Are you about to buy a home? Or have you recently purchased a home? Most prospective homeowners don’t think about the water running through the house. Most homes will either have well water or city water, and there are some critical differences between them. There are specific pros and cons of well water vs. city water that everyone should know about. The most notable differences are financial and environmental. 

Well water and city water each come with their own set of responsibilities. Homeownership comes with another set of responsibilities. Having home insurance alleviates the worry associated with homeownership.

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Pros and Cons of Well Water

Did you know that over 42 million United States residents use well water in their homes? That’s because, with well water, you get a certain level of financial freedom. As a plus, you’ll be environmentally safe. Well water is free water because you do not need to pay a municipal fee. When a home’s water supply relies on well water, you get drinking, cleaning, and bathing water from a private well located on your property. Wells work by accessing underground aquifers. You receive water from the aquifer by pumping it into your house. 

Many people choose well water and thus don’t get a monthly city water bill. They don’t deal with any hidden charges or pumped-up costs each year. Some places even give federal tax credits to people who have a well on their property due to the annual savings. Like anything you own, there will be some periodic maintenance to pay. Either way, you’ll find these upkeep costs are significantly lower than paying monthly water bills

But aside from independence from city water, there is a high level of responsibility when you have a well. Typically, you will want to hire a licensed or certified water well systems professional. They’ll carry out inspections or maintenance annually. Well water can become contaminated and is susceptible to pollution. There are naturally occurring contaminants sometimes found in well water. Uranium, arsenic, and radon are contaminants that become dissolved in groundwater as it moves through rocks and soil. You may also want to buy a water softener or filtration system for hard water. Hard water is full of magnesium and calcium that causes a different taste in drinking water and dries the skin. If your well water is healthy, that will be the extent of water issues

There are, of course, cons that come with having your own well water. If you live in a rural area, contamination from agricultural runoff is the most common problem. Contamination is a problem for health and safety. If your septic tank is too close to a private well, your water can become contaminated. A typical water issue is nitrate contamination. This type of contamination is a significant health risk for expecting mothers and young children. Be sure to check if your septic system is too close to your well. A professional contractor or inspector will likely point it out to you and help you figure out how to move it. 

Don’t worry—water testing and water treatment are only necessary about once a year. You may need testing if you notice the water quality, taste, or appearance changing. An inspector will check your system’s condition for common problems, such as rusting tanks, leaking seals, or faulty gauges. It’s essential to hire a certified professional. Ongoing issues may result in low water pressure or invite contaminants into your water. The inspector will start by measuring the well water pump volume. They’ll then evaluate how the water system works and test the pump’s performance to make sure it’s working well. 

There are water treatment options if you run into any contaminants or water issues. Standard water treatment options include:

  • Water softener: Perhaps the easiest fix. This is a device that reduces hard water. It uses sodium or potassium ions to replace any calcium or magnesium ions that make your water hard. 
  • Whole-house water filter: This water filtration system removes chemical impurities from water. The filter has a physical barrier and chemical and biological processes to remove anything harmful. 
  • Reverse osmosis drinking water system: This is a water filtration system installed on your home to reduce heavy metals, trace elements, and bacteria. The upside to this system is it produces the best-tasting cooking and drinking water from the kitchen sink. 

Well Water Increases Property Value

An independent water source increases the appeal to your property in more ways than one. The annual savings of using well water outweigh having to pay for municipal water. When you go to sell your home, you may be able to increase your asking price due to the environmental benefits of using well water

Well Water Is Cheaper Than City Water

If you have an independent water source, well water is free. Initialization costs typically are around $5,000 ($15 to $30 per foot of depth), and maintenance typically costs around $300 to $500 annually. And if you buy a property with a previously installed well, you bypass the installation costs. City water bills can often be costly, and you never know what the hidden charges on your bill are really for. In the long run, you may pay more for monthly city water bills. When you use city water, you can expect to pay per gallon used. The typical family of four uses around 10,500 gallons in a 30 day billing period. Let’s say each gallon of city water in your area costs a half a cent per gallon ($0.005/gallon). Multiply $0.005 by 10,500 gallons, and you get $52.50. Multiply $52.50 by 12 months, and you’re spending roughly $630 per year for your entire family.  Comparably, the pressure tank for your well lasts 25 years before having to pay for a new one. If you keep your well water system in good condition, you will save even more per year. That’s a long time of savings!

Well Water Is Better for the Environment

Well water is all-natural, which means there are no added chemicals impacting the earth around it. When the ecosystem is kept healthy, so are the animals, plants, and bacteria within it. Any harsh chemicals often start a chain reaction in the environment. Think about pollutants, pesticides, chemicals, or oil spills. When any of these issues reach surface water and sediment, they get into sewer systems and impact land and marine life. The United States Congress passed the Safe Water Act in 1974 that enabled the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set national limits on specific contaminants found in tap water.

