Utilities

Potable Water – Municipal and Wells

Of all the utilities, good clean and abundant potable water is primary for your family’s health and survival. In the US, the main sources of water for the home come from either a public water utility, or your own private well.

City or Utility Water

Utilities collect their water from rivers, reservoirs, large wells and even from the ocean. Once collected the water is treated at large processing facilities, then distributed to your home via massive networks of underground pipelines. Your home is connected to the utilities main pipeline at the street or sidewalk via a concrete box containing a water meter and shut-off valve.

The utility water meter can sometimes be many feet from your house so there is normally a main water line (a lateral) that connects the meter to your home. Somewhere at the exterior of your home, there will be another valve that turns the main water line on and off. There are also check valves and back flow preventers. These keep any water from your property from flowing back into and contaminating the main water line that also feeds all your neighbors homes.

City water supplies are typically filtered, purified and pressurized for you. The water is tested regularly for impurities and the test results are available to you on request. In some areas minute amounts of fluoride may be added to the water as a prevention of tooth decay.

It is important to know where your meter and main water shut-off valve are in case you have a burst pipe and need to turn the water off. Go to My Home and fill out the form for this information.

image of an old Crest toothpaste ad touting fluoride
Vintage Toothpaste ad

Wells

Humans learned long ago that in some areas there are trapped underground aquifers, lakes of water and even flowing underground streams. This water was usually clean and could be had by digging down to it and pulling it out. This works well (no pun intended) and is sometimes the only alternative in rural or isolated areas where there is no access to city utility water. Wells in some areas produce more water than others and some can occasionally even go dry. So, wells have an element of risk associated with them.

A well system includes the well itself, a pump (to pull the water out), a back-flow preventer, a holding tank (to store the water), a pressure pump and a main feed line to the house. The casing for your well must extend several inches above the surrounding grade level and be sealed.  Sometimes there is a separate pump house to enclose all of this.

Photo of a hand dug potable water well with a bucket and rope for extraction
Hand dug potable water well

To learn more about water resources across the US go www.usgs.gov

To-Do

  • Locate your water meter box and inspect the interior to discover the meter and the utilities shut-off valve.
  • Locate and label your main water shut off valve at your home.
  • Test your main shut off valve to make sure it is accessible and operable.
  • Water from any source may have debris and sediments in it that should be removed. I recommend installing whole house water filters for this purpose.

Maintenance

  • 1x per year: operate both your main water valve and the valve on your water meter. Both of these valves need to be easily accessible, and to work smoothly in an emergency. If they do not, a repair is needed.
  • 1x per year: Acquire a copy of your annual water test and read it. Tests are a must to ensure healthy water. Municipal water is tested at least annually, and the results are available for public view. If your water comes from your own well, then you are basically your own utility and responsible to have the water tested for cleanliness and take action accordingly.
  • 1x per year: Any water filtering system will need to be serviced and/or filters changed on a regular basis according to the filter manufacturers recommendations (see water filters in our Plumbing section).
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