Well Inspection: What to Expect

Having a private well can come with a myriad of benefits — mineral-rich water, fewer chemicals, a better taste, and lower utility bills are just a few of the reasons having a well for home water is a great option. Wells come with more additional maintenance and testing than municipal water, however. Not to worry, though. In this article, we’ll walk through how to inspect your well, what that will look like, and what information you’ll gain from an inspection so you can sip your refreshing well water confidently. 

Do you need a well water inspection? 

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never dealt with a well before. Despite their depths, wells are actually fairly simple systems once you understand the basics. Well inspections cover two main areas — the water and the system that pulls the water out of the ground and delivers it to your home. 

Testing your well water yearly, as recommended by the EPA, is important because there can be unseen changes in the environment around your well that can impact your water quality and safety. Even if you don’t think anything has changed, your well draws water from the underground area around your property. That water likely feeds from several sources containing varying levels of minerals, bacteria, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can impact the safety of your water. 

The second part of your well that’s important to stay on top of is the system’s condition that draws and moves water. This system includes your well casing, electrical components, pump, and pressure tank. If any of these elements are wearing or showing damage, it’s possible groundwater can leak in and harm your water quality or safety. Additionally, a system with worn-out components may be responsible for a drop in your water pressure, which an inspector will test for as a part of their assessment. 

These things combined mean that if you have a well, you need to have it inspected! Ideally, you’ll bring an inspector in yearly to keep an eye on the water quality, mineral, bacteria, and toxin levels as well as ensure your system is in good condition. 

What is included in a well inspection? 

Water quality and flow rate are the main concerns with regard to a well inspection, and there are a few areas that inspectors will be keeping a close eye on when they come out to test your water and inspect your well. 

Coliform bacteriaColiform bacteria is a vast group of bacteria found in the intestinal tract of all warm-blooded animals. While most coliform bacteria will not cause harm or make you sick, some types, like E.coli, can cause potentially serious illnesses. 

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – Unlike coliform bacteria, VOCs are harmful across the board. These compounds are not something you want in your water, which makes it even more important to test regularly. VOCs come from industrial and petrochemical products that can contaminate water sources for miles. What VOCs might be present in your area depends mainly on the nearest industries. 

Ph level – Ph levels in water are changed by many natural and manufactured things. Unless your drinking water is highly basic or acidic, you likely won’t notice it on a day-to-day basis. That said, long-term exposure to one or the other can lead to degradation of your plumbing system and potentially have health-related side effects. 

Structural issues – Wells are generally comprised of a casing, such as concrete, with a base layer of gravel that acts as a filter, combined with a water pump (that either sits above ground or is submerged at the bottom of the well), and the necessary electrical and plumbing elements. If any of those are damaged by shifting ground or degraded from age, they can compromise your system. Inspectors will check for wear or damage and assess if that impacts your water quality. In addition, they’ll give you a report that will allow you to plan for any upcoming maintenance that you might need. 

Flow rate – Flow rate is vital in ensuring that you have enough water to serve your needs properly. Americans use an average of 82 gallons per person per day. This statistic means that your well needs to be able to refill at a rate that accommodates the number of people in your home. A well inspector will be able to give you an idea of your flow/refill rate and if you need to consider upgrading your well to cover expanding needs

How much does a well inspection cost? 

The cost of inspecting a well and testing water quality is a large spectrum, ranging from $20-$730+, depending on what you want to test for and where you are. Below are the variables that contribute to the cost of testing across the US.

  1. Location – In some remote areas, you might find that to get an inspector to come out, you’ll need to pay them for travel time and costs. This rate will vary depending on where you live and the time it takes to get there. 
  1. What you’re testing for – Basic testing for water quality is inexpensive, with the actual test coming in at $20 and up. You’ll need to pay for the cost of the expert’s time to come and take the sample, but the test itself isn’t costly. 
  1. Water quality testing vs. well inspection – You can have your water quality tested for several things without having a well inspector come out in person. While these tests are less costly, you don’t get the benefit of having your well and its systems checked over by a pro in person.
  1. Additional costs – If you suspect that you should test your well water for more obscure toxins, there can be additional charges. Tests that screen for flame retardants, plasticizers, tannins, and pesticides, for example, are a more extensive procedure and are more expensive than the basic testing packages. 

Testing well water and having your well inspected might seem like a complicated endeavor. However, if you find the right professional in your area, they’ll be able to guide you through the process and give you easy-to-interpret results with clear action items. Do your due diligence and plan for the cost of testing your water and having your well inspected yearly — worst case, you pay someone to tell you that it’s all in perfect condition and working order. Alternately, you save yourself and your family from drinking potentially harmful water.