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How to treat my Well Water

While most private wells provide water that is safe and good quality, many private well owners may have one or more water quality problems. Some are very noticeable. Other problems, particularly those that are health related, generally require testing from a lab to detect them. The search for ways to improve water quality can be challenging. This article goes over options for improving private well water quality, including water treatment methods.

Typical amounts of most impurities are not considered harmful to health, but private well owners may find some of the non-health related problems to be a problem and not tolerable. High iron for example, can stain laundry and fixtures too much water hardness can cause scale to build up in water heater and plumbing, scaling and causing water spots on fixtures, glass ware and shower doors. Improving water quality is more serious if the water contains contaminants that pose a health concern such as metals like lead or arsenic, pesticides or VOCs, coliform or ecoli bacteria, viruses, nitrates. While private well owners are under no obligation to correct water quality problems, safe drinking water standards are good guidelines for homeowners to determine whether their private well water is safe to drink.

What is in your water?

Ground water, the source of water for private wells, is never simply a pure combination of hydrogen and oxygen atoms (H2O). It naturally contains many impurities, reflecting the composition of the soils ,sand, gravel and rock through which it travels though. Groundwater contains dissolved
minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium and sulfate, gases such as carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen and dissolved organic compounds. As a result of human activity, groundwater can also contain contaminants such as pesticides, nitrate and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs).

What to do if you have water quality problems:

Install a water treatment system is generally the best way to control the outcome of the water entering your home.
It is important that you realize that no single water treatment system is capable of treating all water quality problems, and that all systems have limitations. You need to match the treatment system to the specific water quality problems you want to remove. Before buying a treatment system, have a chemical analysis of your water performed at a state certified laboratory and then contact a water treatment company to get estimates on the proper equipment to treat your water. Sometimes there are several ways to treat a water problem and they all have their pros and cons, have the dealer explain the differences and fit the best system(s) for your needs and budget.

Here is definitions on different types of water treatment available:

Water softeners:

Water softeners are a very popular form of water treatment, since hard water is prevalent in most areas. Calcium and magnesium from natural mineral sources cause hardness. Hard water can interfere with the cleaning action of soaps and detergents. Hard water is not a health concern and while some calcium can raise the pH balance in the water to help prevent corrosion of plumbing, too much can cause scale buildup water lines, water heaters and fixtures. Water softeners use a synthetic resin material that has a strong attraction on calcium, magnesium and other positively charged metal ions called cations. The resin is first saturated with charged ions of sodium from a salt solution. As water passes through the resin, the sodium exchanges with calcium and magnesium. Some softeners may also remove a limited amount of iron and manganese if they are in a clear water soluble form. When the resin capacity to remove calcium and magnesium is full it must be recharged. There are some disadvantages of water softeners. One is that they remove calcium and magnesium and substitute sodium if using sodium chloride salt. Sodium may have health implications for individuals on low sodium diets. If you must drink softened water, potassium chloride which is readily available at most hardware stores can be used in place of sodium chloride if you are concerned about limiting your sodium intake. Many people choose to use a Reverse Osmosis system where they get their water for drinking and cooking. Softening of outdoor water faucets is not necessary or recommended although if you don’t have a choice then use potassium chloride instead of rock salt as for it is a fertilizer to most turf grasses and plants. Go here for more information and to size your water softener:

Reverse osmosis Systems:

Reverse osmosis systems removes contaminants by forcing water through a membrane with microscopically small holes that allows water molecules, but not large compounds and microorganisms, to pass through. Water flushes away the contaminants captured by the membrane. Because they can only treat small amounts of water at a time, RO systems generally serve as point-of use devices to purify water for drinking and cooking. In addition to the membrane, RO systems include a sediment filter and carbon filter along with a storage tank to store treated water. Pressure and temperature will greatly affect the device’s effectiveness. Although they cannot remove 100% of chemicals in the water, RO units can remove more kinds of contaminants than any other single method except distillation. The RO process can remove organic chemicals, including some pesticides, but will not remove others which is why many RO systems also include an activated carbon filter to remove most pesticides. RO units used waste large amounts of water but with newer technology and ASO valves on them they are efficient now and waste water can be minimized.. The membrane can also develop problems from precipitate buildup and scaling. To overcome this problem, pretreatment of water ahead of the reverse osmosis unit with a water softener and or other pretreatment filters such as sediment or iron filters is recommended if water is higher the 8 gpg or if there is iron, manganese or other solid contaminates that can plug the filters and membrane on the RO system. The membranes are made of a variety of materials that differ in their effectiveness for different chemicals. Change the filters per manufacturer’s recommendations. Go here for more details: and videos:

Chemical oxidation:

This method is not widely used, chemical injection of strong oxidizers like chlorine, hydrogen peroxide or ozone can be used to oxidize dissolved iron and manganese, causing it to precipitate, or separate, out of the solution. A retention tank well need to be installed to give contact time for the chemical to work and to act as a trapping and oxidant vessel as water leaves the top of this tank it then needs to go into a backwashing filter system to filter the particulate iron and manganese. These oxidizers can also be used for odor problems related to hydrogen sulfide, iron bacteria and sulfur bacteria. Go here to see diagram of this system:


Many problems associated with taste, odor or color in water are related to reducing conditions within the aquifer. Reducing conditions are a result of low oxygen concentrations in the groundwater which cause some elements in soil and bedrock such as iron and manganese to become soluble. By introducing oxygen into the water with a treatment device as water enters the home, the iron and manganese become insoluble and form precipitates that can be filtered out of the water. This eliminates taste and color problems associated with these two elements. Common systems used are Greensand filters that use potassium permanganate to coat the media and oxidizes the iron and manganese so it can be removed. Terminator system that uses air injection and air precipitation with a iron filter to remove oxidized iron and manganese. There is a wide variety of choices, contact a water treatment company to go over the best option for you application. You can go here to get started:

pH Neutralizers:

Neutralizers treat corrosive (acidic) water by increasing the alkalinity and pH which decreases water acidity. Passing the water through granular calcite (marble, calcium carbonate or lime) is the most common method although some other materials may also be used Adding calcite may cause the hardness of the water to increase a water softener is often needed after the pH filter. Go here for more information:

Ultraviolet light systems:

Disinfects without the use of chemicals. Kills bacteria, viruses and some cysts on contact with water. The effectiveness of UV light in killing microorganisms is directly related to the light’s intensity and exposure time. Depending on the quality of the water, pretreatment is often necessary. Things that block light such as tannins, suspended sediment and turbidity high water hardness need to be removed prior to UV disinfection. A water softener may be required to prevent scale buildup on the lamp. UV lights lose intensity over time and lamps generally need to be replaced regularly. Go here for more information:

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