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Using Spring Water on Plants: What you Need to Know

Spring Water is a natural and cost-effective means of watering plants with the added benefits of supplying minerals to the soil with each watering.

Using spring water on plants is an affordable option to provide nutrient-rich water containing minerals such as calcium and magnesium in the pH range between 7.0 and 8.0. Spring water should first be tested to ensure that it does not contain biological or chemical contaminants that can affect the growth of plants.

Spring water is considered beneficial to plants as long it is free from harmful chemicals. Moving or running spring water is key!

In this article, I will share everything regarding well water regarding how safe it is for plants, the contaminants present in it, and how it can be treated before use.

Is Spring Water Safe For Plants?

Spring Water used on plants

When it comes to plants, you should be careful about which water is beneficial, toxic, or harmful. 

One of the cheapest water options for watering plants is spring water. Spring water is untreated groundwater. 

But that’s untreated by human means. Springwater comes from filtering through ground material made up of layers of rocks and silt. These layers actively filter out the contaminants leaving mineral deposits in the water.

Spring water is certainly not bad for plants if it meets a few conditions before its use. The requirements are given below:

  • It should contain the right amount of nutrients neither less, nor more. 
  • It does not contain any harmful bacteria.

We can use Springwater without any worries and precautions after it comes from a source that is not stagnant.

Stagnation can invite animals and insects to drink which can cause bacteria to build and fester in the water.

However, if it is not gone through purification treatments, Spring water in this case can cause damage to your plants for the following reasons. 

  • There is no guarantee that it is free from deadly pathogens and harmful bacteria, which can damage the plant and affect your health.
  • It can be too acidic or too alkaline.

Contaminated water can lead to many diseases both for plants and humans.

Fun Fact: Nevada has more hot springs than any other state in the country, with more than 300 occurring naturally.

What are The Contaminants in Spring Water?

If the spring water is being sourced from an area where it is stagnant for a while and has not gone through purification, think twice before watering the plant with it. 

Both chemical and biological contaminants can be present in the spring water, which can act as a poison for your plants. 

Contaminants are the polluting substances that are responsible for making things impure.

Contaminants can be of different types, which include Chemical contaminants and biological contaminants, and more. 

A handful of chemical and biological contaminants are present in well water which is given below:

Chemical Contaminants in Spring Water

If you live near an industrial area, there are slight chances that your spring is chemically contaminated because many factories bury their waste underground to get rid of it.

Although some of these “buried†waste may not be harmful when above ground. When buried chemicals from the buried materials can leach into the soil during the decomposition process.

Chemical contaminants in Spring water include –

  • Salts,
  • Heavy metals (calcium, magnesium, potassium, lead),
  • human and animal Waste.

Biological Contaminants in Spring Water

It includes certain bacteria, protozoa, pathogens, parasites. These microorganisms are not visible to the naked eye.

Biological contaminants can be caused when rainwater goes through contaminated soil where bacteria, protozoa are present. In this way, these microorganisms end up in the spring.

Besides these contaminants, a bulk of nitrates and nitrites are also present in well water. These are present in fertilizers, animal waste, and human sewage. 

They reach the spring water through groundwater movement.

These contaminants make the water toxic, which cannot be used either for drinking or other purposes like agriculture, watering the plants.

Did You Know! There is a website – www.findaspring.com – that allows you to search your local area for them.

How Can They Affect Plants?

Spring water

Contaminants have a deadly effect on plants as well as humans. Contaminated water causes the plant to wilt or other toxicity problems for plants.

Many salts and chemicals, including iron, magnesium, calcium, are present in well water which is extremely dangerous to your plants.

Excessive Nitrates: 

If you live near any ranch or a farm, there may be excessive nitrate in your spring water, which may later cause over-fertilization if presented to plants in more than enough quantity. 

According to research done by Penn State University, nitrates in water encourage the growth of algae in the water. These algae can affect plants’ overall health and development. 

A Large Amount of Iron: 

Springwater can, sometimes, get contaminated with an excessive amount of iron.

In that case, the well water will continuously contact underground rocks, which will result in a high level of iron in the water.

High iron intake in plants’ diet may affect the chlorophyll, cause discolored bronzing foliage, and become a reason for stunted growth. Moreover, it will turn water’s taste into metallic.

High Ratio of Calcium: 

Suppose the spring water is continuously in contact with calcium carbonate (limestone). In that case, the level of calcium will rise in water, and it will directly affect plants. 

Too much calcium in the water will make water alkaline by raising the pH. In addition, high levels of calcium can negatively affect the germination of seeds and lessen plant growth rate.

To get a more detailed account on how calcium affects plants especially where concrete is concerned. You can see our detailed post on how cement can harm plants.

A High Amount of Salt: 

A high amount of salt stops the plant’s capacity to uptake water and essential nutrients. This will result in poor growth of the plant.

Remember, excess of anything, be it even the amount of salt in plants, can be dangerous. 

A high amount of salt can cause “salt stress” in your plants, causing growth inhibition and even death during prolonged subjection.

High Level of Magnesium: 

Water with high levels of Ca and Mg is called hard water. Hard water reduces the ability of a plant to absorb sufficient nutrients for its proper growth.

What are The Benefits of Using Spring Water? 

One of the significant benefits of Springwater is that it is cheap and readily available in bulk quantities. 

Therefore, besides tap water and well water, spring water is one of the most affordable waters available for plants.

Some plants love to quench their thirst using well water because it contains enough nutrients which a plant needs.

The water filtration through rocks that ends up in the spring can contain many essential nutrients for plants, including potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium.

