Problems Watering Plants With Well Water


Well water has definite advantages but can also present some problems for your lawn or garden. If you have well water on your property, you should have that water tested annually in order to make sure that it is safe not only for watering your plants but also for drinking. County health departments and university extension offices generally offer testing for well water that comprehensively tests for a variety of different contaminants. Your testing site will also be able to offer suggestions of ways to treat your well water if they find problems.

Bacteria and Viruses

  • Bacteria and viruses from well water can infect the plants in your garden. Coliform is a common bacteria in well water, but if it shows up in your water test, it indicates that your well water is susceptible to infection by other types of bacteria and viruses. E. coli, for example, indicates that your well water has been exposed to fecal contamination. Once the bacteria and viruses in your well water infect your plants, they can infect you if you do not take proper precautions.


  • Acidity and alkalinity are measured by the pH scale. Measurements within 5 to 8 on the pH scale are considered pH neutral, while measurements below 5 and above 8 indicate water that is too acidic or too alkaline. In either situation, different minerals absorb into the water and can affect your plants. Highly acidic water can burn plants and their roots.


  • If you live near an agricultural area or a golf course, there may be pesticides or other chemicals washing into the groundwater and therefore your well. Chemicals from your well water can interact with other chemicals you may be using on your garden or lawn and cause your plants to overdose. If you are trying to grow your garden organically, contaminated well water may be introducing pesticides you never intended to use.


  • Groundwater can pick up gases such as radon from the surrounding area and retain it. If you live in an area where radon contamination is possible, consider having your well water and your indoor air tested to be sure you have not been exposed to radon. Radon is a carcinogen, and once it is in your edible plants it cannot be removed.

Heavy Metals

  • Like gases, well water can pick up heavy metals from groundwater. Metals such as arsenic are very toxic and can build up in wells. Similar to what happens with gases, heavy metals can build up in your plants and affected plants should not be eaten.

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