Water Flow Testing
When considering purchasing a home serviced by a private well system, buyers should not only be concerned with the quality of water being supplied, but also with the ability of the well to meet the daily demands of the household.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the average household in the United States uses nearly 400 hundred gallons of water daily, this equates to between eighty and ninety gallons per person every day. Homes connected to municipal water systems have little concern with their demands for water being met. However, homes serviced by private wells do not enjoy this luxury as the quantity of water available can be limited by not only the capability of the well, but also by the type and condition of the well system used to deliver water throughout the household.
Whether drilled, driven or dug, wells systems form a complex network of pumps, piping, pressure tanks and sometimes holding tanks or cisterns that are designed to meet the unique needs of the home. If any one part of the system is installed improperly, faulty or in poor condition the system may not perform effectively enough to meet the demands placed on it. Further, a well that cannot replenish itself fast enough to keep pace with the demand placed upon will most assuredly fail to satisfy the needs of the average family.
With these considerations in mind, it is recommended that home buyers purchasing homes with private wells have a well flow test conducted as part of their home inspection to determine the ability of the well to adequately service the household.
A well flow test is the most basic and affordable way to test a well’s capacity to deliver and maintain a consistent flow of water at a satisfactory pressure. The test is conducted by running water for a predetermined period of time at a single location in the home, typically a bath tub, and periodically measuring the ability of the well to deliver a consistent and satisfactory flow of water in gallons per minute.
The failure of the well to deliver a consistent and satisfactory flow of water to a single faucet for the duration of a well flow test may be an indication the well has a weak recovery rate that will be unable to keep up with the demands of drawing water at more than one location simultaneously.
For instance, if a member of the household is showering while another is doing a load of laundry there may not be enough water or pressure to service both activities at once.
Aside from the well, there are many factors that could affect a consistent flow of water, such as, the type, age and condition of the faucets, piping and well components. The presence of rust staining in basins may also suggest a corrosive build up in older piping that could result in restricted water flow.
However, it is beyond the scope of a water flow test to determine the cause for a loss in flow or pressure and any attempt by a home inspector to do so would be speculative without additional extensive and costly testing by a well or plumbing specialist employing specialized equipment.
In the event a well fails a basic well flow test, a home inspector will recommend the client have the well evaluated by a qualified professional to identify the cause of the well’s inability to deliver a consistent flow of water to the home.
Owning a home with a well system that fails to meet the basic needs of your family can be a frustrating experience, not to mention the cost associated with correcting issues with a well may be substantial. Understanding the capability of a well to meet the demands of a household before purchasing a home can help home buyers avoid these frustrations.
Well flow testing provides a basic but affordable means for home buyers to gain a general idea of whether a well can adequately service the home or if further evaluation is necessary.
It is recommended that home buyers who are concerned with a well’s performance consider having a well flow test conducted as part of the home inspection to ensure the well is adequate to their needs.