Is Well Water Safe to Drink – What Tests Should Be Done?

A necessity for maintaining life, as well as an important factor for sustaining it, water is consumed daily in large amounts. However, depending on the source it comes from, it might require some ‘additional help’ before it can be drunk. Wells have been, for a long time, a source of potable water, especially if the well reaches deep into the earth. The deeper the well, the cleaner the water, and the fewer risks of contaminants being found inside it.

Water Sources

To assess if a well provides water safe for drinking or not, it’s important to localize the water source of the well. By doing so, you’ll be able to narrow down what, and if, chemicals should be used to treat it, or if it’s safe to be consumed as it is.

There are 3 main sources for freshwater:

  • Surface water – as the name implies it is easily accessible, as it constitutes the majority of lakes, rivers, and streams. It naturally replenishes when it rains, by evaporation, or by an affluent. While they are indeed easily accessible, they are not exactly safe for consumption as they are, since there are high chances for the water to be contaminated with bacteria or dangerous chemicals.
  • Underflow – it is located under the surface water, making up the ‘unseen’ part of a river. Since it is not in direct contact with the ground, it is cleaner and fresher than the surface water. However, it might get contaminated if the ground and soil around it had been treated with chemicals, or if the chemicals have infiltrated deep within the ground.
  • Groundwater – situated deep inside the ground, it can usually be found in large volumes. This type of water is usually used as a water source since it is not only located deep inside the ground, thus far enough from contaminants, but it is also large enough to last for some time.

Urban and Rural areas

  • Urban Areas

Since more and more people have migrated from rural to urban areas, towns, and cities adjusted accordingly. The ‘urban water’ is taken care of by the municipality, as everyone receives the same ‘type’ of water. Depending on the source from which the water is extracted – surface, underflow, or in-ground – it might require treatment, to get rid of dirt, or unwanted particles. By treating it, the water becomes cleaner, purer, but its taste might change depending on what chemicals have been used.

Some might not put their complete trust in the public water filtration system, and so, they may choose to install a water filter at home, or buying bottled water. While there’s nothing wrong to acquire home filters if you plan on using them for a long period, acquiring the best water filters available should be a solution to look into if you want high-quality filtration.

  • Rural Areas

Those that prefer a peaceful life, away from the hectic rhythm of the city, have to get their water supply. So, many turn to private wells. While private well water is considered, overall, safe to use, it is significantly different than ‘city water’, even if they happen to come from the same source. Thus, it is recommended to have the water from your well tested periodically, to ensure it is still safe to be consumed.  

Private Wells

When you own a private well, regardless if you’ve built it yourself, or if it came with the house when you’ve acquired it, there are five problems you should keep in mind.

  1. Structure – How, and when, was the well built? How’s the foundation keeping up with time? Ensure its construction is stable and safe, otherwise, it might create other problems in time.
  2. Placement – Where is it located? Are there any previous incidents you should know about? Had it collapsed before? Since it’s going to be your main water source, you need to have easy, unobstructed access to it at all times. Thus, make sure it’s not an inconvenience for you or your neighbors.
  3. Preservation – Have you tested the water yet? Or when was the last time when the water was tested? While you might think that the water is still safe for consumption, even if it hadn’t been tested for some time now, it is not. Regular maintenance is crucial if you don’t want to develop different illnesses and health problems.
  4. The source – Where does the water come from? Depending on its source, you’ll have to consider adding some treatment to it.
  5. Interferences – Is there any possibility for the water to be tampered with? Are there any factories around you? Will the human-activities in the area impact the quality of your water?

Water Tests

To keep the water from your well safe, clean, and pure, there are regular tests that should be performed. While it is recommended to schedule the tests beforehand, if the water suddenly changes its taste, color, or smell, or if there are other interference to the water, test it again.

Problem Might Cause Safe Limits
Every-year Tests
Bacteria Stomach problems (diarrhea and vomiting) 0
Nitrate Nitrogen Infant blood problems 10 mg/L or less
Nitrite Nitrogen Infant blood problems 1 mg/L or less
Every 3-to-5-Years Tests
Arsenic Cancer/Low Birth Weight 10 ug/L or less
Radon Cancer 4,000 pCi/L or less
Uranium Kidney Problems 20 ug/L or less
Lead – First Draw Test Brain Damage 10 ug/L or less
Fluoride Too little – increased chance of tooth decay Between 0.6 mg/L and 1.7 mg/L

Other tests you should consider include: pH, E.coli bacteria, VOCs


All in all, it is important to know and verify your well’s water source, as well as keep up a regular maintenance program. Periodically test your water to keep bacteria away, and consider investing in quality water filters, if you want to keep the water even purer.