If you’re one of the many people across the country who get their daily supply of water from the ground, you’re keeping alive a tradition that has been going on for thousands of years. Although many of today’s wells in the USA use modern equipment, many others are not too far away from the wells of long ago. That includes their benefits as well as their risks, which is why it’s good to know as much as possible about where you get your water from, and how you can fix it if there’s a problem with it that can compromise its quality or safety.
Groundwater is water that is taken, obviously, from somewhere underground. According to the US Geological Survey, “more than 50 percent of the people in the United States, including almost everyone who lives in rural areas, use ground water for drinking and other household uses. Groundwater is also used in some way by about 75 percent of cities and by many factories.” Well water, as a subset of groundwater, is commonly used by people who live in rural areas that make connection to the nearest local water utility impractical or impossible.
Groundwater is generated as part of the water cycle. When the surface of the Earth receives precipitation, gravity pushes it down through the soil, which traps some of it to supply plants and animals. Then the water that is left continues deeper down until it hits a mass of rock that it cannot pass through. The highest point underground where water collects is called the “water table,” and any well needs to drill below the water table in order to bring water up for use.
Now you think that once you’ve drilled deep enough to reach the water table, that all your problems are solved, but you have to consider a very special property of water: its ability to dissolve nearly anything. That’s why water’s often called the “universal solvent.” Unfortunately, this means that water will pick up any unsafe or undesirable substances on its way to your faucet.
Common well water contaminants, according the the USGS, include: nitrates, which can come from fertilizer and human/animal waste contamination and can severely affect infants and children in particular; arsenic, which occurs naturally in the Earth, but is also released by industry in significant quantities; and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which include contaminants from gasoline, dry cleaning chemicals, and perchlorate from rocket fuel. Another common source of well contamination is fecal/coliform bacteria, which can reach groundwater when facilities that carry or treat human waste leak or are not properly separated from local groundwater sources. Among the most common causes of illness in well water are: Hepatitis A, Giardia, Campylobacter, E.Coli, Shigella, Cryptosporidium, and Salmonella. These can can lead to severe illness and even death in those affected, if not eliminated from well water.
Aside from toxic contaminants in your water, there are substances present in well water that won’t harm you physically, but can end up hurting your wallet. Water hardness, which is commonly present as dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium, can collect on any surface and in any appliance your water touches. This can mean anything from spotty dishes and bathroom fixtures, to damage to water heaters, plumbing, and washing machines. Some wells contain high levels of iron which can turn the water red and can impart a rusty taste to the water. And high levels of sulphur can turn water yellow and lend water an unpleasant “rotten egg” odor.
So how do you find out if any of these things are in your well water, and what do you use to remove them? The first step is the most important: get your well water tested regularly by a qualified testing house. A full-spectrum water test will give you detailed information on the presence of all the above contaminants, and whether they are present at levels that put you at risk. Rayne of the Valley is able to recommend several reputable testing houses to ensure that you’re able to see exactly what’s in your water.
It’s not uncommon for a well water test to detect the presence of at least one contaminant in your water that needs to be addressed, whether it’s compromising its drinkability, or posing a risk to your plumbing or appliances, or simply making the water taste or smell bad. There are a variety of options to improve water quality, from sediment filters to remove large particles, carbon filters to provide good protection from non-organic substances, to reverse osmosis purifiers, which can lower the risk of viral and bacterial contamination. So, take the first step and get your water tested. It will be the first step in making your well water the best water you can have.
To schedule a free consultation with a Rayne of the Valley water treatment professional on how easy it is to improve the quality of your water, and for a free, basic, no obligation water test, visit www.raynedrops.com or call toll-free: 800.594.3300