How does well water get contaminated?

While water is a vital element for survival, if it’s not clean, fresh, and free from bacteria or contaminants, it might have harmful effects. Tap water, as well as all the public water sources, are already treated by the time humans consume it. However, not the same thing can be said about private wells and their sources.


The owners of such wells have to ensure the water safety on their own, because, otherwise, it might lead to serious health issues. But how do contaminants reach private well water in the first place? Three large types of contaminants can influence how clean your well water is: immediate pollution, in-ground pollution, and on-ground waste. They might sound a bit confusing at first, so let’s discuss them in detail.

Immediate pollution

As the name implies, immediate pollution includes the possible contamination causes that are found around your house. They can range from how the well was constructed, up to what you store near and around it.

  1. If you’ve ‘inherited’ the well instead of constructing it yourself, you’ll have to research how it was created. Depending on how it was made, it has a higher or lower risk of getting contaminated.
  • Dug – the earth is excavated until the underground water is found. To keep it from collapsing during excavation, it is lined with bricks, stones or tiles. While it is cheaper than other methods, it is more vulnerable to contamination, as well as drought.
  • Drilled – built with drilling equipment, these usually reach deep into the earth, as they can go up to a thousand feet under. They can be made through solid rock, and lined with a casing, which makes them resistant to contaminants.
  • Driven – they are made by driving a pipe through the earth, up to 30-50 feet underground. The pipes come with a drive-point screen which allows water to flow upwards while keeping sediments down. However, they are susceptible to easy contamination.
  1. Livestock – if you own livestock, you’ll have to pay attention to where you throw the waste. Keep it at least 50 feet away from your water source, as it is a source of contamination in itself.
  2. Fertilizers and pesticides – if this is the only way you can combat garden pests, make sure to set up the garden in a separate area. While it might be easier to carry the water to the plants if the garden is closer, once the pesticides enter the soil they can easily reach your water source.
  3. House waste – ensure the pit where all the house waste goes doesn’t leak, nor is it situated near the well. Otherwise, the toxins and bacteria might reach the water.

In-ground pollution

Not all sources of a possible water-poisoning are found above the ground. Some can infiltrate through the soil, directly into the water without a precise cause. Substances naturally found in soil and rocks can also influence the water – manganese, iron, fluoride, sulfates, nitrates, nitrites, microorganisms, etc. While some substances might not pose a direct threat to humans, in small quantities, consumed in large quantities they can affect your health.

Some substances might not even be found in the area where your well is situated. For example, rain can also carry chemicals around, from one place to another. So, there’s no guarantee that some chemicals usually found around a factory won’t reach the soil, and, later on, infiltrate your house.

On-ground pollution

Depending on what types of human activities are made around the local water source, the well water might, indirectly, get contaminated.

  • Intensive agriculture – by using large volumes of fertilizers and pesticides, for a long time, the substances will infiltrate the soil. Over time, they can reach the water basin found underground, contaminating the entire water source.
  • Commercial activity – any type of commercial space that utilizes chemicals, or artificially-made substances and materials. This category includes junkyards, railroads, boatyards, gas stations, laboratories of all types, and even graveyards and cemeteries.
  • All types of industries – exploiting the soil and its reaches can also be a source of contamination if the industry is situated near the well. For example, oil production, pipelines, chemical factories, mining, just to name a few, are constant sources of water-poisoning.

Possible Solutions

Since there are several causes that might influence how clean the well water from your house is, you should take safety precautions beforehand, so you can avoid a future problem. What you can do:

  • Regularly test the watercertain tests should be repeated yearly, or at precise time intervals. This will help you determine how clean is your well water and what measures you should take otherwise.
  • Invest in water filters – water filters, while not infallible, have a high rate of keeping harmful elements out of your drinking water. There are several models on the market already, so you can easily pick the one that best suits your house and needs. While you might be tempted to pick a filter just for your kitchen tap, for cooking and drinking, you should consider one for your entire house. A whole house water filter will ensure not only your drinking water is safe, but the entire water system is as well since ‘bad’ water can damage both your skin and your hair.


All in all, there are several ways in which the water from your well might get contaminated, with or without your consent. Therefore, you have to pay close attention to its color, consistency, and smell. Whenever you feel that something is amiss, run some tests. If contaminants are left unattended, they will cause health problems.

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