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Well Water vs City Water Guide

By: Craig Smith
Last Updated:
well water vs city water

Some people who live in areas that are serviced by a municipal water system are also curious about the prospects of maybe putting in their own well.

If this is you, then you will need some additional information to help you make a sound choice here. That’s because there are many considerations when deciding between continuing to use city water or building a well.

You have to especially be aware of how this decision will impact your water quality. Working around swimming pools for most of my adult life has familiarized me with the advantages and disadvantages that using city or well-supplied water brings.

In this Well Water vs City Water Guide, I will talk about what each of these home water sources is and the pros and cons of using each of them. This way you can make an informed decision as to whether it’s a good or bad idea for you to construct a well.

What is Well Water?

well water dependable

Most like to call the water that you get from a well groundwater but I like the term ‘underground’ water better myself.

That’s because most of this water has been somewhat naturally filtered as it goes from the surface down through different layers of rocks and soil. Eventually, groundwater settles into pockets in the earth that have an abundance of water that are called aquifers.

A well is a device that is dug down into the ground far enough to access the water in these aquifers so it can then be pumped into your home for consumption and everyday use.

Advantages of Well Water

well-water-pros

Here are some of the advantages that come with having your home supplied by water from a well.

1. It’s cheaper to access than city water

Once your well has been put in place, only a small amount of electrical energy is required to pump water into your home in abundance. There are no potentially large bills being sent to you each month from a local water company.

2. Well water is freshwater with healthy minerals

Water is often described as the ‘building block of life’ and water from wells is even better because beneficial minerals are often present in groundwater.

Examples of the beneficial minerals that are commonly found in well water include calcium, magnesium, potassium, silica, and selenium.

These minerals also help to give water a more pleasant taste.

3. Well water has not been treated with chemicals

Municipal water sources often use chlorine or fluoride in their purification process. Although these are ok to take into your body in small amounts, these chemicals can add up when you factor in the thousands of glasses of water that you drink each year.

That’s not the case with groundwater as it comes into your home untouched before it gets treated in any way. Keep in mind that this is not the same thing as your water being free of harmful chemicals because that is not always the case with well water.

Disadvantages of Well Water

well water cons

Here are some of the reasons that you may decide a well is not for you:

1. They can run dry

When your well is constructed a company will dig down until they hit groundwater. There is no guarantee that the initial spot where the groundwater was first found will always be the level of the water table in that area. If the water table goes down significantly your well will dry up.

2. Initial setup can be expensive

Once you have a well setup, it will provide you with an inexpensive water source. However, the initial expense of putting in a well can be very high. The deeper that a company has to drill to find water the more expensive installing a well becomes.

3. It can taste and smell bad

While minerals can help make water taste better, there are other contaminants found in well water that can also make it taste and smell bad. A good example is smelly and taste-altering sulfur that is often found in rural wells.

4. Loss of electricity equals loss of water use

With a well, unless you have an old-fashioned hand-crank design, then you are totally dependent on your electrical pumping system to bring water into your home. So, when the power goes out, your water supply does too.

5. Well water can have harmful contaminants in it

You have already seen that there can be some advantages to drinking well water. It must also be said that there are some possible disadvantages to drinking well water too.

That’s because although the ground does act as a natural filter as water goes downward, it’s by no means a perfect water filter.

In some areas, there can be a lot of contaminants that make their way into your well water.

Impurities Found in Well Water

1. Microorganisms

Microorganisms are very commonly found in well water because they are so small, they are not easy to naturally filter out.

This includes bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. The biggest source of which is human and animal waste.

2. Nitrates and Nitrites

Some of the main ingredients used in fertilizers are nitrates and nitrites. Human and animal waste is another big source of these unwanted well water contaminants that pose a significant health risk in large quantities.

3. Heavy Metals

The minerals found in groundwater are good for you. Don’t mistake them for heavy metals which they are not. Common heavy metals found in well water include copper, lead, cadmium, arsenic, selenium, antimony, and chromium. Iron is in this group too but is healthy in small amounts.

4. Organic Chemicals

Disposing of chemicals that are used in household, agricultural, and industrial processes can lead to groundwater contamination too. This includes dyes, paint, pharmaceuticals, inks, sealants, solvents, and many disinfectants.

5. Radionuclides

These consist of both man-made and natural radioactive elements. They are produced most often through nuclear power generation and mining. Radium and Uranium are the two most common.

