With more than 30 years’ experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Mark Nelson is a Class 1 Drinking-Water Operator and a CBWA (Canadian Bottled Water Association) Certified Plant Operator. As founder and president of Nelson Water in Ottawa, Mark focuses on dealing with challenging water treatment system designs for problem water. He also heads the largest water bottling plant in the city of Ottawa with a delivery network throughout the Valley.

If your home is one of those supplied with water from a private well it can give you some freedom, but it comes with its own set of pressures. As a well water user, it’s your responsibility to maintain the quality of your water and that comes with its own set of challenges. The monitoring, testing and treatment procedures are quite different from homes supplied with city water that has been cleaned at a treatment plant. Maintaining the cleanliness and safety of your water must be a priority to avoid health problems. In this article, we will offer some helpful advice on private well water testing and maintenance to help you make informed decisions.

Which is the Best Season for Well Water Testing?

Experts agree that an annual water test is a must for any private well, but there is less of a consensus on when this should occur. This is because there are a number of factors that can affect the optimal testing time for a specific well, such as: the soil composition, the presence of certain contaminants and more. The best way to be sure about your well is to slightly alter the testing time each year to get a more accurate picture. So, if you get your well tested by a local water treatment specialist this winter, you may want to switch to fall next year. Of course, keeping track of the dates can be tricky if you don’t set a reminder on your phone or circle a date on your calendar.

Is Well Water Contamination More Common at Certain Times of the Year?

First, it’s important to realize that the contaminants found in groundwater can vary a great deal depending on where you live. That being said, there are two main problems that are commonly encountered in private wells, they are: nitrates and coliform bacteria. Let’s take a look at each problem in more detail.

Elevated Concentrations of Nitrates

Nitrates are a naturally occurring nutrient that can be found in human and animal waste and unsurprisingly they are used in fertilizers. When higher concentrations of nitrates are present they indicate that certain activities on the surface are affecting the groundwater. So, if you receive your well water from areas where agricultural activity is taking place, this may add nitrates (and other contaminants) that will lower the water quality. The nitrate levels tend to be lower during the spring months when rainfall is higher and snow is melting. Essentially, the nitrate is being diluted by the extra water content in the soil. If your well water contains elevated levels of nitrates, it may be a good idea to test your water a few times each year. This is because the levels of nitrate can fluctuate throughout the year depending on how the agricultural land is used, the distance to the areas and the type of activity.

The Presence of Coliform Bacteria

Due to the increased levels of precipitation that occur during spring, this is when bacteria enter private wells. Coliform bacteria are pretty common in areas that have thin soil deposits that are spread across broken bedrock. As the rainfall increases and snow melts, this bacteria is rinsed from the surface into the groundwater beneath. In many areas, a filtration process occurs as the water passes through various strata of soil, sand, and rock. This naturally cleans the water before it can enter the aquifer, but with no layers in-place this filtration process cannot occur. We tend to find the highest levels of bacteria during the summer and early fall months when more heat and moisture are present. A very cold winter will be a time when coliform bacteria contaminations are far less likely.

Do I Need to Test Well Water More Frequently?

As you may have guessed from the content of this article thus far, this is a better approach. The annual well water test is best thought of as a minimum recommendation and more frequent testing may be a better idea. The first indications of a problem will be your own senses. If your water looks, tastes, or smells strange, it should not be consumed. Of course, many contaminants in water cannot be detected without laboratory testing.

The condition of your well is also a key factor in the overall health of your well water. If your well is in poor shape with cracks or holes in the well cap, it can be prone to bacterial contaminations. The danger is higher during the peak seasons discussed above, but this can occur at any time of the year under the right conditions. If you experience a dramatic change in the quality of your well water, this is a sure sign that you need an urgent water test. If the water test reveals the presence of coliform bacteria or other contaminants, it should be followed up with ongoing monitoring.

7 Season Well Inspection Tips

There are several ways to visually inspect your private well, they are:

  1. Carry out an annual visual inspection of the well.
  2. Make sure the cap is secure.
  3. Check for signs of cracks or other damage,
  4. If you notice earwigs or other groupings of bugs they may contain coliform bacteria,
  5. Any opening where bugs could enter should be sealed.
  6. Check the electrical conduit to ensure it’s in good shape and sealed tight.
  7. If the well is compromised contact your local water treatment specialist for professional water testing, servicing, and essential repairs.

What is the Proper Response if Contaminants are Found?

Most of the time the well water will be perfectly safe to consume and use for other tasks around your home. Regular testing and monitoring are important, but it’s important to have a final barrier of defense to secure the quality of your water supply. For this reason, many homeowners install a water filtration system to remove contaminants from their well water. The filtration system that you need can vary depending on the contaminants that you need to remove to improve your water quality. Contact your local water treatment specialist and they can help you to find the right water filtration system to meet your needs.