Perhaps the most recognized difference between well water and spring water is that well water is pumped up from a drilled well in the ground and spring water flows freely from rocky streams above the ground. Both can be piped into your home and stored in large underground cisterns and both share many of the same advantages and disadvantages.
Both well water and spring water have two very popular advantages: cost and freedom of use. They both require an initial cost to have the water piped into the home and to have an underground cistern built and set up with the underground water current. Drilling a well is an added expense, but after that there is no monthly bill for water. And there are no water restrictions, which means that the homeowner is free to fill up a pool or water a lawn without answering to anyone.
There are disadvantages to both of these water systems and one fear that homeowners have is that they can dry up, temporarily or permanently. When the water flow stops or slows down, the household is totally at its mercy and must restrict water usage or go without while waiting for it to start flowing again.
Some well water also has the smell and taste of sulfur, which requires acclimation. Spring water is usually a bit clearer than well water.
The most crucial disadvantage to both of them, however, is the exposure the cisterns have to underground runoffs that can contain dangerous contaminants.
The Risk of Contaminants
The water is free of cleaning agents such as chlorine and fluoride found in tap water and may appear safe to drink, but it can be at risk of being contaminated.
Since surface water runoffs can drain into the underground streams going into the cisterns, there is a risk that deadly bacteria and chemical deposits from nearby locations can get into the drinking water.
Some of these contaminants include E. coli, which is caused from animal or human wastes on ground level such as livestock and cattle; nitrate, which is caused from chemical fertilizers or human and animal waste; metal and minerals in the water leaking out from landfills, road salts, septic systems and industry; solvents that can end in the water stream from chemical spills in nearby locations; and pesticides that are left in the ground and that with the help of rain will end up in the water stream.
Since both of these water systems flow underground and into a cistern, they are both exposed to the possibility of contamination and must be checked by a professional inspector on a regular basis.
Farmers with wells face an automatic risk because of the animal waste that will seep into the ground. Also, the proximity to industry presents another equal threat because of contaminants. It is essential that the cisterns be kept clean and covered and that threats of contamination not be ignored.
Is There a Significant Difference?
Both well water and spring water in a perfect world would be the ideal water to drink and the main difference would be the taste. Spring water might take the lead because it appears clear and wholesome. But in the real world, both are filled with hidden impurities that can be dangerous.
The water that is sold in bottles as natural spring water is not pure spring water because even though it may have come from a water spring, it’s still cleaned and purified to meet health standards.
References and ResourcesWell Aware: Water Contaminants
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service: Water Supply Springs
Spring Water: Precautions