Is Well Water Bad For Plants

For plant-lovers hoping to avoid steep municipal water fees, using a well to water your plants can be an excellent option. Nevertheless, watering your plants with well water is not as easy as it sounds.

Well water can often carry large quantities of minerals and other contaminants from the environment that can impose severe damage on your plants. For this reason, well water needs to be tested for contaminants and its pH level to determine whether or not the makeup of your water will be suitable for the needs of your plants.

Can you use well water for plants?

Well water can be used to water plants. However, using well water requires an understanding of the contamination risks that come from certain groundwater sources, and how to avoid these risks.

Well water often tends to carry with it certain heavy metals as well as high concentrations of salts and nutrients that can cause severe damage to plants and spread disease in the people ingesting them.

If your well is located in proximity to a farm or industrial agriculture site, your well water is at risk of being contaminated with traces of nitrogen-heavy fertilizers that can produce discoloration in plants and illness for those who may consume the plants.

It is also possible for the groundwater extracted through wells to contain pathogens and microorganisms that cause human illness through exposure to bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.

Well water may also be harmful if a well is situated near a septic or sewage system, in which case the water may come into contact with nitrates in the event of septic or sewer leakage.

Similarly, if your well is close to a more industrial center, it is possible for harmful chemicals to be introduced to the well water. Your well is most at risk of this form of contamination if industries in your area dispose of chemical waste in your area’s waterways.

To ensure that both you and your plants are not in danger of suffering the consequences of well water contamination, it is important to get your well water tested. Testing kits will allow you to determine what kind of contaminants are present in your well water, which will then inform how you can purify your water accordingly.

Well and pond testing kits are available for purchase, but you can also choose to get in touch with the Department of Public Health in your area for more information about professional testing. It is recommended to have your well water tested a minimum of once a year.

Why does water quality matter for plants?

Plants soak up the water they receive through their roots, from which it is then circulated through the plant’s vascular system to reach the stems, leaves, buds, and fruit. As a result, water containing contaminants will wind up being disseminated throughout the whole plant.

This contamination can be disastrous for plants, putting them at risk of discoloration, hindered or stunted growth, and potentially even death.

Contaminated water is also of particular concern if you’re growing edible plants because consuming contaminants that water has introduced into the plant can cause illness. For these reasons, it’s crucial to pay close attention to the quality of water you’re using to water your plants.

Is hard well water bad for plants?

Watering your plants with hard well water can pose harmful consequences for your plants. Hard water describes water that contains a high concentration of minerals. Hard water is produced when water passes through certain rock formations such as limestone, chalk, and gypsum. These deposits contain large amounts of calcium, magnesium carbonates, bicarbonates, and sulfates.

When heavy concentrations of these hard water minerals collect in your well water, they can cause damage to plant life. For example, exposure to high quantities of calcium can increase your water’s pH level, which can be destructive for plants that require more acidic-oriented soil such as azaleas.

Too much calcium intake can also harm plants by hampering the ability of their roots to receive the necessary quantities of magnesium and potassium.

Just like an excess of calcium, the high levels of magnesium carbonate that may be found in hard water can elevate the pH of your water, and obstruct plant roots from obtaining the levels of calcium and potassium they require.

Testing is again necessary to determine whether or not your well water contains an overabundance of minerals like calcium and magnesium if you hope to use hard well water for your plants.

Is bore well water good for plants?

Bore water refers to water pumped via a bore inserted into underground water sources, known as aquifers. Using bore water can be destructive for plants in the event of aquifer contamination. It is possible for aquifers to hold certain microorganisms and chemicals that are injurious for plants.

However, the extent of the risk of water contamination often depends on whether or not you’re dealing with a deep bore or a shallow bore.

A bore is considered to be a deep bore when the aquifer you are sourcing from is located around 20 meters below the surface.

Aquifers found this deep underground tend to be of higher microbiological quality, and the quality of this water can generally be preserved through proper bore maintenance and a lack of exposure to other water sources from the surface. Deep bores, however, may still run the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals that can be present naturally in the aquifer.

Unlike deep bores, shallow bores are not sheltered by heavy layers of soil and clay and are thus more susceptible to high levels of contamination. For this reason, it is not recommended to use water from a shallow bore for consumption or to water your plants.

Just like well water, if you choose to use either deep or shallow bore water to water your plants, it is advised that you get your water tested. This is most easily accomplished through the purchase and use of a pH test kit.

If your bore water is determined to have a pH of under 5, you should have the water tested by a professional and a chemical analysis drawn up to make sure it isn’t dangerous to use. Testing will be most important if you’re using a shallow bore.


It is possible to use well water to water your plants, but if gone untested and untreated well water can introduce contaminants that can be disastrous for plant life.

Well water can contain heavy metals, nitrates, traces of herbicide and fertilizer, pathogens and microorganisms, and high concentrations of minerals that can all be harmful and in certain cases lethal for plants. If you wish to safely use well water for your plants, it is imperative that you get your water tested so that your plants can flourish with a clean bill of health.

FAQ Section

Can well water kill plants?

If not tested properly for harmful substances, well water can injure and in certain cases kill plants. In addition to the plant contamination possible when using hard water, deep bore water, and shallow bore water, the presence of herbicide traces and hefty concentrations of sodium and zinc occasionally found in well water can cause plants to die.

Well water is particularly to blame for the exposure of your plants to harmful levels of sodium when the well contains softened water. To reduce the high mineral reserve present in hard water, a treatment process is performed in which sodium or potassium is distributed into the water. This treatment transforms the water into what is known as softened water.

While successfully lowering the quantity of other harmful minerals, softened water can subject plants to an excessive intake of sodium that will disrupt the ability of your plants to absorb the correct amount of water. As a result, plants watered with softened well water will have a hard time growing and can often perish from thirst.

Is well water safe for houseplants?

Determining whether or not well water is safe for houseplants will necessitate an awareness of the particular soil requirements of your plants. Plants need to be accommodated by soil with the appropriate pH level, and well water has the power to alter this level so knowing your well water’s pH will be key.

For example, plants like azaleas and magnolias thrive in more acidic soil, so watering them with well water with a pH level above 7 will inhibit healthy growth. On the other hand, plants needing more alkaline soil conditions will be negatively impacted by the use of well water with a pH lower than 7.

The general rule of thumb for determining if your well water is safe to use on your houseplants is to learn about the soil conditions your plants need and to have your water tested for both its pH level and for the possible presence of other harmful contaminants.

Is rainwater better for plants than well water?

Rainwater can be a great, cheap, and eco-friendly alternative to well water, but using rainwater on your plants comes with its own set of concerns that must be considered.

Because rainwater is not chemically treated, rainwater can be highly beneficial for your plants by helping to get rid of chemical salts and damaging minerals that may have built up in your soil. However, using rainwater can still be risky due to its potential exposure to sick animal feces as well as heavy metals such as zinc and lead found on roofs.

To limit contamination, the rain barrels used to collect rainwater should be cleansed a minimum of once a year using water and bleach. For further safety, it is also possible to obtain rain barrel test kits, pumps, and filters to ensure the best water quality possible for your plants.

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