Although most people in the US trust that their tap water is safe, this safety only comes from minimum standards set by the EPA. These requirements don’t cover private wells, so it’s important for homeowners to test and maintain their own water quality.

More than one in four wells sampled in the US surpass levels of recommended contaminants for drinking water – both natural and man-made. To maintain good health, it is important that you regularly test well water and use appropriate treatment methods to ensure that your household’s drinking water is clean.

Ignorant of what is lurking in their water, many people do not test their well water and simply assume it to be clean. However, there are a variety of common contaminants that can quickly turn your well water from potable to poisonous. To ensure the safety of you and your family, read on for a quick overview of some common contaminants as well as recommended treatment methods.

Can you make well water taste better?

While many people believe that groundwater is filtered by the earth, the truth is that you can’t be certain of its safety. Just because the water doesn’t look or taste bad, doesn’t mean that it’s safe to consume.

Although water may look clean, dangerous microorganisms such as coliform bacteria and E. coli could be present along with nitrates or pesticides.

By testing your well water, you can not only improve the taste of your water but also remove any harmful contaminants that may be present. This way, you can ensure that your drinking water is safe for consumption.

Common contaminants in water

Although water quality monitoring has improved in recent years, the most common contaminants found in drinking water include microorganisms, nitrate, and arsenic.


Microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses, can enter your well water through animal or human waste. These contaminants can cause gastrointestinal illness and other diseases in humans.


High levels of nitrates in drinking water can cause health problems, especially for infants under six months old. Nitrates are often present in well water due to agricultural run-off and septic systems.

Nitrates are common pollutants found in agriculture run-off and septic systems, and they can cause a condition called “blue baby syndrome” in infants.

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Arsenic is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in rocks and soil. It can be toxic in high doses and carcinogenic in low doses. The risk of arsenic exposure varies by region, with higher rates reported in the Western United States, New England, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.


While commonly considered to be a problem that solely affects basements or crawl spaces, radon is actually a carcinogenic and radioactive gas. If present in drinking water, it creates a health risk for those consuming the water. Furthermore, activities like showering or washing dishes expose you to dangerous levels of radon gas.


Most commonly thought of as a problem that occurs in basements or crawl spaces, radon is a carcinogenic, radioactive gas. Radon in drinking water presents a health risk, and household water uses like showering or even washing dishes can expose you to dangerous levels of radon gas.


This naturally occurring mineral is highly toxic in high doses and is carcinogenic in low doses. The risk of arsenic varies by region, with the Western United States, New England, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin having a higher rate of arsenic in groundwater.


Not only is iron unpleasant on its own, but when combined with bacteria, it can create slimes, bad smells, and tastes in the water. Iron can also stain clothes and fixtures, creating a nuisance for homeowners.

Hydrogen Sulfide

Hydrogen sulfide is the chemical responsible for the rotten egg smell often present in well water. In high doses, it can also be toxic and corrosive to pipes and fixtures.

Although this chemical is only harmful in large dosages, water that contains any amount of it makes it undrinkable and can also cause damage to plumbing and fixtures.

What is the best treatment for well water?

With the multitude of water treatment systems, it can be hard to decide which one you need. Make sure to test your well water yearly and pick filters that will suit your requirements.

Reverse Osmosis System

One common and effective option is a reverse osmosis system, which uses pressure to force water through a membrane, removing impurities.

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If you’re looking for an excellent filtration system to use for water treatment, reverse osmosis filters are your best bet. These types of filters typically work in conjunction with pre-filters, which remove larger pieces of sediment. In addition, reverse osmosis filters can get rid of the most common contaminants.

Activated Carbon Filters

Activated carbon filters, often found as pitchers or faucet attachments can also remove contaminants from well water. These filters use activated carbon, a form of carbon that has been processed to have small and low-volume pores, trapping impurities as the water passes through.

However, it’s important to note that activated carbon filters may not be able to remove all types of contaminants, so it’s best to combine them with other filtration methods.

Ultraviolet Light Disinfection

Ultraviolet light disinfection is a method often used in conjunction with other filtration systems. This type of treatment uses UV light to kill bacteria and other microorganisms, ensuring safe drinking water.

When used in conjunction with filtration methods like reverse osmosis or activated carbon filters, UV light disinfection can provide an extra level of protection for your well water. It’s important to note that this method does not remove physical contaminants from the water, so it should be used in addition to other filtration systems.

Water Softeners

Well owners often face the problem of hard water, which is caused by minerals such as calcium and magnesium that have dissolved in the water. Water softeners tackle this issue by exchanging minerals for sodium or potassium.

Too much-softened water can ruin pipes and leave a film on glass surfaces. If you are watching your sodium intake, using a potassium-based water softener is a better option as regular softened water adds salt to your diet.

The CDC says that in addition to getting rid of calcium and magnesium, some water softeners can also eliminate iron, manganese, heavy metals, certain radioactive materials, nitrates, and arsenic. chromium. selenium and sulfates. However, please note that water softeners will not get remove any microorganisms which could potentially cause disease.

Filtration Systems

By keeping your water system free from sediment, you will not only increase the lifespan of your faucets and appliances but also ensure that your drinking water is clear. If there isn’t much sediment in your water, cartridge-style filters are usually the most cost-effective solution.

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If your issue is more severe, you may need a multi-layered system. These types of systems are larger and pricier, but they have the ability to backwash automatically, so you don’t have to frequently replace the filter yourself.

It’s always important to have your well water tested before investing in a filtration or treatment system. That way, you can target your specific needs and ensure the best quality of water for you and your family. Remember to maintain and replace filters regularly to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Testing well water for safety

Homeowners should routinely inspect their wells and test the water quality to ensure that the drinking water is safe, as recommended by CDC.

You should also test your well:

  • If floodwaters or runoff can enter your well, contaminating the water.
  • If you notice a change in your water’s taste, smell, or appearance, this may be an indication of changing water quality.
  • If any maintenance needs to be carried out on your well or any parts of the system need replacing, you will need to open up your well.
  • If there are concerns about the quality of the water in your area, such as industrial or agricultural activities nearby.
  • If you suspect a leak in your septic system could potentially contaminate groundwater.

Regular testing will also help to identify any potential long-term health effects from consuming contaminated well water. It’s important to note that the EPA does not regulate private well water, so it is the responsibility of the homeowner to.

Although you can find at-home water testing kits, it is still best to go through a state-certified laboratory. By doing this, you are more likely to get accurate results. Your local government will have a list of these types of labs available for residents in your area.

Final Thoughts

No matter what filtration system you choose, it’s important to have your well water tested regularly and make sure that the filters you use are able to remove any potential contaminants. By taking these steps, you can ensure safe and clean drinking water for your household.

About the author

I started working as a quality control manager with the Water Authority of Nassau County in 2005. After a few years, I moved into Water Waste Prevention, where I currently work as the production supervisor. I love my job and the people I work with, but most of all I love spending time with my family.