How to Inspect Private Drinking Water Wells

This open, public thread is dedicated exclusively for those students currently enrolled in the InterNACHI free, online How to Inspect Private Drinking Water Wells Course.

Students may:
write essays;
discuss topics;
ask questions; and
share thoughts with other students.

[Click here to return to the course’s assignment slide.](Click here to return to the course’s assignment slide.)

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The picture attached is of the storage tank, electrical disconnect, pressure switch and associated plumbing of a residential well system

. The water was tested and found to be potable. The water does however have a significant amount of silt and has plugged the washing machines cold water input port several times in the past.

I learned that reverse osmosis is called a point of use treatment system. A point of entry system would be a whole house filter.

Romex wiring is exposed between well pump shut-off switch and pressure switch. The pump motor leads are also exposed. Wiring should be protected with electrical conduit. Recommend evaluation and repair by a licensed contractor.

Article Review: Styrofoam Homes

Styrofoam is used everywhere including in homes however the idea of a whole home made of Styrofoam sounds ridiculous but believe it or not they are already in existence. They come in the form of prefabricated modules that assemble into igloo shaped homes. Styrofoam has unique characteristics that actually lend it quite well to home building.

Well Maintenance Checklist
•Know where your well is located.
•Extend the casing (or well head) above grade, if buried or too low to the ground.
•Well casings/head should extend to a minimum of 40 cm (16’) above ground level.
•This is to minimize the entry of surface water.
•Ensure your well is provided with a sanitary, vermin-proof seal or cover that is in good
condition and fitted properly.
•This is to prevent contamination from entering the well including surface water, soil,
vermin and organic matter.
•Maintain a permanent grassed buffer at least 3 m (10 ft.) around your well.
•Mound up the ground around the outside of the well or well pit with clean earth.
•This is to prevent ponding and to direct surface water drainage away from the well
especially after rain storm and/or spring thaw.
•Keep all potential sources of contamination away from the wellhead area.e.g., septic
systems, land fills.
•Prevent the use and storage of fertilizer, salt, or gasoline in the vicinity of the well
•Watch for changes in the taste, odour and colour of the water.
•Sample for other chemicals if you have concerns (e.g. fuel spills).
•Disinfect the well with chlorine after doing any work on the inside of the well or after
performing maintenance of pumping equipment.


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A well is simply a hole in the ground that reaches down to an
aquifer. Traditionally, people in the developing world have dug
wells by hand, which means that only the shallowest aquifers
can be reached; hand-dug wells rarely exceed 50 feet, and are
often left open, allowing run-off water and other contaminants
to enter the well from the surface. The shallow aquifers that
these wells draw from are vulnerable to pollution from agricultural
fertilizers, industrial waste, or seepage from nearby latrines.
With the right equipment, wells can be drilled to deeper, safer
water. A pipe and a pump are used to pull water out of the
ground, and a screen filters out any particles. Drilled wells are
lined with PVC or galvanized steel to protect them from pollution
that could otherwise seep in. They are sealed systems, with
pumps that only allow water to flow out of the hole, to prevent
contaminants from being introduced from the surface.

For the Inspection and Writing Assignment for this certification, I inspected a reverse-osmosis system installed in a neighbor’s house. The image of the spigot shows very low water pressure, which is indicative of old filters. I checked the main unit under the sink—the second picture—and confirmed that the filter indicator rod has dropped completely from view in the top, center, front of the unit. This is this unit indicates that the filters need to be replaced. The neighbor thanked me, as they had no idea that this had happened.

For the research portion of this certification, I read the article entitled “Private Water Wells,” which fits the subject matter of the course perfectly.

This article is an excellent resource for homeowners, particularly ones who might be new owners of a property with a private well. Many of these owners will not have experience with private wells, and might not be aware of the possible differences and potential pit-falls of dug, driven and drilled wells. The article provides an excellent starting point for homeowners to begin to understand the many possible sources of contamination, as well as the need for frequent testing for water quality.

All-in-all, an excellent resource for homeowners who might be new to private wells.

This photo was taken recently of the plumbing at a well pressure tank. A leak was observed at a brass fitting near the well pressure switch. The leak appeared to be originating at the low point drain between the well pressure switch and main shut-off valve. Water was also present inside the pressure gauge. Repairs are recommended.

Site design is an important factor when installing a private well. Distances to septic system leach fields, bodies of water, swimming pools, underground fuel tanks, and many other items are typically regulated by local ordinances. These building codes should be strictly adhered to, to ensure that the well complies and provides safe potable water for years to come.

