Potable Water – Municipal and Wells
A good potable (drinking) water source is important for your home. Of all the utilities that you rely on, clean and abundant drinking water is primary for your family’s health and survival. The main sources of potable water for the home come from either a public water utility, or your own private well.
Utilities get their water from rivers, reservoirs, large wells and even from the ocean. Large processing facilities clean and treat the water before distributing it to a massive network of underground pipelines. Your home connects to the utilities pipeline network at the street or sidewalk.
The utility water meter can sometimes be many feet from your house. The meter is contained in a concrete box with a lid labeled “water.” The location is normally obvious since the meter has to be read by someone from time to time. From the meter, a main water line (called a lateral) connects to your home. The main water lateral enters the house somewhere around the foundation. There will be a main valve on the line to turn the water on and off. You want to locate and learn how to operate this valve.
The main water lateral will also be connected to check valves and back flow preventers. These keep any water from your property from flowing back into and possibly contaminating the main water supply that also feeds all your neighbors homes.
Water from municipal sources will be highly monitored, filtered, purified and pressurized. 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. Many other products also contain fluoride so you might want to be careful that you don’t get too much of it.
It’s a really good idea to know where both your meter valve, and your 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 to document this information.
Some areas have trapped water underground in aquifers, lakes of water and even underground streams. This water is usually clean and can be had by digging a well 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. Your water well casing must extend several inches above the surrounding grade level and be sealed per code. Sometimes there is a separate pump house to enclose all of this.
To learn more about water resources across the US go www.usgs.gov
- 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.
- Make sure to remove any debris and sediments from your drinking water. I recommend installing whole house water filters for this purpose.
- 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. Make repairs to these valves if they become difficult to operate.
- 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: Service any water filtering system and/or change filters on a regular basis according to the filter manufacturers recommendations (see water filters in our Plumbing section).