We're "city kids" so please bear with me if I'm asking stupid
questions. Honest, I've been asking well diggers and realtors and no
one seems to really know. So I thought I'd ask here since I've seen
well questions here before. (I'm a daily lurker, always learning.)
We bought acreage in a remote valley in San Bernardino County. Lucky
for us, it has power and phone adjacent, and even luckier, a well
already dug. It's just capped, no pump or anything. We're in escrow
and someone mentioned getting it certified. What is that and who do we
get to do it? And what might it cost? Is it done before or after we
put on the pump and holding tank?
Or can we just get the water tested? The seller said it's good water,
but the well was dug in '90. What tests need to be done, who does it,
Honestly, I feel like such a dork asking, but you'd think someone
around here would have some real answers. I even called the county.
Any advice would be so greatly appreciated.
Email addy upon request.
Not trying to make this uneccessarily complicated but;
My understanding is that Dept. of Health testing of well water, in some
North American administrations, only determines the presence or absence of
disease causing organisms. In other words is it fit to drink or will it
immediately make you ill due to the presence of sewage run off in the ground
water etc. Thus you may get a certificate that says something along the
lines of bacterial disease causing organisms (such as e-coli) are less than
'Y' parts in one million and water is OK for use.
However a complete water test, involves analysing the chemical content of
the water itself; this may determine if there are high levels of say, iron
or zinc, sulphur or arsenic, calcium carbonate etc. Some of these are just a
nuisance resulting, for example, in 'hard water' which may require the cost
of installing and operating a water softener. Hard water can be a cause of
soaps and detergents not lathering or washing properly, the production of
grimy scum on fixtures and/or poor washing of clothes and persons. Very
acidic water can corrode metal fixtures, pumps and pipes etc. Some
substances can be very bad for the family's long term health; e.g. mercury
and lead can poison and/or cause insanity over a long period. The well in
our first house had a lot of iron in it and occasionally, with certain
laundry detergent we would get 'rust' on the washed clothes. There were iron
ore mines about ten miles away.
Finally (ain't I a grouchy pessimist?); the residues of agricultural and
domestic herbicides/pesticides and forest sprays can contaminate water so it
is unfit for human consumption. As an example; we have been connected to our
municipal water system for some 25 years or more; but we still have our
'shallow' well, in our front yard, which we have kept intact as a backup if
the municipal system failed or was severely rationed.
In recent years several of my neighbours have used sprays and chemicals on
their lawns, bushes and trees. So, there is now no way I can assume that our
old well is fit to drink or use for cooking? We are presently suffering a
municipal water supply cut back so I may decide to gat our well water tested
thoroughly. May be able at least to use it for washing, toilet flushing etc.
However encouragingly; for some 15 years of the last 44 we used well water.
BTW it often costs municipalities big bucks to treat and ensure water is OK;
and even then THEY don't always get it right!
Unfortunately throughout the world, including North America, we are
polluting our ground water, aquifers, lakes and streams (think of the
polluted state of the Great Lakes? You can't swim or eat the fish out of
them in many places!) Even the air isn't fit in some places!
You mentioned inexperience in such matters:
So again: Not trying to be negative about your existing well; hopefully it
will be pure, clean, water plentiful and no problem at all. Does it have a
good flow rate? Was it used by a rural family with one cow in the barn and
no flush toilet bathroom? Also the seller would IMO tend to say the well
was OK (when they last used it 'X' years back when?). I respectfully suggest
you 'learn up' on water systems and all the requirements to be met. You
don't mention if it is a 'dug' or shallow well or a 'drilled' or deep well?
What kind of pumping system or draw bucket was used previously? How was it
What also comes to mind is that an acquaintance was unexpectedly refused a
mortgage, after incurring some property expense, because they were building
in an area found to have contaminated water. I think they eventually had to
drill a very deep well, into rock, at considerable cost, specially line it
to great depth and do a series of ongoing tests to prove the water was OK
before they could proceed to get a mortgage and then build a house. You
can't run a house, normally, on bottled or tanked in water!
Hope this helps? Just be informed of what you are getting into. Without
municipal services, later you will have to get into the matter of safe
sewage disposal systems on the property. The best of luck, hopefully none of
the above will be of concern.
1) Bacterial testing?
2) Chemical composition of the water.
3) Sufficient rate of flow (all seasons)?
4) Sewage disposal?
I'm speaking for our jurisdiction, it should be similar there:
Generally speaking, when a well is drilled, the driller will produce
a "well report" and provide that to the owner, and the driller _should_
have kept copies. This will generally include: diameter, depth, static
water level, recharge rate, and drawdown. [At so-and-so GPM, how far
down does the water level go.] Here, it includes "what material
at what depth" they drilled thru.
[Well reports are required by the govt for keeping tabs on water
That's good stuff to know when you're planning out your water system.
If the seller doesn't have the report, the well driller should still have
Secondly, whether or not a water quality test is required by law (for
occupancy permit), banks like seeing a basic potability test before
they loan you money w.r.t. a home on the property.
