Testing Well Water for Irrigation

Homeowners who use a significant amount of water outdoors, such as caring for a large garden or watering animals, often benefit from installing an irrigation well.

Testing Irrigation Well Water

Once the irrigation well is drilled and installed, it can provide a virtually limitless supply of water at a low cost over the lifetime of the well. However, homeowners should consider testing the water to determine if minerals or other water attributes will have an effect on plant growth or the irrigation system. Here are some water quality issues that could pose problems:


Dissolved minerals and salts are naturally present at some level in nearly all water. Some minerals are good for your flowers and grass, but others may be harmful to plants in high concentrations. High levels of salinity in water can hamper plants’ ability to draw a sufficient amount of water from the soil. It could even be detrimental to the soil’s overall structure.


Sodium is another mineral found naturally in water that can cause injury to plants. It is absorbed both by the roots and by the plant leaves.  Some plants are more sensitive to sodium than others, such as turf grass. Most plants can tolerate levels as high as 70 parts per million (ppm).


The pH is a measure of a substance’s acidity or alkalinity. Measured on a scale from 0 to 14, pH is considered most acidic, while 14 is most alkaline. Most gardeners know that the pH of the soil can make a big difference in how well plants grow and therefore treat their soil to strike the right balance. Water should have a pH of 6.5 to 7. When the level is exceptionally high or low, it could impact the pH of your soil over time. Especially acidic water can also be corrosive, causing damage to pipes and the irrigation system. Abnormal pH levels should be analyzed to determine the cause.


Chloride is a necessary nutrient to plant growth. Chloride concentrations below 70 ppm are safe for most plants. However, higher levels of chloride may be toxic to plants and contribute to the total soluble salt concentration. When applied to foliage, chloride levels greater than 100 ppm can damage sensitive plants; if absorbed by the roots, concentrations above 355 ppm may be toxic.


Some water may contain amounts of nutrients found commonly in fertilizers, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. While most of these are found only in trace amounts, they may be something to consider when looking at your fertilization needs.


Water drawn from bedrock wells may contain small particles of sand. Shallow irrigation wells might contain silt, clay or plant material. These sediments may plug irrigation equipment over time and damage your system. Depending on the level of sediment found in the water, a filtration system may need to be added.


Hard water usually refers to water with an elevated amount of dissolved calcium. This mineral is not harmful in itself, but it will crust on valves and within pipes, eventually damaging your system. Hard water can also be incompatible with certain pesticides and fertilizers.

If you have a well on your property and want to install an additional well for irrigation, you may be aware of some of these water problems in your area already. Consulting with a Skillings & Sons representative can help you determine if an irrigation well is the right choice and what likely issues may arise after installation.