Buying Property With A Groundwater Well
Buying Property With A Groundwater Well
The 2 Q’s you should be concerned with when considering purchasing property which is dependent on a groundwater well are Quality & Quantity. On the surface, that sounds as easy as asking how much water is there, and is it safe to drink, but in honor of August being National Water Quality Month, lets expand on that.
In recent years Georgia has had significant rainfall. While this is great for water levels, it can increase the possibility of water quality issues. If a well has been installed correctly, and properly maintained, it should be reliable as a source of water, but a good rule of thumb is to always verify through proper testing. Keep in mind that there are no regulations on either the state or federal level regarding wells with less that 15 connections, or which serve less than 25 occupants. Most property owners with wells never consider the need to have their water tested. If you live in a metro area like Atlanta things like having a well on your future home site may never cross your mind. Keep in mind that according to the state Department of Public Health, and estimated 20% of Georgia residents get their drinking water from a private well. In 2012 there was a survey done by researchers at UGA which determined there were approximately 648,000 private wells. The universities Soil, Plant, and Water Analysis Lab (SPW) offers testing of well water, and surprisingly only received about 23,000 samples yearly. This means only about 3.5 percent of property owners with a private well have it tested each year. There are other places in Georgia that test well water, like Dobbs Environmental located in Covington, and various localized public health departments, however the University of Georgia’s SPW is the only organization that has clients across all of Georgia. To emphasise the importance of having a well tested, in 2010 there was a study done on water samples from 1,075 Georgia wells. Of these, 31 percent were found to have bacterial contamination according to the land use program director at Public Health.
Water Quality Issues & Testing
Testing requirements can vary based on your mortgage lender, type of loan, or location. Always contact your local department of health to determine what your local requirements are, and organizations you can use to test water samples. Testing for bacteria such as Coliform and E.Coli are typically the minimum requirements. Additional testing can be conducted if initial tests are positive for bacteria.
Other Possible Concerns To Ask Your Home Inspector To Look For.
Proximity of the well to possible septic fields:
There should be at least fifteen meters between a septic field and a cased well, and thirty meters for uncased wells.
Proximity of the well to livestock waste:
Especially in rural areas, livestock can be a risk of bacterial contamination. This can include agricultural lands in which animal manure is used, or waterways in which animal waste may wash into.
The wellhead should protrude above ground, otherwise the well could become contaminated from surface water entering the well.
Pesticides, herbicides, hydrocarbons, lead, or petroleum:
These contaminants should be concerns if you are considering purchasing property near agricultural lands, or areas with underground fuel storage tanks, industrial facilities, or lead supply pipelines.
Best case scenario, the testing will determine there are no contaminants in the water supply. However, if the test do uncover issues then there are various filtration and treatment systems, including carbon filters, reverse osmosis/ultraviolet light systems, water softeners, and chlorination.
Water Quantity Issues
Considerations for water quantity in the home can be broken down into two categories, water availability and the supply system. Well contractors will perform a well flow/recovery test to determine the quantity of well water available. The test will be comprised of checking the flow rate of water in a plumbing fixture for a about an hour. The tester will watch to see if the flow of water decreases during that period of time. The recovery aspect of the test determines the if the level of water in the well remains consistent. The flow test is an indicator of available water, while the recovery test is used to determine if water levels around the well are sufficient to maintain a steady supply of water to the well. The wells supply system refers to the physical equipment including the pump, pressure tank, and the supply plumbing. Low water pressure can occur if equipment is old, or poorly maintained. Things to check for include corrosion in the pump, or damage from rust on the pressure tank. Older systems with galvanized plumbing can suffer from rust, which originates on the inside of the piping, decreasing the diameter of the pipes over time, and affecting water quality. Another good thing to ask your inspector is whether the well is “bored” or “drilled”. Bored wells are dug using an auger, and will generally be 10 to 30 feet deep, and 24 to 30 in diameter. A drilled well will be much deeper, typically going 100 to 400 feet deep, and will have a smaller diameter. Drilled wells typically have casing inserted as it is done. Keep in mind that water for bored wells is drawn from above bedrock, and a drilled well reaches the aquifer, which is located below bedrock. The shallowness of a bored well can make it more susceptible to contamination.
As with any aspect of a real estate transaction, communication is your pipeline to the information you need to make informed decisions. Speak with your inspector to ensure you have the answers to these potential issues. They should also be able to help with suggestions, or contact information for the proper organizations if testing indicates there may be a problem.