What bacteria can be found in well water?

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There is an increasing number of households in the United States who have made the switch from using city water into well water due to the benefits that come with having a well installed in their property. Some of the advantages of well water are that it is cheaper, more reliable, and tastes better when compared to water that was provided from the city.

Wells are truly a great invention that has made it possible for many places, especially in rural areas, to have water for their household. However, owning a well comes with many responsibilities. It is a well owner’s job to make sure that their well water is safe to consume, and this can only be done once it is installed, inspected, and maintained properly. There are also many problems and issues that will arise once you have a well, and one of these is contamination due to bacteria.

What kind of bacteria can be found in well water?






Bacteria are microscopic microorganisms that may cause disease to people who drink and consume the liquid or food that contains it, as these organisms are able to survive and live in a person’s gut. In the United States where more and more people are relying on wells for them to get their water, contamination due to bacteria is more common compared to what many people think. In fact, there are multiple households who report that they have contamination in their well, and they will need to have their well inspected to know what the exact cause of the contamination is.

Fortunately, bacterial contamination in wells can be treated using a specific method that will work based on the bacteria that was found in the water. After all, there are types of bacteria that can be harmful once used and there are also other bacteria that can be left alone as they do not pose any harm to the household that will use and consume the water for their needs.

Types of bacteria that can be found in wells

There are two types of bacteria that can be found in your well, one is called the Total Coliform Bacteria while the other is called Fecal Coliform Bacteria. Coliforms are organisms that thrive in the environment and in the feces of humans and other animal groups.

Total Coliform Bacteria

This type of bacteria is often found in the environment and is considered to be natural and normal. Total coliform bacteria are often considered to be harmless, though there may be some cases that it may pose harm to the humans and animals who drank the water that is contaminated with it.

Why this type of bacteria is present in wells: Because total coliform bacteria can be found in soil and vegetation, it is highly possible for your water well to be contaminated, especially if your well has an open or loose cap or casing. Most wells in the modern era get their water from aquifers – which are water-bearing rocks. These rocks appear in groups and are located in several layers underground. Because aquifers get their water from various sources such as rain and snow, it is possible for the water to pick up total coliform while it travels, which will also be absorbed by the aquifer. Once the well taps into the aquifer, it may contain water that has the bacteria.

Is this type of bacteria a cause for alarm: As mentioned above, having total coliform bacteria in your water is not usually a cause for alarm, as it is viewed to be typically harmless and will often not cause any disease to the people or animals that have consumed it. However, the presence of total coliform can also indicate that there might also be harmful bacteria that have made their way into your well, which is why it would be best to have a contractor test your water.

Fecal Coliform Bacteria

Fecal coliform bacteria are often found in the waste products of humans and animals, especially rodents, which is why it can be very harmful to the human or animal that will consume the water or food that contains it. One subgroup of the fecal coliform bacteria is called E.coli, which is known to be the cause of many diseases that can be very serious once untreated.

Why this type of bacteria is present in wells: Contamination from fecal coliform bacteria or E.coli can be traced due to various reasons. One of them is a loose or inexistent well cap and casing, as it makes it possible for rodents and other wildlife to enter the well, risking contamination. Another reason why this happens is when your well is located in a place that is near to a septic tank, pasture, farm, and other areas that are prone to releasing fecal wastes. This is because aquifers can get their water from the soil that has fecal discharges, which will also be absorbed into the well once it is not treated.

Is this type of bacteria a cause for alarm: Having this type of bacteria in your well is absolutely a cause of alarm, and if it is already proven that your well is contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria or if it is still suspected to be contaminated, it would be best to stop using your water for the meantime until it was thoroughly inspected and treated by a well professional.

What diseases can you get from well water?

If your well water is contaminated and you did not do anything to treat it, it is highly possible for you, your family, and even your pets to suffer from diseases that these bacteria brought into your well. The main reason why most states and cities in the U.S. have mandated and required to have residents who own a well have their well inspected every year is to avoid this exact thing to happen. In fact, if a well is proven to be contaminated with these bacteria, there will be health advisories to keep residents from consuming their water. After all, bacteria, especially from fecal coliform, are known to be the cause of various diseases, which are mentioned below.

Common diseases and ailments that result from drinking contaminated well water

  1. Diarrhea
  2. Cramps
  3. Vomiting
  4. Nausea
  5. Headaches
  6. Fatigue
  7. Fever
  8. Salmonellosis

If the water is left untreated and is still being consumed, these bacteria can even cause death, especially when the human or animal who consumed it has been too dehydrated.

Can you easily tell if your well water is contaminated?

Because bacteria are microorganisms that cannot be seen by the naked eye, the only way to tell if your well water is contaminated with one is by having a Coliform Test ordered. As mentioned above, most cities require well owners to have their wells inspected every year for coliform and other elements for their safety and also to avoid contaminating other water sources.

Well testing can be requested from a well professional, and it can be typically done in a day or a week. It is recommended to get a trusted local well contractor, as they will know you area best and will also be able to utilize methods that will not affect other wells in your neighborhood.

What should you do if your well is contaminated with bacteria?

Once the water testing results are out and it is proven that your well water is indeed contaminated with bacteria, it is crucial to stop getting water from your well, especially for drinking and food preparation purposes. Get water from other sources such as the bottled ones until the issue is fixed. Call your contractor and ask to have your well water treated as soon as possible.