Why Is My Well Water Brown: How To Fix It

Today approximately 15% of American households source their drinking water from a private well. Water from wells comes from underground aquifers, and most are clean and safe. However, there are times when your well water becomes contaminated. 

Many substances contaminate well water, and they can be either benign or harmful. You might be cleaning dishes, and suddenly brown water comes from the faucet. You’ll surely start wondering what has caused the sudden change of watercolor. 

Of course, you’ll want to immediately figure out the cause of water discoloration to know whether it’s safe or not. The article lists all the reasons why well water turns brown. Continue reading to learn more about the issue. 

Why Is My Well Water Brown

The well’s water can turn brown because of age, iron or manganese contamination, wall collapse, low water level, and rainfall. 

Regardless of the factor causing water discoloration, it’s an obvious sign that your well water system requires some extra attention. It’s advisable to find the issue and fix it quickly. 

Common Causes Of Brown Well Water

Many residential homes use well water for domestic purposes such as cooking, drinking, bathing, etc. 

Therefore it must be pure and healthy for all family use. But sometimes, well water can have a brown color, and you’ll need to identify the cause. 

Here are some of the common causes of brown water. 

Rust 

It’s the cause of rusty water, which has a brown color. There’s no issue with well water if it’s brown because of rust. Only the inside part of your water pipes is rusty, turning your tap water brown. 

The issue is quite common in households that often do not inspect their pipe systems. The first step to check is by running other taps in your home. It’ll be almost impossible for all your household pipes to be affected simultaneously. 

If other taps produce clear water, but it’s only brown on a specific tap, the issue is rust. Also, if different taps produce water with different shades of brown, then rust might be the problem.

It’s important to get rid of rust as soon as you identify it. Or else it’ll leave rust stains all over with time.

Iron 

It’s one of the common causes of brown water. Iron ore will turn your well water brown, stain your clothing, and more. Therefore it’s crucial to fix the issue quickly. Different types of iron can be present in your well, and they include:

  • Ferrous: It forms when iron oxidizes in water and turns the water’s color into a mix of red and orange.
  • Ferric: The iron dissolves in water, and this means you won’t be able to see it. Watercolor will always be clear. However, Ferric will leave stains on clothes and ceramics. If you notice your clothing turning brown or red after washing, it might have ferric iron. 

There are several ways to identify whether iron is in your water. Drinking can help you identify iron’s presence in water but isn’t advisable. 

Look out for red or pink-colored slime in your toilet tank. The color appears when iron bacteria feed on iron present in water. 

If the water is yellow or cloudy orange, iron-oxidizing is occurring. The most straightforward way of identifying iron presence in water is by using an iron testing kit. You can buy it online or at any local store.

Silt 

The dissolved solids are known as silt. Silt or sediment shouldn’t be able to get into your well through the pump etc. 

Water wells have various components such as bedrock/casing, well screen, and pump. The pump might suck solids from dissolved water into the well if there are any damaged components. 

Drilling also releases silt particles into your well through the casing. The pump will suck up the silt, which ends on the bedrock surface. Well, drilling happens when making a new well system or maintaining an existing one. 

Brown water that contains silt might be hazardous to your home and health. Plus, mud, sand, silt, and suspended solids can damage water pipes in your home. It will surely affect the water flow in your homestead. 

Drinking water will have an unpleasant taste and have a hazy and cloudy appearance. The watercolor will be grey or colored. However, the silt in water is relatively harmless to some extent. 

But silt usually contains fecal coliform, total coliform, or E. coli bacteria. If you ingest the bacteria, they can make you sick.

Tannins 

Tannins are present in peaty soil and decaying leaves. When it rains, these organic materials do seep through the earth. The materials can then pass into the well via the aquifer. 

Water with tannins will stain clothes – it gives them a yellowish tint. A well’s water with these materials has an earthy smell. The aftertaste of the water will be tangy. 

