Rural living comes with many advantages. Little in life offers more reward than enjoying a quiet morning in the solitude of your home, seeing the night stars with unsurpassed clarity, or caring for livestock that feeds your family. One of the biggest challenges of living a rural lifestyle is securing adequate water supply. Most people rely on wells, but what happens when the well produces substandard water, or dries up completely? How do you know when it's time to consider having municipal water delivered? Here are some signs to look out for.
One of the first signs of a contaminated well is often intestinal distress. That's because one of the most prolific well-infecting contaminants is E. coli bacteria. These bacteria are most often introduced by the fecal matter of other mammals, and can cause intense intestinal illness. If your family has been experiencing frequent bouts of stomach complaints, have your well tested. It could be a simple fix of disinfecting the well to ensure a continued clean supply of water. On the other hand, your ailments may be a sign of the more complicated problem of mineral contaminants...
Minerals are often added to bottled water to improve the taste and provide a source of uncommon minerals, such as manganese. However, it isn't only beneficial minerals that can find their way into your well water. Some frequently found minerals in wells include:
- Arsenic, a mutagenic mineral that can increase your risk of certain cancers
- Fluoride, which in large concentrations can cause stomach upset, seizures, cardiac irregularities, and muscle weakness
- Cadmium, which can cause high blood pressure and liver or kidney damage
- Cyanide, which can cause brain damage
As ground water makes its way toward your well, it dissolves the surrounding rocks and soils, picking up whatever it dissolves along the way. The minerals you find in your well water will vary based on your geographic location, the age of your well, and the contaminants gathering around your home. If you're living near an old mine, you may eventually find higher levels of chromium, and if you're over fertilizing your fields, you may end up with too much cyanide. If you're relying on well water, it is best to be alert to changes in your environment and test your water accordingly.
Turbidity is a fancy word for cloudiness. Sometimes turbidity is due to nothing more than increased oxygenation of the water as it moves through your pipes. Other times, it's a sign of the well running dry. Keep an eye on the clarity of your water. If you notice cloudiness, put a clear glass full of your cloudy water on the counter and allow it to settle. If the cloudiness disappears and you're left with nothing but clear, clean water, it's likely oxygenation. If you're left with a layer of sediment on the bottom, it could be that your pump is picking up gunk off the bottom of the well because you're running out of water.
In some locations, running low on well water is normal during some seasons. You will just need to be more cautious about water rationing during the dry months, and wait until your well refills. If you notice the dry periods lasting longer, it might be time to consider heavy rationing of your well water and the hire of a water delivery service.
Discolored well water isn't always cause for alarm, but it can also signal contamination by a toxic mineral or increased sediment content. If you notice discolored water deposits on your plumbing fixtures, or water that looks discolored after it has run for a moment, consider having your well tested.
Staying on top of your well's health will help keep your family healthy and hydrated for years to come. Don't ignore these warning signs.