WHERE DOES WATER COME FROM?

I am having a conversation on Facebook involving a kid drinking water from a dipper, presumably drinking well water. The question was whether anyone had ever had water from a well.

Many people commented that yeah, they had well water, but they used glasses. Like regular people.

I said: “We have a well.” They were unimpressed. Because apparently only city water is “safe” and wells are dangerous. Everyone has city water these days unless they live in the really super deep rural wherever. Total boonies.

Really? Seriously?

Finally, I pointed out if you don’t have a well, then your town has wells. and you get your water from their wells. And pay them to pump it into your pipes. No one uses an old wooden bucket to get water from a well unless you don’t have electricity. Most places have electricity and everyone uses an electric pump, just like the city, but not as big.

So, to sum it up: Water that comes from your well is just like getting it from the city, but closer. Also, it is better water and typically, free of chemicals.


Marilyn Armstrong In the 1950s you got free glasses with your laundry detergent, so EVERYONE had glasses. If there was a dipper, it was so you could put the water into another container — like, say a pitcher? And by the way, a lot of people have wells for water. I’m just 65 miles outside Boston and everyone around here has a well. If you don’t have a well, then your TOWN has wells, so you get your water from THEIR wells. Seriously, where does everyone think water comes from?


Eventually, I pointed out that we aren’t all that rural. We’re just an hour or so outside Boston and everyone out here has a well. Which is typical of most states in New England. We have an aquifer, so when you need water, you dig a really deep hole and when you find water, install a well pump and hook it to the pipes … and voilà! Water!

That was when I asked them if they understood where water comes from.

We have an artesian well.

Do they think when you hook up to “city water,” that water magically appears through some mystical city apparatus? Do they not understand you are getting water from wells or reservoirs, but no one is “making it”? City water is water. Pumped by the city, from wells or reservoirs. After which, they put chemicals in it and send you a bill. A big bill.

I know the people in our town who get “city water” (you have to actually live in town to get “city water”) pay a bundle for it. And the water is pretty bad.

I keep hearing how daring it is to drink “raw” water. RAW water? What other kind do you drink? You mean … if it isn’t full of chlorine, you shouldn’t drink it? You know, when you buy bottled water? It comes from a well. Like ours. Sometimes, not as good as ours.

Fresh water tastes good. Our water is delicious. Ice cold because our well is deep. Clear as crystal and free of chemicals.


(But … isn’t that … dangerous?)


I haven’t heard a lot about people in the country with wells getting sick from their water. It’s cities where the water is bad.

This was one of the funniest conversations I’ve ever had on Facebook. You all know where your water comes from … right? Just checking.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. Retired! Yay!

41 thoughts on “WHERE DOES WATER COME FROM?”

  1. I have town water. They use the same wells as the company Monadnock Spring Water. They don’t treat it beyond filtering, so although I pay a lot for the water, there are a people who pay, much, much more for the exact same water….

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    1. You live in New England and that’s pretty much the way it works for the region. We have a good, so far healthy, aquifer. Despite decades of doing our best to pollute it, we haven’t succeeded and now, we protect it. Most towns in the area have decent water. We have a local — just our town — issue with leaking water mains, but most towns are like yours. They pump the water in, straining it for dirt but that’s about it. When we used to spend time in the woods in Maine, they had fish filters on the water pumps 🙂

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      1. When I moved here, I had “well” water even though I was in town (the people who bought the house use the “well” as a sump-pump hole…) and the town water, from a pond, was nasty. But now that they use the same wells as Monadnock Spring Water, it’s great.

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      2. “Just trust me, brothers and sisters. I’m God’s rain man”

        Billy Starbuck, “The Rainmaker”

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  2. I have drunk from well water and from river water and from glacial melt. They were all great and I did not get ill from it. They definitely taste better than treated water. But there is always a risk.

    In the developing world, many instances of well digging has caused illness because they were poorly built, poorly sited, poorly maintained or the aquifer was already contaminated. Arsenic poisoning is a major problem in countries like Bangladesh.

