When It Smells Or Tastes Bad: Troubleshooting Your Well Water

If you get water from the well, you enjoy the freedom of not having to worry about city water costs, but you do have to make sure that the water quality remains safe to drink, as changes to the water table and contaminants aren't treated or monitored for private wells. If you water tastes or smells bad, it could be harmless, but it also could indicate the need for further water treatment. Here's what you need to know in order to troubleshoot your well water if it starts to become unappetizing. 

Bad Smells

The bad smell that most people associate with well water is the eggy smell, or "rotten eggs." This water is often still very safe to drink and the smell doesn't often affect the taste, but because smell and taste are so related to each other, even smelly water can be off-putting. The reason why well water can sometimes have this strong smell is because of bacterial colonies that live in the well system.

These are introduced at any time during the installation process, or whenever you have work done on your well. The bacteria thrive inside pipes and and plumbing fixtures because well water is often very rich in minerals like iron and and sulfur. The bacteria use iron and sulphur and produce hydrogen sulfide, which is what you smell when you turn on the tap. 

The only way to fix the problem is to remove the bacteria from the system. This is why wells should be shocked every so often -- you flush the well with chlorine to kill the bacteria and keep the system sanitary. You can also get home water treatment systems that chlorinate your water to help kill harmful bacteria. 

Bad Taste

There are a number of different tastes that could present in your water. Water can taste more metallic because of the higher mineral content. However, if you have gotten used to the taste of your well water and the water was tested as safe, you should only be concerned when you notice a change in flavor. The change is concerning because it means that something else has been added to your water, and you might not know what it is. Here are some common flavors you might detect:

  • Moldy, swampy, or fishy tasting water. This is most common if you live in an area with a high water table that has nearby lakes and rivers that connect to your ground source. Algal bloom causes the change in the water taste. Even after the water is filtered or after the bloom is passed, the change in flavor can linger for a long time. 
  • Bitterness, like from medicine. Copper deposits in water can cause a medicinal flavor. Copper can be toxic in high quantities, so it's important to get bitter tasting water tested to see the levels. Low levels will not cause any problems aside from affecting taste. Boiling copper-tainted water does not help unless you collect the distilled vapor.
  • Fuel. Does your water taste how oil or gas smells? This is a cause for concern, and you should stop drinking your water until you know for sure it is still safe. Local chemical spills can leach into groundwater. Dead animals can also sometimes produce this flavor. 
  • Increased salt. You might not care about water being a little salty, but it's actually a troubling symptom that could indicate serious contamination. Most salts are poisonous to people, and sometimes water tasting salty can even be tainted with human or animal waste.

For more information about testing your water for safety and treating it for better taste and smell, contact a local water treatment company. You can also visit websites like http://www.waterman911.com.