Basic potability here simply means checking for total coliforms and
Here, a bank will make noises over a building or home purchase mortgage
if you can't show a well that produces 3GPM+ of TC and EC-free drinkable
water. They hate people defaulting on properties when the water isn't
at least drinkable after treatment - the resale value is horrible.
Here, that test is done free by the Ministry of Health, because they
expect everybody to do it yearly.
It also behooves you to test the water for salt, sulfur, iron etc,
which will determine what water treatment you'll need.
Water treatment equipment companies (ie: Culligan) will often do
those tests for free (as part of their sales pitch, so be careful
about what they try to sell you).
Some good plumbing supply places will do them for a modest cost, or
will at least be able to point you at someone who will.
They may try to sell you the "big test" (thousands of bucks for everything
under the sun), but, it's almost never necessary, especially if you're
not downhill of something nasty that leaked long-term. If you're
upstream/uphill of most everything, it's not a problem.
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
It's not just anyone who gets a Starship Cruiser class named after them.
On Wed, 25 Aug 2004 12:08:55 -0700, maxinemovies wrote:
When I built my house in GA in '97, we were required to have the county test
the water for coliform bacteria. The test was free and done by the same folks
that permitted the septic system. Was required to pour bleach into the well,
allow it to sit for a minimum of 24 hours, flush the well til you could no
longer smell chlorine, wait a few days and then they came out and took a
sample. Got the results in a week or so.
The Extension Service offers a basic water test for things like calcium,
iron, lead and such for (IIRC) $25. I got a kit from the Extension Service
office and collected the sample myself, following the directions in the kit,
and returned it to the office. Took about a week for the results as I recall.
The Extension Service also offers much more extensive tests for pesticides
and such, but I dunno the cost or what's required as far as getting the test
done. I'd suggest contacting your local Extension Service.
The test that the Extension Service did was not required by the county or
mortgage company. I personally recommend it so that you know the hardness of
your water (lets you know if you need a softener system), the pH (if it's
acidic, you need to consider PVC water piping, and most definitely plastic
aerators in the faucets - the metal ones here started blowing out after about
4 years) and whether or not there are minerals in the water that may stain
sinks, toilets or clothes in the washer.
Also, something to consider is an inexpensive filter. My experience is that
occasionally a piece of grit will come up through the line. If this gets into
a shutoff valve for a fixture or appliance, it will cause damage (wound up
with one of the faucets leaking and had to replace the innards after just 3
years because of a grain of sand). A fiber filter through which all the water
going into the house passes should prevent this (unless you run it on
bypass). The one I have is made by OmniFilter and was about $35. Unless you
have a lot of sediment passing through, the filter will last for quite some
time. If you have iron in your water, you may want to consider the more
expensive carbon filter cartridges (for the same filter box) which will take
out many smells and tastes. These filter cartridges catch smaller particles,
so they clog quicker, but with clean water will last at least a couple of
months - use them myself to cut down on the iron content which gives the
water a metallic taste.
(substitute strickland in the obvious location to reply directly)
Please send all email as text only - HTML mail is automatically filtered to the trash
and I might not catch it.
You've all been terrifically helpful and I thank you very much.
The previous owner found the well diggers report and gave it to us. We
now know all the particulars of depth, flow rate, etc. Is 40 gpm @
But we can't find anyone who can come out and take some water up for
us to take over to be tested, so we went over there today to talk to
the neighbors. They said the same guy drilled all their wells and all
had good things to say about him. (He's retired now. We've talked to
him, too, and he's a doll.)
They also said that the water's good and that they have no problems
with it. We'll still have it tested, but will wait until we put in our
It's such a beautiful piece of land. I can hardly wait to sell this
house, build the new one and move in.
Thanks again. Any other advice would be appreciated.
Email addy upon request.
40 gpm is good.
Thanks for the update. Many people ask for advice, but few take the time to
let the people that took time to respond how the outcome was. Hope you
enjoy the new house when it get built.
Not sure where that is ?
However here in my part of Georgia is a hit or miss. The entire north part
of Georgia sites on a large, well, piece of granitite is how I would
describe it. Here, can hit 75gpm (max machine will test to) at about 180 -
200 ft. some locations have to go much deeper and sometimes only hit 1-3
gpm. mostly depends on hitting a good crevice in the granite that is fed by
artesian water from the mountain areas seeping under the granite. Sometimes
we can hit water so clean and pure can fill a pool up with any additional
chemicals and be as clear as you would want, only add chlorine to keep
clean. Other times can hit a mineral deposit, and whew what a smell. Have a
230 ft well, 6-inch casing 3hp pump and 2-inch line, used for irrigation, I
have ran a 1-1/4 line out to fill water to a surface pond that was not
refilling fast enough and never could pump that well dry below the pump
(down about 75 feet).
Funny thing is that most of the time people try to drill a deep well closer
to surface water does not get as good of flow as if sometimes drilling from
a slightly higher elevation ?
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