6. Fluoride

Although most people recognize fluoride as being beneficial, it can also be very harmful in large quantities over time. That’s because it is listed as a neurotoxin when allowed to build up in the body. Ironically, city water is the biggest source of fluoride found in well water.

Because of all the possible harmful contaminants that can be found in well water, it’s recommended that well water be tested for bacteria at least once a year and for all other contaminants every three years at the maximum.

Possible contamination is also why water filtration experts such as I recommend that if you have a well you purchase a quality water filter for it.

What is City or Municipal Water?

water treatment plant

Municipal water is water that is derived from a variety of freshwater sources such as rivers and lakes. It then undergoes further treatment at a central facility to help purify it and rid it of some contaminants.

Once it has been treated, it will then be distributed throughout a huge network of pipes for homes and businesses to use.

Advantages of City Water

city water pros

Here are some of the benefits that having city water offers:

1. It’s covered by EPA regulations

If you have a well as your water source the water is what it is when it comes into your home. There are no rules or standards that it must meet. That’s not the case with city water.

It has to meet some strict criteria for quality according to guidelines put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency.

2. You have no responsibilities regarding sourcing or maintenance

There is a lot of responsibility that goes along with installing a well and then taking the right steps to ensure that it always meets your water demands. When you have city water, this burden shifts from you to the local water company.

There are also no associated maintenance costs in obtaining your water.

3. City water pressure is not dependent on electricity

If you have city water, you will probably notice that your water continues to flow even during a power outage. That’s because of the way municipal water systems take advantage of towers and gravity to maintain constant pressure at all times.

4. It can impact a mortgage loan

Believe it or not, you may qualify for a higher mortgage loan amount if your home is supplied by city water as opposed to groundwater. That’s because banks place more value on a municipal water supply than they do a home that is supplied by well water.

Disadvantages of City Water

city-water-cons

Here are some of the reasons that would compel you to switch from municipal water to a well:

1. It most likely has been treated with chemicals

Since your incoming city water has to meet EPA quality standards, you can pretty much bet on it being treated with some chemicals for purification purposes. Most likely this will have been done using fluoride or chloride.

This is done because it’s just not practical or cost-effective to run the large volumes of water that municipal water facilities handle through filtration systems. That’s why these types of chemicals are used for disinfection purposes instead.

As was mentioned, these chemical disinfectants can be detrimental to your health over time.

2. City water is usually recycled water or from a contaminated water source

Unlike well water, it would be very tough to find a large body of freshwater to fill the needs of a municipal water company. That water most likely comes from a polluted lake, river, or from other water sources that can best be described as recycled water.

3. City water has its fair share of contaminants too

Believe it or not, the ground separating the surface from an aquifer may in fact treat the water that’s found in a well better than the chemicals used to treat city water.

This means that the water contaminants mentioned for well water above are most likely to be found in even higher percentages in city water.

City Water vs Well Water: Which is Better?

As you can see, both well water and city water have their advantages and disadvantages.

The one that you choose may even be a matter of personal preference.

I think it would be safe to say that there is neither a perfect choice here nor a bad choice.

How would I decide if I was making this choice?

Given everything that was discussed here, I would try to add one more step to the decision-making process.

That’s finding out more information on the aquifers and existing wells near my home. This can be done by looking at geological surveys and by talking with neighbors that have wells. Even better yet if a neighbor has the results of a water test of their well.

If all of this points toward groundwater conditions that were favorable and the prospects for getting decent quality water, I would have no problem constructing a well.

For less than favorable information in the above-mentioned areas, sticking with city water would be my choice.

Remember also that chances are that you will have to take steps to treat your well water or city water no matter what your final decision is.

So if you do eventually decide to go with a well, be proactive and put a quality water filtration system on your incoming water line.

Summing Up Well Water vs City Water

I hope this Well Water vs City Water Guide has helped shed some light on the benefits of each of these reliable home and commercial water sources.

That way when you are deciding whether to build a well at your home or not, this information should greatly assist you in making a more informed choice.

Use this information and do a little legwork on your own regarding the aquifers and wells in your area. That should give you confidence in whatever decision that you make concerning whether to build a well or not.

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AUTHOR
Craig Smith
Craig got his start in water working in the swimming pool and spa industry. Water treatment would grow into his main career but he ended up working in the pool industry for over 26 years where much of his time was spent balancing the water in customer's swimming pools and installing water filtration equipment. Craig offers an abundance of water treatment knowledge after helping homeowners get pure water for 26 years.

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