Even with the laws put into place, there are still dangers like lead that affect today’s lives. Just recently, in 2014, tens of thousands of residents in Flint, Michigan, dealt with high levels of lead contamination in its drinking water. City officials had failed to add corrosion controls to its tap water, letting lead and other harmful chemicals from water pipes leach into drinking water. While the lawyers involved reached a multimillion-dollar settlement, it’s still pending court approval in 2020. The compensation cannot undo the effects of lead exposure like developmental delays, learning disabilities, and neurological damage in young children. The plus side to having well water is that you can control what goes into your drinking water with proper maintenance. 

Potential Problems with Well Water

Like with anything, some problems pop up here and there with well water. Whether you decide to use city water or your private well, you are exposed to potential water issues. Here are some common issues when you decide on private well water:

Health Risks Associated with Well Water

You may not see it, but heavy metals and bacteria like E. coli can contaminate private wells. Groundwater movement, surface water seepage, and runoff are common. And if you or your family consume high levels of heavy metals, your household members could be at risk. Acute and chronic toxicity and kidney, liver, and intestinal damage are the most common health problems. The heavy metals also put your household members at risk of anemia and cancer. 

Coliform bacteria are microorganisms found in soil, surface water, and plants. E. coli is a subgroup of coliform bacteria, and it is found in the intestines of humans and animals. Coliform bacteria are washed into the ground by rain. And they are typically filtered out when the water goes through soil and groundwater systems. It’s unlikely this type of bacteria will cause illness. But its presence in drinking water can be an indication of pathogens that cause disease. Many times, when you hear of an E. coli outbreak, it’s a specific strain of bacteria: E. coli O157:H7. It’s relatively easy and inexpensive for water system operators to test for coliform bacteria. It’s also easy to restore safe drinking water by treating and boiling well water

Natural Disasters and Well Water

Natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and tornadoes pose a risk to well water safety. Floods and other disasters often contaminate drinking water wells. Livestock waste, sewage, chemicals, and other groundwater threats are also common with well water. If you experience a natural disaster, it’s best not to use any contaminated well water. Wait until the health authorities deem the water to be safe.

How to Retire Well Water

When a well is no longer in use, you must retire it. Old wells often cause liability issues to you as a property owner. Neighboring wells can become at risk of groundwater contamination. To retire a well, you must have a professional fill in and seal it properly. You must also notify your local Water Quality Division or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to document the retired well. You will have to hire a well water systems contractor with the right equipment to do so. 

Does Home Insurance Cover Well Water?

Coverage will not be written in your insurance policy as “well water.” But some home insurance carriers offer coverage for well pumps. If your home relies on well pumps for water due to lack of access to city water pipes, your insurance may provide coverage. There may also be exclusions in your policy to make a note of. If your policy explicitly states that it covers a well pump, it will depend on what caused the pump to fail. The pump may go out due to one of the perils listed on your home insurance coverage, such as windstorms, lightning, or fire. Your insurance will pay to replace your pump after you submit a claim due to these perils. Always ask your insurance agent about breakdown coverage on your policy. If it’s not covered, you will have to pay for a new well pump. 

Whether you’re using well water or city water, home insurance protects you against harm. But how do you find the best home insurance? Check out Insurify! Our best homeowners insurance comparison sites help you compare and save

Frequently Asked Questions - City Vs. Well Water

Does home insurance cover wells?

A homeowners insurance policy typically covers the well pump that pumps out the water from your well. Coverage is only included for named perils on your policy. Wear, tear, and neglect at your fault are excluded. 

Does homeowners insurance cover a well going dry?

No, in most cases, homeowners insurance will not cover a dried-up well. The only way for home insurance to cover a well that’s run dry is if it is from a covered peril under your insurance policy. Ask your insurance agent for exclusions on well pump coverage. 

Should you get water backup coverage? 

Yes, you should get water backup coverage on your home insurance policy. If your pump gets overwhelmed, it will shut down and cause extreme water damage. It’s always best to be covered in moments like this. 

Conclusion: Should You Get City or Well Water?

It’s always best to ask yourself if the responsibility of maintaining a private well is best for you. If the annual maintenance and possible water issues like contamination are not an issue for you, well water is the way to go. But if your city water has no known contamination and you don’t have the time to maintain a well, city water may be better for you. Always be aware of inclusions and exclusions on your home insurance policy. That way, if something happens and it’s not your fault, your insurance will cover well pump replacement. 

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Updated October 19, 2020

Stephanie Shaykin is a seasoned writer and marketing professional with experience in real estate. With a true passion for brand storytelling and SEO, she breaks down the most complex copy into a pleasant experience for the reader. In her spare time, she enjoys creating art and cooking in her home base of Chicago, Illinois.