This article, written by the American Ground Water Trust was originally published in THE AMERICAN WELL OWNER, 2001, Number 1]


Purchase and installation of a water conditioning system can involve a significant financial investment and require ongoing maintenance costs. Typical conditioning equipment in homes can include, water softeners, iron & manganese removal devices, carbon filtration, UV lamps and reverse osmosis equipment. Many companies are eager to sell conditioning equipment and it is important to be an informed consumer to avoid buying something you don’t need! Well water for millions of homes is safe and wholesome and requires no conditioning equipment.

Working with a knowledgeable and reputable water treatment professional will save you money and time. Before hiring a water treatment professional and purchasing a treatment system, the first step is to have your water tested by a certified laboratory to confirm and quantify any water quality concerns. Some water treatment companies will offer to test your water in your home, and although such tests are more accurate than they were a few years ago, not all water contaminants can be evaluated with home tests. Back-up test results from an independent laboratory, with no interest in selling you equipment, may provide a better basis for a decision to purchase conditioning devices. You can compare your well water test results with EPA and state water quality health standards to determine if your water is satisfactory. Knowing whether a problem is of “aesthetic” or health concern can help determine whether you need a point-of-entry (POE or "whole house") system or a smaller point-of-use (POU or "single faucet") unit.

In most states water treatment professionals do not have to be licensed. However, many choose voluntary continuing education and certification through the Water Quality Association (WQA). Certified WQA specialists receive training and are tested about water quality problems and equipment options for improving water quality. The WQA maintains a state-by-state list of certified members through its web site ( or telephone hot line (800-749-0234).

Use sound consumer awareness principles before you purchase equipment. It is your wallet, and perhaps your family’s health that is at stake. Try to get more than one company to assess your water treatment needs. Ask how long they have been in business and evaluate references with regard to knowledge and service. Do not be pressured by "must buy today" salespersons. The right product today will still be the right product tomorrow. Check with your local Better Business Bureau for any complaints about the company. Select a company that is more interested and knowledgeable about evaluating and solving your water quality problems rather than "selling the system."

In many instances there may be more than one way to solve a water quality problem. Ask about the pros and cons of other treatment options. Make sure the equipment you are buying/ leasing is approved by either the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF; web site:, 800-673-6275) or United Laboratories (UL; web site:, 800-323-2594) for the. Also, remember that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not certify or test water treatment equipment.

Before deciding to purchase a system make sure you understand how it operates, the length of the warranty, what the warranty covers, the required maintenance needed, and typical costs of replacement parts and filters. Properly monitoring and maintaining conditioning systems is necessary to insure that your water will be treated effectively. Many contractors will provide service plans for an additional fee. If you need a temporary solution or if you don't own your own home you may be able to lease equipment.

Be sure to have a clear understanding with the installer about what the water quality will be after treatment. What criteria will be used as a benchmark for success? If there is dissatisfaction with the system who will pay to remove the equipment and at what cost?

Finally, be sure to have everything recorded in a written contract. Being an informed consumer may save you time and money and prevent the purchase of an unnecessary or excessive water treatment system.

[© American Ground Water Trust. This article may be reprinted for non-commercial educational purposes provided it is used in its entirety and that reference is made to its source as an article in THE AMERICAN WELL OWNER, 2001, Number 1]