Private Water Supply: Quality and Quantity

Homes with a private water supply are common in the Piedmont Triad. Private water sources most often consist of a pump and a source of water, such as a well, river, lake, or cistern.  Some developments will institute community wells, where water is drawn from a single source, pumped, and distributed to many houses within the development. In these cases, homeowners will pay a fee to share in the maintenance of the equipment.   Private water supplies are not monitored by the city, so when you buy a home not connected to a municipal source of water, maintenance and testing will be your responsibility.   In all cases where a private water supply is involved, it is important to know the quality of the water and the quantity of water to the home.

Water quality testing is a service we offer at Parkwood. We check your water quality by sending a sample of the water to a laboratory.  Certain mortgate loans require testing of water for bacteria, pH, and other impurities, such as minerals, chemicals, and silt. Even if your loan doesn’t require a test, it is good to sample during the due diligence process so that you can be aware of any potential problems before you buy the home.

Another critical component of buying a home on a private water supply is knowing if you will have a sufficient supply of water.  When we do a water quality test, we also do a basic test for flow rate.  In general, a flow rate of 5 gallons per minute, that can be maintained over time, is considered to be good. A flow rate of 3 gallons per minute is considered acceptable. It is important to note that water volume from a well can change seasonally.  Requesting owner disclosure about year-round supply is highly recommended.  When in doubt, some buyers may opt to pay for a well-drawdown test to verify well capacity.  In these tests, which are typically several hundred dollars to conduct, the water level in the well is monitored while a steady supply is pumped out.  If the water supply is strong, the well will be replenished by the groundwater quickly, and the water level in the well will not drop dramatically.  Although again, due to the seasonal fluctuations in groundwater, a good test in April may not yield a good test in September and new homeowner have a tough time knowing the overall water supply situation.  Further, some owners may not allow the more invasive well drawdown test because the large volumes of water drawn off the well may stress the well. Additionally, if the water out of the well is put into the septic system, it can create stress on the septic system.

If the owners, for whatever reason, can’t disclose the year- round adequacy, neighbors may be an invaluable source of information.  At Parkwood, we are happy to offer guidance and talk you through the process to understand your results thoroughly and your next course of action.

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