Being Proactive with Private Water Wells

Adding service plans for your customers can improve your business and doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

By Michael Hanten

Nearly 43 million people in the United States rely on private wells for their drinking water, but owners of wells generally don’t know much about the quality of their water until they notice something wrong.

Sending your customers reminders for water testing, or proactively scheduling annual water tests, can have a significant effect on their water and your business.

Maybe their water will taste, look, or smell unusual, and they then call someone to inspect their water. Well owners tend to know issues they can see, but they don’t necessarily know about the health and safety of their water.

It’s a common misconception among well owners that since water comes from deep underground, it must be pure. As water treatment professionals know, that isn’t necessarily the case.

Well owners might also assume if they haven’t heard of any bacteria or contaminant outbreaks in their area, then their water must be fine. The fact is, bacteria, known contaminants, and emerging contaminants don’t necessarily work regionally. They can be present in an individual well’s water at any time, but no one will know for sure until the water has been tested.

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests testing well water annually (as does the National Ground Water Association), how many homeowners do that? Even more importantly, how many water treatment professionals help their customers do that?

If a well owner doesn’t contact a water professional to test their water, that water can go untested for a long time. This is a missed opportunity for water treatment professionals. At a minimum, sending your customers reminders for annual water testing, or proactively scheduling annual water tests, can have a significant effect on their water and your business.

Water Well Testing and the Path Toward a Plan

Water test results are a guide for building a customized service plan for your customers. If a test shows any signs of an issue, your customer may need to have certain equipment installed to fix the issue. Normally, you might install that equipment and then move on to the next customer.

However, considering what kind of service that equipment will need, and how often that service needs to occur, create a schedule that you and your customer can follow together. Plus, the customer will want reassurance the equipment is addressing their issue over time. Regular home and well monitoring through a service plan will make that ongoing reassurance possible.

Testing for coliform bacteria as part of an annual water test can act as an indicator for outbreak issues. Photos courtesy Water-Right Inc.

For example, a private water well test might reveal signs of hardness, so you install a water softener. Because the water softener uses a certain amount of water softener salt, a service plan for an annual charge could include salt delivery (e.g.,monthly, quarterly, twice per year), e quipment monitoring, and the EPA-recommended annual water test.

This is just one example of a service plan that can increase your revenue, put you in front of the equipment you installed more frequently, help develop a stronger relationship with your customers, and help keep their water safe.

Bacteria and other contaminants can come and go. A well owner might even live with hardness or smell issues for some time before contacting you. Setting up a service plan allows you to monitor your customer’s water well on a regular basis and help them obtain better quality water. Maybe they would benefit from a reverse osmosis system for cleaner drinking water, or perhaps they might need a filtration system to remove sulfur, iron, or emerging contaminants like manganese from their well water.

Conversely, their water might be in top condition, and your service visits are merely a chance to shine as you’ve proven your ability to take care of their water needs. Ultimately, a more frequent connection with your customers can reveal more information about how satisfied your customers are with their well and provide you the opportunity to help them if needed.

Each piece of equipment that gets added to a home’s water system becomes an additional part of a service plan. Multiply this by all of the customers who come on board and you can see the potential impact it can have on your business.

Sure, you might need to hire more staff and train them in order to accommodate these services. You may even need to expand your building to accommodate equipment and staff. These are good challenges to have!

There is now private well equipment that uses technology to communicate water and energy usage. A water treatment professional should be the bridge between that information and the customer to help ensure they are always receiving quality water and their equipment is working properly. Overall, the perspective of pump installers, plumbers, and other water treatment professionals needs to shift from being an installation company to one that proactively manages their customers’ water needs. Yet surprisingly, few companies set up routine monitoring of their customers’ water well systems.

Providing Long-Term Solutions

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top seven causes/outbreaks in private wells are as follows:

  1. Hepatitis A
  2. Giardia
  3. Campylobacter
  4. Shigella
  5. E. Coli
  6. Cryptosporidium/Salmonella (tie).

The most common method of development and transportation of these issues is by way of untreated drinking water, as most are caused by infected animal feces that transfer into the soil and eventually the groundwater.

Testing for coliform bacteria as part of an annual water test can act as an indicator for outbreak issues, as coliforms often appear before or alongside most of the outbreaks on the CDC list above. Those items—as well as nitrates, radiation, and other similar contaminants—aren’t quick-fix issues. They’re long-term concerns that need to be monitored and remediated by a water treatment professional.

By having a proactive service plan in place, potential issues can be found and treated early, giving the customer more confidence in the quality of their water and your company.

Better Water, Better Business

The risk for outbreaks, contaminants, hardness, and other private well water issues isn’t going to decrease. In fact, they may even increase. The good news is there are plenty of opportunities to improve your customers’ water through an ongoing maintenance plan.

Starting a service plan with one customer, then two, and onward can help you build momentum, understanding, and confidence to grow your business at your own pace. Adding service plans for your customers shouldn’t be overwhelming because you create them. You can manage what’s involved in each custom plan, and make sure your schedule and staff can accommodate them.

Water well testing can open the doors to many revenue streams for your business. From uncovering new water treatment equipment needs to educating well owners about the importance of regular maintenance and testing, you can easily become a trusted resource for keeping well water safe.

Michael Hanten is the lab director of Clean Water Testing, a state-certified drinking water lab that provides water testing services for Wisconsin, and is general manager of Water-Right’s Clean Water Center, a water treatment company serving northeast Wisconsin. He can be reached at