Do you know where your water comes from? If you live in a relatively densely-populated area, it’s likely your house is tapped into the local water-supply system, whose big metal mains run underground to and from a municipal water treatment center. But for those who live in rural areas, it’s more common for homeowners to get their supply from wells. Overall, about 15% of Americans get their household water from private wells.
If you’re one of the lucky ones, consider these special considerations when it comes to well-water plumbing.
Well-water would seem to be the more eco-friendly, organic option for a water supply system compared to a municipal service. The homeowner will usually be drawing water from the groundwater aquifer below, thus taking advantage of Mother Nature’s natural filtration system.
But groundwater can also be naturally corrosive, depending on the general composition of the local environment. Heavy metals (like lead, arsenic, chromium, or mercury), calcium and magnesium deposits, etc., can leach into the system. Even if drinkable, the water’s natural chemical composition can affect the acidity or alkalinity of the water, which then affects corrosiveness.
Because of the dangers of corrosivity, the best practices in choosing plumbing materials is to avoid, if possible, susceptible metal-based piping. Even long-lasting copper piping corrodes over time, manifesting in those bluish-green rings around your porcelain fixture drains. Depending on the drilling method, steel casing may have to be used for the well itself. But polymer piping is preferred overall for houses serviced with well-water, particularly for its resistance to corrosion.
Household wells require a pumping mechanism to draw the water up from the well into the home above. This puts more pressure on piping walls than usual. Thus, one of the special requirements for well-water plumbing is to choose piping that will withstand this pressure over time.
For example, polyvinyl chloride piping, more commonly known as PVC, comes in two sizes: Schedule 40 and 80. Schedule 80 has slightly thicker walls and is better suited for these higher-pressure situations, at least for the main water-supply line running to the home.
Because a leak in your well-water system could allow bacterial or chemical contamination, you’ll want to fix it as soon as you can. If you draw from a private well and have noticed dirt in the water, water cloudiness, a change in taste, or a reduction in flow rate, consider calling a trusted plumber to make sure your system is working correctly.