Got Water? 2 Common Water Well Problems

Homeowners who have their own private well typically don't give much thought to their well unless it fails to provide water, or the water quality goes down. Well water quality should be tested annually for contaminants and bacteria, such as E. coli, which is a bacterium caused by both animal and human waste. An annual well maintenance check should be done as well, but many homeowners fail to do this and don't call until there is a problem.

Aging wells may suffer a reduction in water output. This can be caused by the underground aquifer "running dry," but more often than not, the problem lies elsewhere, and it simply needs a well repair. Here's a look at the two most common problems that can occur with your well.

1. Mineral Buildup

Iron bacteria, calcium, and sediment from clay can all clog the well screens, which are the filters that keep debris out of the water. This is common in areas with high mineral content, or "hard water."

To repair the well and restore water output, the well water technician needs to clean these screens. This can be done with high-pressure water jets that spray away the debris. It can also be done with chemicals depending on what the buildup is from. For example, if the well water technician determines the buildup is due to calcium carbonate, sulfamic acids are used, which acts as a descaling agent. This chemical is similar to those used in the house to keep hard water deposits down in your coffee pot or dissolve the mineral stains in your toilet.

2. Electrical Problems

Most household wells have a pump that relies on electricity to work. If you turn on the water and get nothing or only a very weak stream and you don't hear the pump kick in, or it sounds different, there's a good chance it is a problem with your well pump.

First, check your circuit breaker and see if they are on, or if they have been tripped. Most pumps use a lot of power and will have two breakers rather than one. If there was a recent electrical storm, it may be that they just tripped from a power surge. Sometimes only one breaker will trip, and the pump will still work but with only half the power, resulting in only a trickle. Turn the breaker(s) back to the on position and try running the water again. If it immediately trips again, you likely have a short somewhere or the pump may have been struck by lightning.

If the breakers aren't tripped, but the pump still doesn't work, the pump itself has probably failed. This isn't uncommon as it's the main working part of a well. You may need a new pump switch or pressure tank. It could also be the bearings are bad. The minerals in hard water as well as sand, dirt, and other debris will eventually wear out your bearings. The well water technician may be able to replace the bearings, but in some cases, you may simply need a new pump if the technician believes the unit is too old to bother with repairs for wells.