When discussing a well system, especially as a newcomer to the field, you can be exposed to what appears to be a new language with all sorts of crazy terms. What does alkaline mean – What does it mean if your water is exhibiting capillary action? Between annular seals and pressure tanks, there is a lot to know about dealing with well water systems. If you’re thinking of installing a well and find yourself lost when reading articles on the basics of well ownership, don’t worry – You aren’t alone! This article will provide you with a comfortable primer on how wells work, what terms you should know, and what kinds of questions you may need to ask.

Onto the Terms


Water that is acidic has a pH value of below 7.0. Water that is very acidic can cause problems for your well water system, ranging from damage to pumps to line corrosion.


Water that is alkaline has a pH value of above 7.0. Similar to highly acidic water, water that is highly alkaline can cause a different suite of problems for your well.

Annular Seal

A very important part of your well that prevents surface water and other potentially contaminating factors from entering your well.


Aquifers are sources of water flowing or trapped in stone, sand, gravel, and other geological formations underground.

Artesian Wells

These are wells that are drilled into groundwater that is under pressure – An aquifer that is under heavy rocks will produce water that rises above the source of the water.


These are the holes that form the body of your well. Typically these are slightly wider than the well casing until the borehole reaches bedrock.

Capillary Action

This is how liquid moves through porous solids such as soil, plants, and our own bodies. Capillary action uses the forces of adhesion, cohesion, and surface tension to move fluids.


The steel or plastic pipe that is placed around the borehole to keep it from collapsing in on itself. The casing helps prevent contamination by keeping the well separate from surface water.


A well’s drawdown is the difference between the water level when pumping begins and the non-pumping water level. Drawdown is the time it takes for the well to fill to the static or steady level.


Wastewater that does not contain sewage from laundry facilities, kitchen sinks, showers, bathtubs, and other sources.


Water that moves downward in the ground, which recharges springs and aquifers. The higher portion of the groundwater zone is called the water table.


A measure of the concentration of salts and minerals in the water, usually calcium and magnesium. If you use hard water, you may notice stains and mineral build-up where you use water. You will also need to use more soap to lather up.

Maximum Contaminant Level

The MCL is the highest amount of contaminants you can have in your drinking water without becoming ill.

Maximum Demand

One of the most important things to know, your maximum demand is the highest level of water your home will need at any given time. Without knowing this, you could spend money on a well more powerful than you need or under-provide water for your home.


Standing for the potential of hydrogen, this measures how alkaline or acidic your water is.

Pressure Switch

Connected to your electrical line, this supplies power to your well pump and turns it on when your well needs to be filled with water.

Steady Water Level

Also known as static water level, this is the level at which your well no longer needs to pump water.

Well Cap

The top part of your well that covers the borehole. If this becomes submerged or comes loose, your well could become contaminated.


The amount of water your well can provide your home. Yield is measured in gallons per minute.

In Conclusion

As you can see, there is a lot to know about well water systems. We have not included all of the terms that might come up, but it will give you a good background on some of the more common considerations of well ownership. To deepen your understanding, contact a professional and have them run you through anything else you may not understand.