Private Wells What a Buyer Should Know

By: Eric Badgely

Buyers, purchasing a home with a well for the first time, often know nothing about the biology or mechanics of a well. The brief article below will provide some simple but essential information.

For the record, a private well is a specialized and complex system, mechanically and biologically, that is beyond the scope of a standard home inspection. Many mechanical parts of the system are not visible and the biological aspects of the system require laboratory testing. Regardless, if you are buying a home that has a well, a few basic facts, will be helpful to you.

The well flow rate is important.

It is measured in gallons per minute, or GPM, and can be easily determined but it is much more difficult to determine exactly the water capacity of the well. There are costly and specialized tests for this, such as calculating the capacity by a "well draw-down" which consists of drawing water out of the well at a given rate, while monitoring the level of water remaining, or being replenished. This test is often considered to be extreme as it wastes water and stresses the well and maybe the home's septic system. Therefore, when evaluating a well, it is common and logical to instead rely heavily on a review of the past performance history of the well. An honest homeowner or renter, who has lived at the property, can provide a buyer with detailed and important information. Also, be advised that, when a well is part of a home sale, it is wise - and often the law - to have the well water tested for bacteria, or pollutants or harmful chemicals, by a qualified lab.

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