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Wells vs. City Water


A rural property, such as this one, likely has a well


Well water? City water? You’ll see these specified when you’re buying or selling a home, but what’s the real difference, and should you care?

Simply put, city water is provided by the city, and well water comes from a dug or drilled well, whether it’s your own private well or a community well. There are differences between the two that should be kept in mind.


Well Water


Livestock and agriculture are two of the leading causes of well water contamination

Well water comes with several benefits. The biggest, of course, is that you don’t have to pay a monthly water bill. Beyond that, well water is often cleaner, as it comes directly from underground aquifers and hasn’t been chemically adjusted like city water has. That doesn’t mean it’s free of contaminates, of course. In fact, contamination is the main drawback of well water. From chemical fertilizer runoff to dead animals, many things can get into the aquifer and up to your drinking water. Tri-Cities also has the specific concern of aquifer contamination from improper nuclear waste storage at Hanford. While you likely won’t grow extra limbs from radioactive water, it’s still something to consider. Wells are also dependent on electricity to pump the water into your home, meaning that, if the power goes out, so does your running water. It’s up to you, the home owner (or a community manager, if the well is shared) to ensure that the well is working properly. Common well treatments in the Tri-Cities include water softeners, but nitrate filtration is also an option when living near agriculture or livestock operations. Well inspection for potability (drinkability) and nitrate levels are highly encouraged at the time of buying, and once every couple of years thereafter. Well water can change without you knowing, so it’s important to test it every so often. The test usually comes in under $40.


City Water


City water, by contrast, is controlled by the city. Different cities have different standards, but all city water is filtered to some degree before it comes into your home. However, some cities also add chemicals to the water, in order to provide theoretical health benefits to its drinkers or to prevent corrosion of water pipes. Clean well water will, as a result, almost always taste better than city water. City water isn’t immune to contamination, either; any contamination will typically be caught and controlled by the city, while you’ll have to monitor your own well water. City water, of course, also comes at a literal cost, in that you have to pay a monthly fee for your water. If you fall behind or are unable to make your payments, the city can and typically will cut off your water supply.


Contamination concerns, either with city or well water, can be eliminated by installing a water filtration system in your home.


So, which type of water is the right choice for you? There isn’t really a right or wrong answer to that. Well water can be better, but it can also be worse, and it’s entirely up to you to ensure that your well is in working order. Always keep in mind which type of water a property has access to when you’re looking to buy. Our Buyer Specialists will guide you through the process of sending samples to test water when you go to buy a home.

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