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Things You Should Know About Wells
By Mike Holmes
Thursday, February 18th, 2021 @ 2:40pm
If you’re like me and live in a rural area chances are you are on a private well system, meaning, you are not connected to your local water system. It also means you are responsible for the health and safety of the well. Well water is groundwater that is untreated and comes from the aquifer, which is an underground layer of permeable rock containing water. This water is then pumped up from the ground and into your home. Depending on where you live most well water tends to be “hard”.
What does hard water mean?
When your water is “hard” it contains a high concentration of mineral deposits, mostly calcium and magnesium. Over time these deposits can accumulate, clog, or even corrode pipes, plumbing, and cause major plumbing problems.
Hard water deposits can build up in boilers and water heaters, making them less efficient and more expensive to use. Hard water deposits can also build-up in your plumbing fixtures, like faucets and showerheads too – it’s that white scaly substance.
I have hard water at home, and I had to replace my water heater due to excessive scale build-up – so this is something that you want to pay attention to.
Well water can also have a sulfur smell – like rotten eggs and a funny taste. It can also cause stains. Have you ever seen orange rust coloured streaks in a toilet bowl? That’s from the high iron content in the water.
Hard water also tends to leave a slimy film on your hand (and body) after using soap. Have you ever had a shower and feel you couldn’t get all the shampoo out? That usually means “hard” water. It also is not ideal for washing your clothes.
One solution to having hard water is to install a water softener. A water softener is an ion-exchange filtration system that removes high levels of calcium and magnesium from the “hard” water. By removing the minerals the water becomes soft. However, softened water tends to have a salty taste and is not ideal for drinking or cooking.
If you want good-tasting water for drinking and cooking and you’re using a water softener, you’ll need to invest in some sort of (R.O) reverse osmosis system as well. A reverse osmosis system reduces trace elements, heavy metals, and bacteria. Reverse Osmosis systems are available in whole-home or under-sink models. Make sure you get a model that meets your demand and remember maintenance is required with regular filter replacements.
Almost all water treatment systems are self-cleaning and must have a specific minimum flow rate. It’s important to choose a water treatment system that works with your well pump. These two systems must be properly aligned for optimal performance.
The flow refers to the amount of water coming from the well and the flow rate measures the gallons per minute being dispersed. The average home needs 100 to 120 gallons per person per day and a flow rate of about 6 to 12 gallons per minute. Most wells in Ontario must have a minimum of 3 GPM but average between 5-6 GPM. This amount should be sufficient to meet the needs of an average family.
You’ll need to figure out what the water pressure from the well pump is, before picking a water treatment system. If you don’t the result will be reduced water pressure in the home.
Because the water comes from deep underground, well water can become contaminated. Naturally, occurring contaminants can include uranium, arsenic, and radon, which dissolve into the groundwater as it moves through soil and rock. Well water can also be contaminated by agricultural runoff. Your well water can also contain high levels of radon gas!
Did You Know You Can Have Radon in Your Well Water?
When radon gas dissolves into well water, every time you shower, wash clothes, or even run the tap, you’re releasing this gas into your home. Even drinking radon-contaminated water could lead to higher instances of stomach cancer. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in Canada for non-smokers and everyone should be aware of the potential harm from this deadly gas.
To protect yourself from radon entering your home through your well water, I suggest you install some sort of aeration system, like the technology found in the Airwell.
The Airwell injects air into the water source through an aeration pipe resulting in improved water quality. With a pressurized air pump at the base of the well, contaminated water is lifted to the surface. The system is automatic, maintenance-free with minimal operating cost and there are no chemicals used. Airwell releases excess iron, manganese, hydrogen sulfide, methane, carbon dioxide, and radon into the air.
Generally, the best way to ensure your water sample is able to be tested properly, you should take your sample on a Monday and overnight it to the lab so it arrives on Tuesday for prompt testing.
Monitoring Your Well Water
It’s important to get your well water tested every two years or more, especially if you notice any changes, particularly in taste, smell, colour, or if the surrounding land has been altered, such as a major construction project, near your well. It’s the law in Ontario to keep a log or record of the well’s history. This will be an asset when you decide to sell your home but also good practice in the maintenance of your well.
A log will identify how big the well is, what has been done to the well in the past, when it was tested, how much the well holds, and the flow rate – all important information to have on hand. Water testing includes PH, hardness, alkalinity, and turbidity (cloudiness). Standard mineral testing will often include things like iron, calcium, manganese, copper, fluoride, chloride, and others. However, bacteria and nitrate testing should be checked annually in rural areas.
Also check for VOCs. The most common VOCs come from gasoline, benzene, and other solvents. Make sure the samples are tested through an accredited laboratory in your region.
What happens if you require a new well?
A properly maintained private well should last 30-50 years but what happens if you need a new well? You basically have two options: to drill a new well or you can increase the yield of your existing well by a method called hydrofracturing or hydrofracking.
Generally, the golden rule about wells is, the deeper the well, the better the water quality. According to code, a new well must be at least 6 metres deep (20 feet) but if the only useful source of groundwater is less than 6 metres below ground surface, the well must be at least 3 metres deep.
Hydrofracturing involves injecting water at high pressure into the well and the rock formations surrounding it. The point of hydrofracturing is to widen or extend the blocked network of fractures in the bedrock creating a larger area of water supply to the well. This method of well stimulation is a cost-effective way of increasing the yield of an existing well or an older well with low water levels.
If you have a well then you have a septic system. A septic system processes the waste produced by the home. Nothing lasts forever but certain parts, like a pump or well pressure tank, may need replacing. The well and the septic system should be at least 100 feet apart. Also, tanks should be inspected regularly and pumped every 3-5 years as required.