and, most importantly, protect your water quality and your health.
Catching and addressing maintenance problems early can often avoid costlier and inconvenient service interruptions. This is like performing routine maintenance on a car. If you have the oil changed at specified intervals, it protects the engine and extends its longevity.
This is the water you drink, so it’s in your best interest to take care of the well system that provides it.
If you work with a water well system professional who you trust, talk with him about getting a water well system inspection if you have not had one. If you don’t have an established relationship with a professional, contact several and talk with them about an inspection and what’s involved.
A thorough inspection includes both a visual inspection of the well system components above the ground and a physical inspection of the well system components below ground. A competent water well system professional has the knowledge and skills to evaluate a well system, provide a written report, and recommend any actions that might be warranted.
To learn more about what a professional well inspection involves, view this best suggested practices document for professionals from the National Ground Water Association.
It depends on the professional and the thoroughness of the inspection. The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) has developed a best suggested practice document on well inspections that can be downloaded for free. You can ask a professional to give you an estimate of the cost of an inspection based on what NGWA recommends.
There is no standardized water well maintenance schedule. Well systems can vary significantly in their construction and in the type and quality of components. Furthermore, local weather and geologic conditions vary and have differing effects on the well system.
However, there are best practices for staying on top of your well system’s maintenance. These best practices fall into the categories of:
- Knowing key information integral to maintenance of your well system
- Visually checking the wellhead and its environs
- Visually checking other above-ground well system components and equipment
- Knowing when to call a water well system professional
- Recognizing and minimizing groundwater contamination threats.
Here is an abbreviated look at water well maintenance practices.
Knowing key information about your well
Two key types of information well owners should possess are (1) a log of the well’s construction, including the well materials and components, and (2) maintenance and warranty information on well system components, including water treatment equipment. This information can provide important guidance for proactive or reactive well maintenance.
If you are getting a new well, ask the water well system contractor for any warranties or maintenance information on individual well components such as the well pump and pressure tank—but also any water treatment equipment.
Visual inspection by the well owner
Well owners lack the knowledge and experience to diagnose most well maintenance problems. However, they can through observation see evidence of possible maintenance problems that should be checked by a professional.
Here are some of the things well owners should look at routinely:
At the wellhead
- The casing—This is the pipe in the borehole that extends vertically out of the well. Check its general condition and whether it extends at least 12 inches above the ground.
- The well cap—Check to see whether it’s secure, the seals are in good condition, and that it is not loose, cracked, or otherwise broken.
- The electrical conduit—Visually verify that all connections are secure.
Well system components
- Visually inspect—Any above-ground pumping equipment for proper cooling and venting of motors, shaft seal leaks, rust, or weakened fittings. Wiring and parts such as pipes, connections, joint seals, gauges, pressure relief valves, and the water meter (if present).
- Note the condition and accessibility of above- and below-ground storage tanks.
- Visually examine the electrical control box and connections.
- Follow manufacturer directions for water treatment system maintenance and water testing.
Evaluation by a water well system professional
Consult a water well system professional:
- Anytime the well needs to be opened
- If you experience water taste, odor, or appearance problems
- If there is a loss of capacity or pressure
- Whenever a water test reveals a health risk
- When you find a possible problem with the wellhead and the area around it, or anything related to the well system
- If you want a well system cleaning or disinfection.
Here are some general considerations for protecting your groundwater supply:
- Check for potential sources of contamination, flooding, or physical dangers
- Look for any weeds, trees, shrubs, or grasses with root systems within 10 feet of the well, as these should be removed
- Do not mix any chemicals or potential contaminants near your well and do not spill such substances on the ground, since they could infiltrate your groundwater supply
- Prevent back-siphoning by keeping hoses out of mixing tanks and having back-flow preventers installed at spigots and yard hydrants
- Do not pile snow, leaves, and other materials around the well.
First, for advice contact the manufacturer or your water well system contractor, if you have one. Sometimes the pressure setting in the tank can be too low, or the tank may be waterlogged, meaning it has too much water in it to function correctly.
Often it is less inconvenient and costly to let a water well system professional fix it than to try to do it yourself.
There could be multiple explanations, but two common causes for frequent pump cycling are a malfunctioning water pressure tank or a faulty pump pressure switch.
The best way to get an accurate diagnosis and remedy is to contact a water well system professional or the equipment manufacturer. This could save you time and money in the long run.
Anytime there is a change in your water’s taste, odor, or appearance—or a noticeable decrease of water flow into your well—this could indicate that your well needs some maintenance.
For example, changes in water quality could indicate that the well needs to be cleaned or that surface water is infiltrating the well through a breach in the well system. A decrease of water flow into the well could indicate clogged well screens or encrustation of water bearing formations around the well. Well maintenance often can restore water quality and the well’s productivity to previous conditions.
First, check the owner’s manual or product information for recommended maintenance. If you do not have that information, contact the manufacturer or go online to see if you can find the maintenance information for your product’s make and model.
You also can get a water test to see if the treatment system is working.
Neglecting water treatment system maintenance can potentially create a worse problem if the system gets overloaded.
No. “Shock chlorination” is a term loosely applied to using a relatively high concentration of chlorine to disinfect a water well system.
Disinfection is an important procedure to perform anytime a water well is opened, serviced, or if a water test result indicates the presence of bacteria. When bacteria are detected, it should first be determined whether there is a breach in the well system allowing surface water or bacteria-laded water to enter the well. If there is a breach in the well system, the first concern would be to repair it and then disinfect the well system.
The National Ground Water Association recommends that well owners use a water well system professional whenever possible to disinfect their well systems. Disinfection involves many steps and could easily be done incorrectly by inexperienced or untrained well owners.
It depends on the condition of the well. A water well system professional should evaluate the well system to determine whether it can be repaired and put back into use.
If, however, it is determined that a well cannot be fixed, it should be properly decommissioned or “plugged” to protect the groundwater. An abandoned well can provide a direct pathway for contamination from the surface into the groundwater—potentially the same groundwater supply you are using for your functioning water well.
Well owners should search their property for abandoned wells. If one is found, contact a water well system professional to properly plug it. Attempting to plug a well yourself is likely illegal since there are usually state or local well decommissioning regulations.