If you have grown vegetables like sweet potatoes and radishes, spring water is best for them because they require soil of pH 5.5-6.5 to grow healthy. 

Springwater also contains a significant amount of beneficial microorganisms, which are not dangerous for plants’ growth and proper functioning but also help the plant grow healthy. 

How To Test and Purify Spring Water?

There are many ways by which you can test and purify your spring water.

Lab Test:

The simple way to test and purify spring water is to find a test lab near your area and ask them to check and purify your spring water. 

They will check-in at your place and inform you all about the results after doing the check-in necessary tests.

There is also a simple test kit that is used for aquarium water (which is tremendously beneficial for plants) that you can find on amazon.

You can find it by clicking here.

Water Purification Kit:

Another way to test and purify spring water is by yourself. You can buy a home kit from any online store or a supermarket and follow the guidelines given inside the kit.

There are some great choices on amazon for purifying water we found that were amazingly cheap. You can find them by clicking here!

Local Health Departments:

Or consult the local county health department or Epa (the United States Environmental Protection Agency) to do the job for you. 

Reverse Osmosis:

Another easy method used to test and purify contaminated water is Reverse Osmosis Filter. It is used to purify water with the help of a semi-permeable membrane. 

This membrane filters out undesirable and harmful particles like contaminants and sediments to make water worth using.

RO system works by pushing water through membranes to abolish the pollutants that are not visible to the naked eye. 

Reverse osmosis, aka RO, is available on any store but you can find some cost-effective kits on amazon which you can find by clicking here.

In addition, you can use it by yourself to clean your water from deadly pathogens. 

Natural Spring Water Vs Bottled Spring Water

Only 55% of the bottled water that claims to be spring water, is actually, spring water. 45% is just treated tap water.

As explained spring water is water that exists underground in an aquifer that sits at or below the earth’s natural water table. 

The water permeates through layers of rocks where it is filtered and pickles up minerals from those rocks before it reaches the surface. This water is constantly moving which prevents the build-up of bacteria and minerals.

Most bottled spring water claims to be spring water, but this is not so. Some of the water is treated to make it more palatable or to enhance the taste so that you, the customer, will find it tasty and come back for more.

When it comes to plants and economics, using water directly from an active spring is the obvious choice as it is both natural and costs little to nothing (that is if the transport isn’t a problem)

Spring Water vs Well Water

Spring WaterWell Water
Comes from the GroundAlso comes from the ground
Surfaces naturallyA well has to be dug to access the water
Constantly running or movingWater is held in a well
Contains minerals beneficial to plantsAlso contains minerals beneficial to plants
The mineral build-up is negligible Can have a great deal of mineral build-up
Bacterial count is lowCan harbor high amounts bacteria and disease being stagnant
Does not necessarily need to be treated before watering plants.May have to be treated to ensure plants are not harmed by contaminants

Other Natural Water sources

Rain Water

Rainwater unlike spring water can be obtained from almost any region of the globe. However, depending on your geographical location, the quality of rainwater can change depending on the pollution levels in that area.

Rainwater is generally slightly acidic compared to spring water which is slightly alkaline. It has an acidity range of 6.5 to 7.0 which can go even more acidic with increased air pollution levels.

Plants tend to love water in this slightly acidic range which is why you may find that you have to mow the lawn very often once there is rain. 

The acidity causes the minerals from the soil to become more mobile and available for the plants which is why you may see increased growth when using rainwater on your plants. 

In some states in America, however, collection of rainwater is prohibited and you will have to follow the laws of the state on how much rainwater you can store if you are planning to water your garden.

Snow 

Snow, yes snow is also a cost-effective option to watering your plants, crazy huh! But yes, snow, frozen water, is just rain in frozen form and can also produce the same benefits as rain when used on plants.

Snow as we know only falls in temperate regions and may not be readily available for us in the more southern states of America. 

You can see our more detailed article on Using snow to water plants.

Dew

Leaving plants outside will have more benefits than you may think and one of them is dew. 

Dew is the condensation of moisture in the atmosphere. More simply put, it is the water droplets that we find in the morning on leaves and other things outside, and usually in spring or winter when the air is cold.

In some areas, the amount of dew produced can be enough to sustain the watering needs of plants, even though very hot and humid days.

When compared to Spring and Well water due also comes in as a viable, cost-effective alternative.

River Water

River water can also be used if available. However, like spring water the water source must be clean and flowing. 

This eliminates stagnation which can promote the buildup of unhealthy amounts of bacteria which would not be beneficial for both humans and plants alike.

On the other hand, river water can contain just the right amount of nitrates for healthy plant growth. 

Nitrates provide nitrogen for plants which is used to produce lush green, healthy leaves.

Pond Water

Pond water, be it a natural pond or and manmade pond from a landscaping project, can be used to water plants for the same reason as river water. 

The nitrates, from the breakdown of the waste produced by aquatic animals such as fishes, turtles, and frogs, are invaluable for plants and their healthy growth.

Using pond water for plants is a hybrid method of aquaponics. You can see our detailed post on what is aquaponics and how it benefits plants.

The Takeaway:

Springwater should be tested to ensure it is fit for watering plants. If you find anything including bacteria, high content of salt, or nitrates, instantly treat it by any of the methods given above before it causes any damage to you or your plant.

One crucial thing to look for is that the spring water is moving or running, this is a telltale indication that there will not be any significant buildup of bacteria or minerals in the water.

Other viable sources of water which can be used in addition to spring water is:-

Have you seen our easy-to-use Vegetable Gardening Pro? 
Learn More!