Whether you’re a first-time homeowner or moving into a new place in Sonoma County, the journey to buying a new home can be such an exciting one – but it’s easy to develop tunnel vision in the process. It’s common for new homeowners to fixate on a specific feature or benefit of their prospective home, leaving some of the nitty-gritty details out of focus.

Taking the time to ask specific questions about your potential new home is the best way to make sure you can have the best experience possible once you move in. Water quality is one area that homeowners don’t always think to discuss. However, given the role your home’s water plays in your everyday life – from drinking and cooking to bathing and cleaning – it’s important to know whether it’s up to your standards for taste, showering, dishwashing, laundry, and of course, safety. Bringing your ideal home to life starts with making sure that you’re getting quality water, so ask these questions to make sure that you understand what’s coming out of your tap.

Where is the water sourced from?

This is possibly the most commonly asked home water question, and for good reason. Knowing the source of your water is crucial when it comes to understanding what’s really coming out of your tap on a microscopic level. Your home’s water will typically fall into two categories – municipal or well water – and both of them may require different types of treatment. For example, many cities in Sonoma and Mendocino counties receive their water from the Russian River, which is a municipal water source.

If your home has a municipal water source, then your water is required to meet prescribed government standards for drinking water quality and safety in the United States and in Canada. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for example, sets legal limits for more than 90 contaminants. Given these rules, municipal water typically undergoes treatment at a local water treatment facility. Though this regulation makes municipal water quite reliable, there is still room for potential problems.

Not all contaminants are regulated, including emerging concerns like “forever chemicals” PFOA/PFOS in water. Additionally, the use of chlorine in water disinfection – a common practice – is typically safe, but higher levels of chlorine can affect the smell and taste of your water. Municipal water can also be contaminated after it leaves the treatment plant, as it travels through miles of potentially aging or damaged pipes on the way to your home.*

If your home has a private well, understanding your water quality is even more important, as these types of wells are not regulated by federal agencies. Regular well water testing – and if necessary, treatment – is your responsibility the homeowner.

Well water is susceptible to certain quality issues, both aesthetic (color, clarity, taste, smell) and health related. Some of the most common aesthetic issues well water users experience are:

These issues can be an inconvenience, but there are health-related reasons for a homeowner to learn more about their water as well. Contaminants such as nitrates, arsenic, and lead may also be present in well water, all coming with various health risks. This list of potential water quality issues may seem daunting, but by knowing the source of your home’s water, you have the initial information necessary to take the next steps to avoid these problems.

Is the area known for any water issues?

It’s better to be straightforward when asking about potential problems with your prospective home, and water quality is no exception. While most of these issues are fixable with the right treatment, it’s important to know what you’re dealing with, as problems range from inconvenient or unpleasant to a downright health risk.

What common water problems should you be sure to ask about specifically? As previously noted, hard water is common in many areas of the U.S. and Canada. The minerals in hard water can affect cause damaging buildup to form in and on water-using appliances like dishwashers, hot water heaters and washing machines. It also causes issues with hair and skin, spotting on dishes and glassware, and scaling on faucets and showers. Iron or hydrogen sulfide could be issues as well.

If you’re unable to get the answers that you need from the previous homeowner, talk to your realtor or prospective neighbors to find out what they know about your area’s water and how they treat it. In the U.S., information about your neighborhood’s water is also publicly available through your area’s Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), an annual water quality report that the EPA requires most municipal water systems to provide. Homeowners in the U.S. and Canada can also reference the Water Quality Research Foundation’s Contaminant Occurrence Map to see where certain regulated drinking water contaminants appear. Additionally, water quality in Canada is monitored by Health Canada and by individual provinces and territories.

Are there any water treatment systems installed in the home?

Another important question is whether any water treatment systems are currently installed in the home. Having quality water treatment systems already in the home is a great feature: not only do they provide cleaner water to users, but they can protect the home’s assets and even add to the home’s value. Examples of water treatment systems that may be installed include water softeners, whole home filtration systems or under-sink reverse osmosis water filtration systems.

If there are systems installed in the home, make sure to ask when they were installed, the brand of the systems, and how well they’re currently working. Regardless, if you didn’t install the system, you’ll want to find out whether it’s still functioning and whether it’s doing enough to address any current water problems – which leads to the next question.

What’s the best local resource for getting my water tested?

Now that you have a better understanding of your future home’s water, it’s time to be proactive. By learning about local resources and scheduling a water test, you can be on track to owning a house with cleaner, safer water. A water test can give you information about water hardness, chlorine content, dissolved solids, acidity, and much more. With that information, you’ll have a better understanding of the exact issues with your water. It’s a good idea to do this testing with a local water treatment professional who’s knowledgeable about your community and can recommend a specific water treatment solution based on the individual attributes of your water.

Your North Bay Culligan Water expert, for example, can conduct a free water test and give you results in less than 30 minutes, offering you a more complete understanding of your home’s water supply. For harder-to-identify issues, water samples also can be sent to our IL-EPA certified lab.

A safer, healthier home starts with quality water, so make sure that you can open the door to your new home feeling certain that only the best water is coming from your tap. The journey of buying a new home can be daunting, but taking the time to ask the right questions can ensure that your new home environment is something you can be proud of.

*Contaminants may not be present in your water.