    A good deep well should be safe but there is always the chance that some damage may cause contaminated surface water to seep in. So still better to regularly test the water or to boil it or filter it before drinking.

    Outbreaks of Giardia and Cryptosporidium are on the increase in the USA, sometimes linked to well water. In my part of the world, rotavirus still causes high mortality amongst children.

    I am a water microbiologist by training. Sorry if I sounded preachy.

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    1. We do have the well checked. I came back from Israel in 2001 year with a water-based illness that got the state water people down here to check our water. It wasn’t our water — it was the water in Tel Aviv which I had somehow assumed was okay since I’d lived there a long time and it had been okay … then. Times change.

      We had our water tested before we moved in (legal requirement), then again a few years later, then a few years ago when we had our well rebuilt. Testing it is a big deal involving a lot of running water and more or less emptying out the well then letting the water build back up, so we don’t do it unless we think we need to. We currently aren’t filtering it, but we have in the past when it went empty and stirred up dirt from the bottom.

      We are sensibly careful. This ISN’T (any longer) a polluted water environment. More than forty years of work have gone into cleaning up our rivers and watershed and it has made a gigantic difference. Will the water ever be 100% clean? Probably not … but it sure wouldn’t be any cleaner if we got it from “town” where the water is notoriously disgusting.

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  3. I have a well that is right outside my kitchen window. When it gets really cold there a little heater in the pump house that comes on to make sure the pump doesn’t freeze and it is good cold clean water.

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        1. Ours is VERY deep. Just luck of the drilling because most people have wells in the 50 – 100 foot depth. Just where they chose to drill turned out to be a very deep one. Good insofar as the water is very clean and cold, but it requires one hefty pump to get it up here and our pressure isn’t great.

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  4. This reminds me of that Erin Brockovich movie. The chemicals from an industrial site were seeping into the well water, and the townspeople were all getting cancer as a result from it. I guess it really does depend on where you reside.
    Very interesting post.

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    1. There are no industrial sites here anymore, but for a long time, this was a very heavily polluted region, There’s a long story, which I will republish at some point, about how American industrial revolution took place on our Blackstone river and the intense, horrible industrial pollution which resulted. More than 40 years later, we’ve come a long way. I suppose the one really positive thing about NOT having industry remaining in the valley is not having to worry about the watershed.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Our water comes from the local suppliers and is very expensive, one of the most expensive commodites we have, so you do not usually ask a lot of questions. Well water practically does not exist as such here, it is all processed by the state. The worst water I ever tasted was New York City. It had such a strong taste of something chemical – I am sure it is OK. But all the drinks with ice had the same taste.

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    1. New York has huge reservoirs upstate and yes, there’s a heavy does of both chlorine and fluoride in the water. It isn’t NEARLY as disgusting as the tap water in, say, Arizona … or anywhere in California. Here, though, it ranges from good to really excellent. I gather you get your water from melting glaciers rather than from an aquifer. The changing climate must be a serious concern for all of the region in which you live. I suppose rain helps some, but without an aquifer, it must be hard to have any control over the water. I’m not surprised your water is expensive.

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  6. Reblogged this on KCJones and commented:
    Have had private water, village water, city/public water. Private and village the best. Always put “stuff” in city/public water. Excuse me while I go adjust my dental plates. Too much treated water!

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    1. Good private water IS the best. Obviously, it depends on where you live, but certainly in areas like this where the factories and mills are long gone, we get great water. The worst water i ever tasted was in Phoenix. Oy YUCK, that was horrible. It’s so heavily chlorinated, it’s like drinking rug shampoo.

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  7. We have a well, and I’ve always preferred a well to city water, not for the taste — because I don’t drink a lot of water, but because I can do whatever I want with my water and the city can’t say a word about it.

