Wells tapping groundwater resources can provide drinking water of the highest quality. Owning a private household-supply water well allows homeowners to control their own water supply. Ownership also comes with the responsibility of keeping the water well in good working order.
Why Is a Checkup Important?
A properly constructed and maintained household-supply well will provide you with many years of quality service. The National Ground Water Association recommends routine annual maintenance checks to ensure the proper operation of the well and prolong its years of service, as well as monitor the water quality.
Routine inspection of a water well system can help ensure it is operating properly, prolong its useful life, and protect your investment. Most importantly, inspections can protect your health by discovering issues that could result in water quality problems presenting a health risk.
What Does a Checkup Involve?
Wells should be evaluated annually by a licensed or certified water well systems professional.
Your checkup should include:
A flow test to determine system output, along with a check of the water level before and during pumping (if possible), pump motor performance (check amp load, grounding, and line voltage), and pressure tank and pressure switch contact.
An inspection of well equipment to assure that it is sanitary and meets local code requirements.
A test of your water for coliform bacteria and nitrates, and anything else of local concern. Other typical additional tests are those for iron, manganese, water hardness, sulfides, and other water constituents that cause problems with plumbing, staining, water appearance, and odor. Changes in these constituents also may indicate changes in your well or local groundwater. Additional tests may be recommended if water appears cloudy or oily, if bacterial growth is visible on fixtures, or water treatment devices are not working as they should. Check with your water well contractor, state department of natural resources, or local health department for information on local water quality issues.
A concise, clear, written report should be delivered to you following the checkup that explains results and recommendations and includes all laboratory and other test results.
How Do I Arrange for a Checkup?
Contact a local water well contractor and ask if he or she conducts the type of maintenance check described. You can locate NGWA member- or certified-contractors in your area through the Find a Contractor section on this Web site. You can also check your phone book under “Well Drilling and Service.” Check with other well owners or other knowledgeable people for good contractor referrals, and ask the contractor for a list of references.
Things to Look For
In between annual inspections, well owners should look for signs that a professional should be called sooner.
Well owners should regularly examine the area above the ground surface over the well. If any of the following issues are discovered, a water well professional should be contacted to investigate:
Casing (pipe protruding from the ground)—Check the general condition and check if the casing extends at least 12 inches above ground.
Well cap (cap on top of casing)—Check the condition of the cap and any seals, make sure that it is securely attached.
Electrical conduit (if present)—Visually verify that all connections are secure.
In a survey of the area around the well:
Check for potential sources of contamination and physical dangers, and:
Remove chemicals such as paint, fertilizer, pesticides, or motor oil
Maintain at least 50 feet between the well and any kennels, pastures, feeding areas, or livestock operations
Ensure a proper distance is maintained from buildings, waste systems, or chemical storage areas (including fuel tanks)—a water well systems professional should know local codes and requirements
Be sure the ground surrounding the wellhead is sloping away from the well to divert surface runoff
If there is no concrete pad surrounding the well casing, contact your local health department to determine if one should be installed by a water well systems professional
If the well is equipped with a vented well cap, make sure the vent is free of debris and able to keep insects and animals out
Any growth vegetation with root systems within 10 feet of the well should be physically removed
If your well is located in a low-lying area prone to flooding, consider having a water well systems professional raise the casing to at least 12 inches above the historic record flood level—or construct a new well outside the flood-prone area.
The following are other indicators of when a water well systems professional should be called to evaluate the condition of your well:
Anytime the well has to be opened up (cap or well seal removed)
If you experience taste or odor problems
If you experience turbidity—cloudiness of water caused by the presence of suspended matter
If there is a loss of capacity or pressure—the well is not producing as much water as before, the pressure drops and surges, or the pump cycles on and off frequently
If a test is positive for total coliforms, anaerobic bacteria, or any positive test results indicating a potential health concern. Contact a professional or your local or state regulatory agency if you experience any positive test results or believe your well has been contaminated. A water well systems professional should be hired to thoroughly clean and disinfect any well that has had a positive “anaerobic” bacterial test result, which should include removal of pumping equipment and evacuation of the well to its bottom to be sure of maximum removal of anaerobic growth.
Other Steps to Maintain Your Water Well:
Keep hazardous chemicals, such as paint, fertilizer, pesticides, and motor oil far away from your well, and maintain a “clean” zone of at least 50 feet (15.24 meters) between your well and any kennels or livestock operations. Also, always maintain proper separation between your well and buildings, waste systems, or chemical storage areas. Your professional water well contractor is familiar with the applicable local codes.
Periodically check the well cover or well cap on top of the casing (well) to ensure it is in good repair and securely attached. Its seal should keep out insects and rodents.
Keep your well records in a safe place. These include the construction report, and annual water well system maintenance and water testing results.
Get your water tested anytime there is a change in taste, odor or appearance, or anytime the system is serviced.
WellOwner.org is supported by the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP.org) as part of the USEPA-funded program “Improving Water Quality through Training and Technical Assistance to Private Well Owners.”