Water is such a crucial, fundamental element of daily life, you might not think about where your home’s water comes from — especially when you’re shopping for a new house, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth considering.
How you get your water does depends on where you live: Your home may draw water from the city or a private underground well. There are benefits and drawbacks to both public or private water that you should think about when shopping for a new home.
Well water is a private form of water that comes from an underground aquifer on your property that integrates into your home’s plumbing system via pipes and a pump. As of 2019, the United States Geological Survey estimated that 43 million Americans — about 15% of the population — use well water. You can buy a home with a well previously installed or install a well yourself after purchase.
There are a number of benefits to using well water on your property. They include:
Well water isn’t free of issues, however. There are still drawbacks to well water, including:
If 15% of Americans use well water, that means 85% are using city water. City water is a public water source that is implemented and managed by the local government. Water comes from a public source and is treated and distributed through a government-sanctioned system. Considering how widely it’s used, there are obviously benefits to city water, but it’s not without its shortcomings, as well.
City water has a number of benefits, including:
Even though it’s used by the vast majority of people, city water still has its share of drawbacks, including:
As with everything in real estate, choosing between well water and city water comes down to personal preference. But to make a more informed decision, consider these four factors when weighing your options:
City water comes with monthly bills but wells can be expensive to maintain. In terms of daily use, well water is far less expensive than city water (since there's no municipal fees to pay) but if you’re concerned about the upfront costs of installing the well or the occasional big bills for maintenance then well water may not be for you.
Speaking of maintenance, if you’re not the handiest person or you don’t want to deal with the oversight of a well, city water is easily a more preferable option.
You can’t keep water completely protected from contaminants. You have to test either city water or well water routinely to ensure its cleanliness. As we said before, city water testing schedules vary by municipality and dirty water has been known to make entire cities sick. Again, it’s worth remembering the catastrophic failures of Michigan and Mississippi to deliver clean water to its citizens. Wells have fewer opportunities for contamination and won’t become victim of public incompetence or injustice.
Accidents happen that can keep city water or well water from reaching you. However, even during a power outage, you’ll be able to manually pump water. There are also backup options in the event of a drought. Generally, both city water and well water are reliable, but if you want an extra sense of control, well water is better.
Most homeowners don’t have a real choice between city water and well water. In cities, where you’re never going to be able to drill for a well, you’re stuck with city water. The same is true for most suburbs. However, if you do have a choice between well water and city water, it’s vital to understand the implications of each to make the best informed decision for you.
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