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  8. I lived with my grandparents when I was a toddler. There was no electricity and yes, we got our water from their well. Many years later, my parents got their water from a well, which had it’s own pump and filter – we had electricity. We lived in Florida. It had a lovely sulfur smell, so we bought bottled water for coffee and drinking because sulfur tastes like it smells. I have lived several places that had their own wells and it certainly tasted better than city water…and we never got sick or had boil notices.

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    1. If you have a good aquifer and you don’t live in an area where there’s factory or other industrial runoff, water is usually good. Everyone in this area has wells. There’s no choice because our towns are small and not really big enough to provide water to the whole township and really, with such a strong aquifer, there’s no reason why they should. There’s no reason why our water should NOT be good. There’s nothing within miles that could or should damage it … but I grant that this is not true worldwide. It is, though, true in most non-industrial places.

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  9. Reminds me of a line from an old movie “Baby Boomer” starring Diane Keaton. She is an “A” type personality ad executive who gets saddled with her cousin’s baby…about 18 months old (if I were guessing). Circumstances and she ends up on an apple farm in Wisconsin (or Maine or Massachusetts). The farm is old and is a lot more work than she bargains for (if you push buttons for a living, digging trenches and picking apples is HARD work)…and eventually her well/plumbing has an issue of some sort. She is standing in the snow yelling at the poor guy she has gotten to come help. She says “I want to turn on the tap and have water. I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW WHERE THE %#@! it’s COMING FROM!” … and I think that’s what most folks want in this ‘modern’ age. My parents (in Southern Utah) had a well, but we could not drink from it…ground water contamination from the uranium tailings some twerp left unattended for 20 years or more was the cause (I’m guessing). But I think chemical free, icy cold, Mother Nature’s Best would be delicious and a whole lot less spendy than city water.

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    1. We are also careful about the water. NO salt anywhere near the well. NO trees, either! Trees can really finish off your well in a big hurry. Once an aquifer is polluted, it’s permanently polluted and it’s why we need to be so careful with the remaining drinkable water. Everyone should want to know where their water comes from. If they understood that my well and your well are connected by the same underground aquifer, people would “get” that overusing THEIR water is going to affect OUR water. A lot of the time, they really don’t get that, either. Like “this is MY water” and screw you … Stupidity is running rampant these days.

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  10. Oh dear! I would take well water over town water any day. Less chemicals. Funny how times change. Take our food. Things grown without chemicals, now need to go through red tape and testing, ones with chemical are deemed safer. Local food now has to prove they are organic, we just called it food back in the day. All the treated ones should be the ones needing labels and red tape. Go figure! I think we went backwards.

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  11. Until about 20 years ago we had dug well water as well as an artesian. In the winter we turned off the fancy artesian and I hauled water out of the dug well on a daily basis. Two pails at a time. Now and then we need to use that well because of plumbing problems, and it’s nice to know I can still turn my hand to it all. Muscle memory and all of that.

    We are intensely rural, but even our neighbors all have dug wells or artesian wells, and I don’t really foresee the time when the town would be willing to send piping 8 miles into the country side for anyone. Nor would we take it. I’ve tasted town water.

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    1. We get NOTHING out here. I’m surprised the roads are paved — and we are only 4 miles out of town. But the town is pretty small and they seem to be having quite enough trouble managing it. We are the forgotten part of the town. People refer to us as “the woods.” No sidewalks. No trash collection (unless we pay for it). Not street lights. I think they might send a fire engine if called 🙂 And the town water is disgusting (and I think possibly unsafe to drink).

