We have recently moved to the mountains of Colorado. Everyone in our development live on at least 1/2 acre. The source of water supply for the homes here is either a well or cistern. We are not set up on a municipal water system.
Cisterns are large, usually plastic, containers placed in the ground and plumbed to the house. They need to be filled by a water truck on a scheduled basis. Cisterns are used for a water supply if the cost of drilling a well is too costly. Sometimes the home owner doesn’t live in the home year round and prefers a cistern to make winterizing the home easier.
We use well water at our house. To extract water from underground aquifers, pipes are drilled into the ground until the aquifer is located. Then an electric pump is installed to pump the water from the underground water supply. The pump looks like a large black pipe sticking straight out of the ground with a flat silver colored mechanism attached to the top. A water line is then run underground to the house and is hooked up to a pressure tank. The pressure tank is then connected to the hot water tank and cold water plumbing system in the home.
The pump and pressure tank operate on electricity so we do not pay a water bill, but our water costs are reflected in our electric bill.
The pressure tank basically is a metal enclosed cylinder that is usually about 2 1/2 feet in diameter and anywhere from 3 feet up to about 5 feet in height with a vinyl bladder inside. They come in various capacities to meet the needs of individual homes or businesses. The water pressure from the well fills the bladder and the pressure tank forces the water pressure through the water lines when a faucet is turned on. A pressure switch clicks off and on to regulate the pressure that is needed.
Well water is untreated, and is for the most part a pure source of water. It could be fairly hard water if it has absorbed minerals from the rock in the aquifer.
Pollutants can seep into well water from so water samples are sent to laboratories to determine if the water is fit for human consumption. Farming communities have to keep a close eye on nitrates from fertilizer seeping into their ground water.
Some cities also get their source of water from wells and store the water in very large water towers.
We also have spring water in this area. Spring water is water that has seeped out of the top of the aquifer. Spring water can also contain minerals as it flows from the rock underground to the surface. The water may absorb minerals. A lot of the bottled water sold in stores is labeled as mineral water. It is purest as it pours from the underground aquifer. Once it flows on the grounds surface it is exposed to the elements around it.
Fresh running water in mountain regions where snow and ice melt create the streams can be freshest at the source. As the water flows it is exposed to any elements or pollutants.
Here in Colorado, the snow melt is captured in reservoirs and treated before it is pumped to the cities for municipal use.