While the majority of US homes get their water from public water systems, about 20% utilize a well for their water supply. In most cases, these homes are in rural areas where public infrastructure is not as developed and well drilling is necessary. Wells are also are a popular water source for off-grid homes and an eco-friendly option.

If you’re looking to buy a new home off-grid or in an area that isn’t served by the public water system, you’ll need to know a bit about wells. Although this subject can seem intimidating for those who are unfamiliar with private well-water systems, there are only five main points you need to keep in mind to ensure you’re making a well-informed (no pun intended) purchase. Paying attention to these and working with an experienced real estate agent will help make navigating these murky waters easy and stress-free.

Well Water Needs to Be Tested

The most pressing issue a homeowner needs to investigate is the safety and purity of their future home’s water. Since the same water source is often accessed by many homes spanning a wide distance, what affects a nearby home may affect your home as well. Doing some preliminary research into water quality issues in the area by consulting a local real estate agent or checking with the EPA can help avoid problems.

However, researching the area is no substitute for thorough water testing by a reputable laboratory. Testing for turbidity, alkalinity, PH, minerals, bacteria, and volatile organic compounds such as benzene are standard. Be aware that testing for radon, a dangerous element, is not always included by default, so ask the lab to check for it when you make your order.

Test the Quantity and Flow Rate of the Well

Even if the well water itself is deemed safe for drinking, there can be issues that will affect its usability in your new home: namely low storage capacity and low flow rate.

Luckily, testing for these is simple. In general, wells store about 1.5 gallons of water per foot, so if you find out the well depth, pump depth, and water level, you’ll be able to figure out what the capacity of your well is.

Flow rate, the measure of how much water per minute is being pumped from the well, can be calculated based on the number of gallons the pressure tank stores before the pump starts and how long it takes the pump to turn on and off. Regulations require homes to have a flow rate of between 3 to 5 gallons per minute, but it’s best to find a home with 6 to 12 gallons per minute.

Locate Wells a Safe Distance from Septic Tanks

Homes that require a well usually will also make use of a septic tank to store waste. Because septic tanks will almost inevitably fail and leak their contents into the ground at some point, it’s vital for the tank to be placed at least 100 feet away from the well. This prevents septic waste from reaching the well and contaminating the water supply with harmful materials. Ideally, properties making use of wells and septic tanks will have at least one or two acres to help avoid this problem.

Also, make sure that the well is a safe distance from cesspools, landfills, iron sewers, and road boundaries.

Avoid Dug or Bored Wells

The two major types of wells are drilled and bored wells. The former type is constructed by drilling at least 40 feet deep into the bedrock, while the latter is shallow and never reaches the bedrock. Overall, drilled wells are more reliable and resistant to contamination, so it’s best to stick with this type.

Wells Last 30-50 Years

The average well will last for about 30 to 50 years, after which you may need to drill a new well. Wells may start experiencing issues after about 15 years, so you’ll want to factor the cost of replacement parts into your budget.

How to Drill a New Well

If you’re looking into a home that either doesn’t have a well yet or has an old one, drilling a fresh one may be necessary. This procedure can be relatively simple and painless with a bit of planning.

Before drilling, be sure to obtain any necessary permits and permissions – your contractor should be aware of those, so check with them. The process begins by determining a site on the property that is a safe distance from any possible contaminants and will most likely provide a good supply of water. Then, you and your contractor will decide on a size for the well based on your household needs, which will vary based on how many people will be living on the property and whether there are features like a pool, jacuzzi, etc.

If you’re in the market for a new home, our experienced real estate agents can help guide you through the process from start to finish. What’s more: all Clever Partner Agents have pre-agreed to offer a $1,000 rebate to buyers on the final closing price of their home, no negotiation required. Simply fill out our form and one of our agents will be in touch with you shortly.