Amazingly small amounts of tannins don’t pose any health risks. But it has an unpleasant taste, making it annoying to drink.

The Well

The well’s water supply or level may change if the pump sucks up some mud. Or the pump might get wrecked and then hit the side of the well’s hole. When the water turns red or brown, it helps indicate an issue with the well’s structure or water level. 

You shouldn’t exceed 40-50 feet of the well’s casing. That’s because the red clay doesn’t need any casing at this depth. 

How To Fix Brown Well Water

Brown well water is a widespread issue in most households. However, there are several solutions to the issue. Here is more information on how to fix the issue of well brown water. 

Sediment Filtration

You can surely use the sediment filter as a sole filter. Alternatively, you can install it at the beginning of the whole-house water filtration system. 

It’s the best filter for discolored and dirty water with sediment issues. A sediment filter features pores that are 1 to 5 microns in size. The design enables it to remove dissolved solids such as rust, sand, and rust. 

It’s the best water treatment method alongside another like reverse osmosis system.

Pipe Replacement

It’s the best solution for rusty pipes in your household. This solution would effectively fix the brown color due to rust if it were due to rust. However, it’s usually a huge task that needs professionals, i.e., plumbers. 

Moreover, it’s also expensive, but this depends on several factors, such as the type of pipes and labor type. 

Reverse Osmosis

If you need a highly effective method for treating water contamination, then reverse osmosis is the ideal one. 

With this method, you can get rid of up to 100% of pollutants from dirty water. You can install this system before the water heater so that the whole house can have clean water. 

Alternatively, you can install it in your kitchen sink to allow access to clean water from your faucets. 

Air Injection Oxidization 

It’s an interesting way of treating contaminated water. With this method, you put oxygen into the pressure tank with water. As a result, the oxygen gas will oxidize iron and manganese. 

The oxidized particles will then stick to the media bed surface. However, note that this method only works perfectly for certain impurities. But it’s not the ideal solution if you want to remove tannins and bacteria from your well. 

Greensand Filters 

Greensand filters have manganese oxide and work similarly to air injection filters. It simply oxidizes manganese and iron, which then turn into solids. 

The impurities then sit on the media bed surface until you wash them away, and you’ll have clean water and a media bed. 

How air injection oxidization and greensand filters work is slightly different. But you’ll get an exact similar result. If you are unsure which method to use, decide on your budget and ease of installation.

Ion Exchange

The process happens inside a salt-based water softener. All you need to do is install the water softener in your water inlets. Place it before the water heater, and it’ll provide your taps, showers, and other appliances with soft water. 

Ion exchange is the perfect way of dealing with high hardness water. However, it can resolve several other issues. Each time you switch on your faucet, water will flow from well into the ion exchange tank. 

Here, a positively-charged media bed attracts the iron minerals and water hardness ions. They then stick on the media bed while it releases sodium ions into the water. The final result will be removing the calcium, iron, and magnesium minerals. 

All of which cause brown color in your well water. 

Performing A Water Taste

You should get a water taste to know the type of iron in your water. Also, testing water is essential since it helps determine whether it has harmful contaminants. 

Furthermore, the test will inform you of parts per million (ppm), iron type, dissolved oxygen, and water’s PH. 

In addition, it should also look at water hardness, iron bacteria, and dissolved solids. It would help if you did several other tests during water tests like total coliform, fecal coliform, and e-Coli bacteria.

Conclusion 

Each time the well water turns its color, people get nervous. However, mostly it isn’t usually a big deal, but it’s advisable to check it just in case. Finally, you must ensure that your well water is clean and not harmful to you or your family. 

Regular checks and maintenance on your well’s system will help avoid the issue.

Elizabeth Willett (MA)
Elizabeth Willett (MA)
Elizabeth Willett has an M.A in health and fitness, is an experienced trainer, and enjoys teaching children about healthy eating habits. She loves to cook nutritious meals for her family.

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