The water well inspection consists of inspecting and reporting on the interior plumbing components, pumps, pressure tanks, visible water well components and performing a water flow test as described below.
Intent of Inspection
The intent of the water well inspection is to provide the property purchaser (or buyer) a report of the condition of the visible components of the water system and the ability of the system to provide a water supply for the home at the time of inspection. As the water requirements of every household are different, it does not guarantee an adequate supply for the home. It is not a water test and does not guarantee the water is safe for consumption.
Included in the Inspection
Review of the pumps and well's history by collecting as much information as possible. This includes records such as the original well report, maintenance records and any past water tests that are available. Both written and verbal reports will be passed to the buyer.
- Interior Components
Sinks, showers and toilets will be inspected for leakage that could adversely affect the pumps and water stains linked to high Maganese or Iron bacteria will be noted.
- Pump, Tank Pressure Switches
Pump: Determine the type, make, model and serial number of the pump. Test the pump while performing a flow test by checking the amperage every 15 minutes.
Control Box: Inspect and comment on the relay, start capacitor and run capacitor. Check the label for rated pump size.
Tank & Pressure Cut-off Switch: Check for corrosion at plumbing fittings and the pressure/storage tank(s). Check the pressure gauge and report its pressure. Check the cut-out switch for corrosion or burnt contacts. Determine pressure tanks cut-in and cut-out pressure.
Turn the water on at a laundry tub or sink and note the pressure when the pump comes on and when it goes off. These pressures will be low and high limits, respectively. The difference between the “cut-in” and “cut-out” pressure is called the “differential.” There is usually a 20lbs difference. 20/40 psi is low, 30/50 psi is common and 40/60 is considered excellent.
Tank Draw Down: Measure the time it takes for the pump to go from the low limit to the high limit with no water running in the house. Depending on the size of the pressure/storage tank and the pump, it should take 1 to 2 minutes. If it is less than 45 seconds, further investigation by a professional well contractor should be done to diagnose the cause. (Note: Special circumstances apply if the well has a constant pressure system. If you think this may be the case, consult a professional or check with the manufacturer).
Tank Diaphragm: Determine if the tank is waterlogged and/or if the pump has a rapid on/off rate.
Intake pipe: Comment on the type of material, size and main valve.
- Well Components
Location: Determine the location in conjunction with septic tanks & fields, waterways, corrals, grading, etc, which may affect the quality of the well water.
Casing and Well Cap: Determine the type of casing and the distance above grade to the upper well lip. Inspect for holes or cracks in the well casing. Ensure the cap is vermin proof, watertight and securely attached to the casing. Common casing materials are carbon steel, galvanized steel, stainless steel and plastic, usually PVC. The type is dictated by the site’s geologic formation and codes.
Casing depth: (NOT INSPECTED) The casing depth, as recorded in the well log, is enough to meet codes. If no codes exist, the casing should extend 50 or more feet below the land surface. If drilled into loose sand and gravel, the well casing should extend the full depth of the well. A well screen is fitted to the bottom to keep out sand. If the well is drilled into hard rock, the casing extends into the top of the rock and is sealed to keep out surface water, and no screen is needed.
- Water Flow Test
Purpose: The intent of the one-hour flow test is to determine if the pump is functioning properly when at capacity and determine if the well reaches or remains at *equilibrium during the per minute flow test. 20 litres (5 gallons) is an ideal amount used to accommodate a typical rural family home. If the yield summary on the well report is less than 20 litres per minute the test will be adjusted accordingly to prevent air suction and pump damage. This will be noted in the report.
The purpose of the flow test is to catch marginal wells & pumps and to make the buyer aware of its condition. The flow test may lead to pump failure, therefore, the seller MUST grant permission and sign off that the inspector or buyer is not liable for replacement.
*Equilibrium means that the in-flow from the well is equal to what is removed by pumping during a one-hour pump cycle.
What it is not: The flow test does not represent actual recovery in the well and may only reflect adequate storage in the well at the time of testing. This test represents conditions and data collected on the day of testing. If more extensive testing is needed, such as a true yield test were static, drawdown and recovery rates are determined, the home inspector will contact a local well professional. This will involve extra charges.
Process of the water flow test: A flow test involves pumping water from an outside hose bib for 60 minutes or more to determine if the well can sustain an adequate flow for normal peak demand. The flow is noted every 10 minutes and the water well level is measured and noted every 10 minutes. If the flow is less than 20 litres (5 gallons) per minute, this can be due to pump sizing, backflow prevention on the fixture and possibly small plumbing lines. In these cases, a well professional can investigate further to determine if anything can be done to improve the flow.
- Water Treatment Devices: (NOT INCLUDED) As a courtesy, conditions or failures may be pointed out, but such comments are not part of the bargained for inspection.
If the home has any water treatment devices, these should be appropriate and regularly maintained. Water treatment devices include point-of-entry equipment, which treats the water as it enters the house, or point-of-use equipment, which treats the water at an individual tap, such as the kitchen sink. Again, these devices are not included in this inspection.
Water Sampling and Testing: Although not included with the water well inspection, water sampling is highly recommended in conjunction with a water well inspection for real estate transactions. Water testing may reveal the need for a filtration system, the need for a well chlorination shock or other persistent contaminants that need to be cleared up. This may cost thousands of dollars and affect the cost of maintenance.
Steps to sampling on request are as follows.
Water sampling is provided by SureWorx Inspection Services Inc. on request. Lab results are conducted by a 3rd party certified laboratory and SureWorx Inspection Inc. takes no responsibility for their results. The homebuyer should compare and discuss all sample results with the Government of Alberta's local guidelines or a health specialist. For Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines Information.
If filtration is required, I recommend contacting a water filtration specialist for proper filtration and costs involved.
For more information about working wells please visit Alberta Working Wells - Resources