Test the water system’s quantity, quality and functionality before finalizing the deal.
It is understood that there are urban amenities that will be sacrificed when opting for the serenity of rural living. At the same time, a rural property owner should expect the base comforts of proper heating, electricity and water.
If you are thinking of buying a rural property, however, you need to pay more attention to water before you finalize the deal.
The potential problems arguably make it the number one subject of due diligence on the part of the buyer.
Today’s consumer is well versed in the tragic consequences of harmful bacteria and chemicals in water and are usually insistent the proper precautions be undertaken.
Many water industry professionals are concerned, however, that there is not enough emphasis put on such critical factors as the amount of water flow, water hardness and the presence of minerals that can totally ruin a property’s plumbing.
To put it bluntly, there are harmful bacteria and contaminants that can kill you. There are water flow and mineral concerns that can kill your wallet.
With rural real estate transactions, there isn’t a list of legal regulations regarding testing a water system’s quality and functionality. Still, as part of an adherence to the best practices of their profession, realtors will recommend testing stand-alone well water systems on rural properties.
As well, mortgage-lending institutions have their own standards. When it comes to financing the purchase of a rural property with its own well, it is a certainty that lenders will require a water potability certificate, or other confirmation, that the water is safe for human consumption, as part of the lending process.
Well water can be contaminated with bacteria and chemicals. Sources of contamination may include infiltration from septic systems, manure runoff, pet waste, road chemicals as well as dissolved chemicals naturally present in the groundwater such as calcium, sulfur, chloride or iron.
There are complexities to proper home water quality that should be left to a professional. One such company is Flow Water Solutions in Caledon. As the company’s name indicates Flow Water Solutions will not only detect problems with a water system but will also provide practical answers to those problems.
As part of the testing procedure, water samples go to an accredited lab to be tested for coliform and e-coli.
Flow Water advocates the installation of ultraviolet water purification systems, where Ultraviolet (UV) rays penetrate harmful pathogens and destroy illness-causing microorganisms by attacking their genetic core. “We recommend that every well should have a uv system installed and maintained for customers’ peace of mind and protection,” says Flow Water’s Hugh Scholz.
As well, the company thoroughly tests the water to determine hardness, iron content, pH and total dissolved solids/nitrates (TDS).
What worries Hugh is that property buyers do not pay nearly enough attention to details that can lead to financially devastating consequences; including inadequate water flow from the well into the house at any given time. The minimal requirement is three gallons per minute, but Hugh figures it should be more than that to be realistically adequate.
To determine adequate gallons-per-minute (gpm) water, take these figures into consideration. A toilet will normally use about two or three gpm, a shower from 1.5 to 3.0, a bathroom or kitchen faucet from 2-3, a dishwasher from 2-4 gpm, and a washing machine from 3-5 gpm.
A rule of thumb for most single-family homes is a minimum flow recovery of five gpm from a well. This flow would provide 300 gallons of water an hour, which should be sufficient to meet most home water peak demands. When sizing treatment equipment we use 80 Gal/Person/Day.
“In certain areas, water wells do not provide adequate supply for peek demand use,” Flow Water points out on its website. “We can provide an alternative open storage system to meet the peek demands for the property.” Hugh warns that the process, however, can be costly. He estimates that installation of sufficient open water storage could run the property owner as much as $20,000.
Water analysis can be conducted on site. This is important, because it determines pH balance, water hardness and the presence of minerals that could damage a water system in the long run.
While a mortgage lender is highly likely to require that the water in the home be tested for bacteria, it also likely that the lender will be less concerned about mineral content. Minerals, however, do have the potential to negatively impact your health and the longevity of the plumbing.
“Buyers need to exercise a lot of due diligence, here,” insists Hugh. “The seller isn’t (likely) to say anything. It is all about buyer beware.”
He says people should be particularly cognizant of water hardness, iron content and TDS.
Total dissolved solids (TDS) is the term used to describe the inorganic salts and small amounts of organic matter present in solution in water. These include calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium cations and carbonate, hydrogencarbonate, chloride, sulfate, and nitrate anions.
TDS are measured by parts per million (ppm) and a high measurement can wreak havoc on appliances and fixtures. “Let’s say you have TDS of 1,500,” figures Hugh. “You would need to install a whole house RO system to prevent damage to fixtures in the appliances.” He estimates the procedure would cost between $15,000 and $20,000.
Reverse osmosis (RO) is a special type of filtration that uses a semi-permeable, thin membrane with pores small enough to pass pure water through while rejecting larger molecules such as dissolved salts (ions) and other impurities such as bacteria.
Just one of the problems water hardness can cause is plain hygiene. It makes it difficult to form the lather when bathing, requires more soap, and creates a soap scum. Problems such as this can be alleviated with proper use of water softeners. Flow Water’s water softeners are controlled via a water meter for optimal efficiency and units can be custom made to fit the property’s capacity needs.
In the long run, a hapless property owner could find him/ herself up to $50,000 in the hole if water flow is low and water quality is poor. It only makes sense to go with the proper flow and set your water priorities straight before buying a rural home.
WRITTEN BY: DAN PELTON | RESOURCES: FLOW WATER SOLUTIONS