Are you thinking of buying a house with a well? Then you need to know what you’re getting into. Water wells require a lot of maintenance, and if you don’t take care of your well properly, you could lose access to drinking water. You and your family could even get sick from drinking contaminated water. To take good care of your well, you’re going to need to keep an eye on the condition of your well cover and well pump and be prepared to call in a professional to make any needed repairs.

bucket above well

You will need to have your well professionally inspected every year. You’ll also need to test your well water for contaminants and bacteria regularly. Here’s what you need to do to your well, and how often you need to do it.

Every Two Weeks

Every one to two weeks, you need to go outside and inspect your well cover. Your well cap needs to be present and intact. A broken or missing well cap could allow contaminants to enter the well. If your well cap is broken or missing, call a professional to repair it and test your water for contaminants.

Every One to Three Months

Every one to three months, you should examine your well pump for leaks and make sure it’s functioning properly. Your well pump will either be near your well cap, or in your basement, usually near your water pressure tank. Make sure the pump isn’t leaking. Have someone turn the water on and let it run while you’re standing by the pump. Check for leaks while the pump is operating. Listen for any grinding sounds coming from the pump. If your well pump is leaking or making strange noises, call a professional to come and repair it. The problem may be the pump itself, or there may be further problems with your wellbore or screen. For example, when a well screen deteriorates, sand and debris can get into your pump, a phenomenon known as pumping sand. Pumping sand can quickly send you shopping for new well pumps.

well water

Every Year

Every year, you should have your well inspected by a professional to make sure it’s in good working order and to fix any issues with equipment or contamination. Contact the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) to find a well contractor in your area. In addition to having your well inspected by a professional well contractor every year, you should also have your well water tested for contaminants every year. The specific contaminants you need to test yearly for include nitrates and nitrites and bacteria.  You also need to test the well water’s pH on a yearly basis.

You can get yearly contaminant testing kits from your local health department. Before performing the test, you’ll need to disinfect your faucet. Remove the aerator from your kitchen faucet, where you usually get water to drink and cook, then fill a small container with rubbing alcohol and submerge the tip of the faucet in the rubbing alcohol for 60 seconds. After you have sterilized the faucet, be careful not to touch it with your hands while you’re filling up your test bottles. Fill up test bottles to the shoulder of the bottle (the part that sticks out just below the neck), taking care not to make the bottles overflow. You could lose testing medium if you allow the bottles to overflow. Water tests need to be returned to the lab within 30 hours of taking samples, so be prepared to take your samples back to the health department, or wherever you have to drop them off, right away. If you have to mail your samples to a lab, use expedited shipping.

Every Three to Five Years

Every three to five years, or if someone in your home is pregnant, you should test your well water for more serious contaminants, like fluoride, arsenic, uranium, and harmful bacteria like E. coli and other coliform bacteria. You can get these test kits at your local health department, too, but again, make sure you can get them back to the lab within the 30-hour window. You should also test your water after any changes in the quality of the water, changes in well performance, or repairs to the well.

It can be nice to have well water, but maintaining a well can be a lot of work. Make sure you know what taking care of a well requires, so you can be confident that your family is getting good, clean drinking water.