Is your property using well water to supply your house? What are the most common issues with water quality? How can you ensure the well water is drinkable? What is the best water filter for well water? Is there an affordable alternative?
In this article we will attempt to answer all these questions. We will also provide insights to what might be the best and most affordable water filter for your well water at home.
Why use well water for your home?
Well water has a great advantage in that it’s often almost free to pump up from the ground.
In many places on the countryside or in smaller towns well water is the only alternative or the most affordable alternative. Some homes use a mix of well and public tap water whereas others rely completely on well water.
In the pan-European region, approximately 30% of the total population live in rural areas, in which small-scale water supplies predominantly prevail. Source: WHO Eurstats
In Spain for example there are more than 1,000,000 registered and another 1 million illegal wells. Source: El Confidential 2019 and the official registry of wells in Spain.
In the U.S. more than 15 million households use private water wells. Source: CDC
Each well owner is responsible for overseeing the quality of their drinking water in order to prevent disease.
Types of wells
There are three types of private drinking water wells.
- Dug wells - Holes in the ground dug by shovel (or other equipment) and are typically lined with stones, brick, tile, or other material to prevent collapse. Dug wells are typically shallow (approximately 4-10m (10 to 30 feet) deep they have the highest contamination risk.
- Driven wells - Hammered or hydraulically pushed into the ground and pull water from the water-saturated zone. Driven wells are also shallow (approximately 10-15m / 30 to 50 feet deep) and have a moderate-to-high risk of contamination from nearby land activities.
- Drilled wells - Deeper (approximately 30-130 m / 100 to 400 feet deep) and typically have metal or plastic pipe casing which protect the well water from sources of contamination. Drilled wells have a lower risk of contamination.
What are the common issues with well water?
Many deep water wells provide pristine drinking water as most of the ground water comes from rain water that has slowly sipped through the soil. This is nature’s way of filtering water.
But unfortunately this doesn't guarantee safe drinking water.
There are two main types of concerns for well water. Those dealing with aesthetic issues such as taste, color, and odor and those that impose a health risk in terms of safety. Contamination that can pose health risks is often invisible to the naked eye.
- The most common aesthetic issues are high mineral content (hard water), iron and hydrogen sulfide.
- The six most common health risk issues are
- Dead animals or feces whether it’s birds or other wildlife contaminate the soil with bacteria (usually E.coli) that end up in the ground water. Often this is due to poorly maintained wells that leak from the surface rather than the ground water being contaminated.
- Fertilisers or pesticides from agriculture contaminating the soils and eventually the ground water
- Defecation or waste water contaminating the local surface water and soil
- Industrial waste water contaminating local surface water
- Flooding that causes unfiltered surface water to flow into the well
- High mineral content from the soil
Note: There are other less common issues listed by EPA and CDC.
The most reported issue based on our experience is E.coli as this is relatively cheap to test for and the maximum allowed level is 0 per 100 ml.
How can you ensure the well water is safe to drink?
The three methods to ensure the well water is safe to drink include
- Lab testing
- Chlorination / disinfection
Usually safe well water requires a combination of at least 2 of these.
Sending a sample of your well water to a professional lab will tell you the content of the tap water right now and whether it’s safe to drink. Typically it will provide an indication on bacteria / pathogens, nitrate, heavy metals and hardness. You might also be able to get VOCs or pesticides although this is more expensive.
The problem with the lab results is that water quality may change based on season and circumstances. Therefore one positive test result doesn’t mean that the tap water is safe to drink the next month in terms of pathogens. Other parameters are less likely to change.
Chlorination / disinfection
The most common method to reduce the risk of bacteria is shock chlorination of your well. Basically killing all bacteria in the well and then ensure that it's well sealed so that it won't get contaminated. Shock chlorination requires annual lab testing or more frequently if the well might be at risk of contamination.
A more complicated alternative is adding chlorine continously. However, dosing of free chlorine might be difficult to monitor and chlorine may also make the water taste worse.
Water filters for well water are generally the simplest and most secure way to ensure your water is safe to drink. When choosing a water filter you need to ensure that it’s independently tested and certified to remove bacteria and other common contaminants that may threaten your well.
What is the best water filter for your well?
There are 3 types of filters that are appropriate for well water:
Reverse Osmosis (RO)
Reverse osmosis (RO) filters that are installed under the sink. They generally include 3-4 stages including activated carbon, RO and ion exchange that together provide safe drinking water.
- The more expensive systems are very efficient in removing all common contaminants including bacteria and viruses
- Relatively expensive to install and maintain starting at around 300 euro
- Requires ongoing maintenance
- Water wasting with 2-4 liters wasted per liter of water produced
- Remove all the healthy minerals and may cause a flat taste unless minerals are added back in
- Cheaper systems offer a low flowrate and are not be as efficient in filtration
Check out Blue Water for the best RO filters.
UV light combined with other layers
UV (Ultraviolet) light is very efficient in killing bacteria. A UV system is primarily used for removing viruses and bacteria from water. The ultraviolet water disinfection system cannot remove sediment, hardness, iron, lead or chlorine. That's why pre-filters are almost always installed before a UV system. UV light can only eliminate microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria.
- Very efficient in removing bacteria and viruses
- Typically have a lower flow-rate
- UV light is only able to work if water is clear
- UV water systems need electricity to operate
- Does not improve taste or odor of water
By combining UV lights with other filters they can provide an adequate protection for well water.
Gravity filters is really a last resort but provide a good backup in case there’s a major disaster that knocks out the water and electricity infrastructure. A high quality gravity filter that is certified for bacteria removal will let you take rain water or local surface water from a pond or river and filter it for drinking.
- Almost always work independent of local infrastructure and circumstance
- Slow water flow so can only be used for low water use
- Filters need to be replaced every 2-3 months or may become contaminated and unusable.
Ultrafiltration faucet and in-line filters
- Efficient in filtering 100+ contaminants including 99.9% of bacteria
- Affordable starting from about 49 euro
- Easy to install and use
- Minimal maintenance and risk as the cartridges are replaced very 3 months
- Filter is easy to remove and take with you for travel
- Will not remove some contaminants such as arsenic, radium or high concentrations of fluoride or nitrate
So what is the best water filter for well water?
It really depends on the quality of your well water and how much you are willing to spend
For households that want an affordable and simple solution for their well water, a great starting product is Ultra by TAPP Water.
Conclusion about water filters for well water
Well water often provides the only source of water and sometimes a complementary source.
The water should be tested by a professional lab before you drink it even if you use a certified water filter
The most common well water issues include bacteria (E.coli), nitrate and iron
Water filters for well water range from very affordable solutions such as Ultra by TAPP Water to thousand euro RO filters