If you’ve recently bought a house with a private well, or are considering another form of off-grid living, you might be surprised to learn that you’ll need to filter your own drinking water.
Just because a water source is deep underground or far away from an urban center, it doesn’t guarantee that it’s free from contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and heavy metals—all of which can be highly toxic when consumed over long periods of time.
In fact, some rural wells actually produce water that’s far more polluted than a city reservoir or large river, while other wells have better water than public sources. As a result, many of those living away from the public network employ their own well water testing to guarantee a steady, safe supply.
If you’re looking to join them, here’s how to filter your own well water in five, relatively simple, steps:
1. Understand the threats to your well
It’s difficult to choose the best whole house water filter for well water without knowing exactly what might be polluting your water. Depending upon a well’s location, type, and depth, possible contaminants are diverse, from blue-green algae to deep veins of lead in the earth.
The simplest way to gauge the type and amount of contamination in your well is to perform a home test. Available online, these test kits are designed to indicate the presence of common substances like coliform bacteria, usually by turning a different color for different contaminants.
Water composition tests can also be performed by professional labs. Simply send off a sample of your water to a testing company for a complete breakdown of its constituents.
More generally, it’s possible to understand what might be threatening your well by taking a close look at the local environment. Lots of agricultural land near your property? Then your well may be affected by fertilizer and pesticide runoff. Live in an area prone to heavy rainfall or flooding? Then it might be a good idea to filter for volatile organic chemicals (VOCs).
2. Find the right filter stages for your needs
The more that you understand the threats to your well water, the easier it becomes to find the right solutions. Most well filtration systems are modular, consisting of several different filter units designed to take on different contaminants.
As a result, homeowners need to pick the most appropriate filter stages for their well, and fit them together into a complete whole-house system. The most common filter stages for well water include:
- Sediment filters / pre-filters. These filters contain larger screens and mesh media designed to remove dirt, sand, rust, and other small, undissolved particles contained in the water supply. They’re useful for water that’s cloudy and wells dug into porous rock.
- Organic contaminant filters. As the most common type of home water filter, organic contaminant filters can reduce and remove a wide range of dissolved substances, from the chemicals produced by decaying plants to heavy metals like lead.
- Bacterial/viral filters and purifiers. There are several options when it comes to removing pathogens and microorganisms from well water. One is to add chlorine and similar disinfectant chemicals directly to their well, before filtering them back out at a later stage. Another is to use an ultraviolet bulb to deactivate disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
- Conditioners / softeners. Because whole-house filters affect every faucet, showerhead, and plumbed appliance in the home, many people take the opportunity to also install conditioning or softening units at the same time. Softeners add salts to the water supply, while conditioners reconfigure hard water composition to prevent scale.
3. Plan out your installation for an easy fitting
Most well water filtration systems can be installed without the help of a professional, but the task is rarely simple and requires a good amount of planning to ensure that things run smoothly.
Water will need to be turned off or bypassed for most of the day, so it’s first important to ensure your home will have enough water during installation. Taking time to correctly thread tanks and filter heads will lower the risk of over-stressing filter casings while maintaining water pressure with electrical pumps will help keep taps and showerheads functioning at the same level.
4. Monitor and maintain
Once a well filter system has been fitted and thoroughly flushed, it should immediately start improving the quality of your water. At this point, it’s important to forget about your system but to regularly check its performance, and how well it can handle your well’s level of contamination.
If contamination levels are particularly high, it may be necessary to add additional filter stages or replace filter media more regularly than manufacturers recommend.
5. How will your environment change in the future?
Finally, it’s worth acknowledging that, unlike other basic utilities, the water network is constantly shifting and evolving. As the local and global environment around your well changes, there will be an inevitable impact on your water quality.
Keep an eye on any major changes to your local area, such as the expansion of a farm or the construction of new housing developments. In addition, re-test your well on an annual basis to see how the composition of your water is evolving, and whether you need to rethink your filtering strategy.