Where Does the Water in a Well Come From?

Water used for household purposes comes from many sources. Well water comes from sources beneath the Earth's surface known as groundwater, which includes porous water-bearing formations as well as underground springs. Additionally, the means of bringing the water up out of the well to the surface is a part of where the well water comes from. Two types of methods exist to bring water up from the well: self-rising artesian wells and wells that use some kind of pumping action to raise the water.

Water Sources

Drinking water and water for other household uses, such as bathing and cleaning purposes, comes from a variety of different sources. Water circulates throughout the environment: in rivers, streams, lakes and oceans, through the atmosphere both upwards through evaporation and back to Earth in various forms of precipitation and in various ways beneath the Earth's surface.

Well Water Sources

Unlike municipal water supplied to homes through municipal water pipes that comes from surface water sources like reservoirs, lakes or rivers, well water draws from the sources of water beneath the Earth's surface. This type of water supply is known as "groundwater."


Groundwater includes water that flows naturally from below the Earth's surface to the surface by way of springs. Some springs run entirely underground and do not break through the surface. Groundwater also includes water that is contained in a variety of porous materials that lie beneath the Earth's surface, such as silt, gravel, clay and sand. Water collects below ground in these porous materials into structures called aquifers. Generally speaking, well water collects into the well from these water-bearing structures. Wells are situated in the Earth to access the aquifer at a depth well below the surface.

Spring-Fed Wells

While less common than wells that collect water from aquifer formations, underground springs feed water wells in some places. Some residential users may have more than one well on their property, with one (or more) of the wells tapping water from aquifers and one well fed by an underground stream. In remote areas, three wells on a property is not uncommon, though at most only one usually uses an underground spring as a water source.

Artesian Wells versus Pumping

A part of the answer to where well water comes from is the means by which one gets the water up out of the well to the surface. With an artesian well, the water naturally rises up into the well because of the action of pressurizing forces below the Earth. With all other types of water well, collecting the water into the well requires some sort of pumping action. The pumping device used to drive water to the well can be either mechanical or electrical.