This is a photo of the components on the top of my water softener, behind the control panel. My water softener stopped working recently and had a loud grinding sound when it tried to recharge. I took the control panel off and found that there was a part that contained a small electric motor and some gears the part would open and close the main valve on the water softener for regeneration. The plastic housing of the part cracked, causing the gears to loosen and grind against each other. In the photo, I show the water softener components with the new part already installed. I’m holding the old, broken part and trying to show the extent of the crack.

For this assignment I read “The Potential for a Water Crisis” by Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard. The water we use in the U.S. is stored in two different ways, in aquifers and reservoirs. As water is pumped from the various aquifers across the U.S., we rely on precipitation and seepage through the ground to re-charge these aquifers. Groundwater depletion is when the rate of water going back into aquifers is less than the amount of water being pumped out, and this can cause a number of problems. Some of these problems are:

  • Subsidence is when the earth over an aquifer settles due to groundwater depletion. This settlement can damage structures and is a problem in different regions throughout the U.S.
  • As the groundwater level drops, it will need to be pumped longer distances from deeper in the ground, causing water prices to go up.
  • As groundwater is pumped out of an aquifer with low levels of water, pollutants can be drawn in to the aquifer through suction. In aquifers near oceans, salt water can be drawn in.

Improved methods of water conservation will be needed in the future to help ensure the U.S. continues to have an adequate water supply for its residents.

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Inspection and Writing Assignment:

The most significant issue with this well casing is the lack of a sanitary cap, without a sanitary cap rodents, insects or other surface contaminants have a direct path into the water source. The well is also located too close to the house (within 3’) under an access hatch in a deck with a penetration into the crawlspace. Despite these issues the bacterial testing results were that the well was not contaminated. Recommend installing a sanitary cap and testing the water quality after installation as well as followup testing annually.

Research Exercise:

Cisterns: Cisterns are water storage tanks for both potable and non-potable water. They can be installed to store water for drinking, irrigation and fire fighting, and can be constructed of various materials including poured concrete, concrete block metal and fiberglass. Cisterns and their components should be regularly inspected, tanks for the storage of drinking water have more stringent and comprehensive standards for inspection. Cisterns should be located away from sources of contamination, away from trees so that roots wont damage underground tanks and on or in firm ground to prevent settling damage. Landscape grade should drain away from cistern openings which should be sealed with tight fitting covers. Cleaning should be done every 5 years.

Here we have a photo of a drilled well head and cover. I have my tape measure showing the pipe above ground 15 inches. So it exceeds the 12 inches needed. The well head and cover is also covered. It has a decritive block type housing over it. This is not only more appealing to see but also helps protect the unit from falling debris since this well is located near a large amount of tree growth.

" Water Quality "

Depending where you live will depend where you get your water supply and the quality of the supply. The EPA only mandates quality guidelines for water supplies that municipalities deliver to people. Private water supplies need be tested for quality by the owner. Wether getting water from a public or private source we all need protect our water sheds to secure water that can be or made to be of human consumption quality. Many types of water treatments have been developed to assist in creating a healthy water quality. Generally speaking all water sources have some level on contaminants in them.

Pressure tank pressure gauge does not function, tank appears to be operating as intended. With out a working pressure gauge it is not possible to properly evaluate pressure tank and pressure switch performance.Have a well and pump contractor install a new pressure gauge and evaluate pressure tank for possible service



This photo shows a different type of water filter system that was not mentioned in this course. It is a UV filter that treats bacteria and viruses. These filters do not have many parts that can be inspected. What you should look for are leaks at any of the fittings and frayed wires. You will see a control box above the filter housing. This model of water filter has a counter on it that displays the number of days that the UV light bulb has left prior to it needing to be replaced. The light bulbs for this unit are designed to last one calendar year. The two green lights indicate the system is operational and providing the designed protection. There is an audible alarm that sounds if the power goes out. It is still recommended the water quality be tested yearly to ensure that this filter system is working as intended. Note- if your water normally has visible sediment in it this sediment should be filtered out prior to this UV light filter.

Double taps. I am sure we have all found them during an inspection. We have to be aware that some circuit breakers are designed to hold two wires. The breakers that are designed for two wires will state on the label that they were designed to hold two wires and provide wire size guidelines. Just because a breaker is double tapped does not make it wrong and we need to be sure we pay attention to the breaker style and spend the time to research the specific breaker if we are unsure.