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  12. I think that in our rural area most of the people who are not on “town” water from the local reservoirs are on tank water. Rain water is nice to drink and doesn’t have chemicals in it but of course there is always the risk of running out. A lot of my local friends are constantly worrying that they will have to buy water from a water carrier if they run out in summer. I have seen wells but mostly on farms. I think that those who live “off the grid” may also use them.
    In South Australia, a much drier state, I often saw bores on country properties. I think of the tall, wind powered structures as being a very Australian thing but perhaps your wells are similar. I did a bit of reading to try to understand the difference because my memories of SA were seeing signs saying “bore water do not drink” . It seems that I have probably seen those signs on shallow bores in urban areas where they are often used for watering public parks, golf courses etc while the deep ones are used for drinking water.
    Adelaide water is renowned for tasting bad although it is harmless probably because a lot of it is pumped through a huge pipeline from the Murray River 50 miles away to supplement the local catchments. The Murray flows through NSW and Victoria where it is used for irrigation before getting to SA so the quality is not great by the time it gets to Adelaide. In Port Augusta, north of Adelaide where I once spent a week the tap water was so brown and horrible that everyone drank bottled water or rainwater. Perhaps it is because people in cities don’t understand much about how water gets to them that they don’t understand why fracking is a bad thing.

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    1. The quality of well water is a direct line from the quality of the earth where the water runs. If there is a lot of industry and especially if it is the kind of industry with toxic or hazardous waste, it will affect the water. How could it not? But there are other things that affect water including salt which, if it gets into an aquifer, will poison it. Permanently. But mostly, it’s hazardous and toxic waste.

      Not every place in the world has an aquifer. In the U.S., somewhere in the middle of Arizona, the aquifer disappears, so you can only get water from rain or rivers or other standing bodies of water. I don’t know exactly how the ground and aquifers are in Australia. It’s different even in this country, depending on where you live. New England, where we live, has a pretty healthy aquifer. New York’s aquifer has been threatened, but has so far survived. When I lived in Israel, the aquifer was killed by too many farmers using nitrogen based fertilizer — and fertilizer is another one of the potential killers of aquifers.

      Water is complicated. Human waste that is poorly disposed of can poison wells and aquifers with bacteria. Typhoid can infect water too and used to be knows as “bad water.”

      In some parts of the world, waste water is reused for stuff like lawn watering, but it can’t be used for watering crops or animals or people.

      Complicated.

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  13. Our water comes from a reservoir, but the monthly bill is $30. Not so bad, but I wouldn’t drink it- I stick to bottled water, which makes up for the low water bill 🙂 But I do buy the bottled water in Costco which is 7 cents a bottle. It is what it is!

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    1. You are lucky your water is so reasonable. It costs more up here — and we have a lot of water. I don’t know anything about New Jersey’s aquifer. I know a lot about New York’s and New England’s aquifers, but aquifers are regional. Different and some places don’t even have one.

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  14. I’m with the last commenter… I’ve never had a water bill over $30 other than the one time I forgot to shut the water off to the hose for a few weeks and it had a leak (I did learn how to grow moss wherever I want to, though). Our city water is notoriously bad and bottle water sells like hotcakes. I would imagine with over a century of heavy industry in this area, our “well water” probably is probably more than a little nasty. And let’s not even talk about the Mississippi River. You can tell when we haven’t had rain in a long time, because the water is so loaded with chlorine, it’s like drinking straight from a swimming pool…

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    1. We’ve been living here so long, I can’t remember getting any water bill, though I know we must have because when we lived in Boston, we got a combined Sewer & Water bill and it wasn’t small. The water is just one part of it. The sewer is the rest. But we don’t pay either because it’s all private here. For good and ill.

      It costs us $245 per year to take care of our tank and unless something bad happens, the water is whatever the pump costs, electrically speaking. That’s it.

      I do remember Boston water as essentially undrinkable and I think almost everyone uses bottled water for cooking and drinking. I think that’s true in just about every city. In New York, the water comes (mostly) from upstate reservoirs and the water is probably pretty clean. But the PIPES are old and we don’t even want to think what lives in them. When the reservoirs drop, the water gets pretty putrid. It’s only “technically” water.

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      1. Our water and sewer bills are separate (The city itself handles the sewer, a utility company the water). It comes out to about $45 for both each month. Much cheaper than the electric or internet/cable…

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