Well Water Problems

    Published: August 17, 2016

    7 Top Well Water Problems and Solutions

    It’s a moment well water users dread—you turn on the tap and out gushes cloudy, discolored, or foul-smell water. Something’s wrong with the well.

    Fortunately, many common well water problems can be solved. Knowing how to identify the cause of well difficulties and their solutions allows you to take action quickly and restore your water supply.

    Well Water Problems and Solutions

    Hard Water
    High levels of dissolved magnesium and calcium cause hard water. Hard water is extremely common in the USA, affecting 85 percent of the nation.

    Symptoms of Hard Water

    • Clothes washed in hard water feel rough and lose their color
    • Dry skin and flakey hair
    • Low water pressure due to mineral accumulation in clogged pipes
    • Scale buildup on faucets and in water based appliances
    • Spots and white residue on dishes and in dishwashers
    • Stained sinks and bathtubs.

    Consequences of Hard Water

    Hard water damaging effect on plumbing, appliances, and clothes becomes expensive over time. Scale build up makes appliances less effective, shortening their lifespan and requiring more power to run. Clothes need replacing more often, and scale buildup on faucets and sinks is unsightly. While not considered a serious risk to health, hard water damages and prematurely ages skin and hair.

    Hard Water Well Solutions
    Add a water softener to your water filtration system. Choosing a water softener alternative with salt free technology is an efficient and green alternative to traditional salt-based systems, which produce large amounts of brackish wastewater.

    Acidic Water Well Problems
    Acid rainfall, runoff from mining operations, and plant life decomposition can drop water’s pH levels below 7.0 pH. Low total dissolved solids (TDS) can also lower your well water’s pH level.

    Symptoms of Acidic Water

    • blue-green or rust stains in sinks and tubs
    • cloudy water (in some cases)
    • metallic, bitter-tasting water
    • pinhole leaks in plumbing
    • corroded faucets and fixtures.

    Consequences of Acidic Well Water
    Acidic water corrodes plumbing over time, raising the risk of leaks and burst pipes. Sink stains are usually caused by steel or copper, but may indicate corrosion is leaching lead from old plumbing solder into your drinking water. Lead causes serious and irreversible neurological and physical health problems, especially in children.

    Acidic Water Well Solutions
    Options include installing an acid neutralizing filter, or soda ash injections into the well to raise pH. In some cases, replacing metal pipes with NSF-approved plastic components may be necessary.

    Fluoride occurs naturally in all natural water in varying amounts and can only be detected by well water testing. The EPA’s recommended level for fluoride is 0.7 mg/L, but well water levels can be higher.

    Symptoms of Fluoride in Well Water

    • Dental fluorosis—white or brown stains on the teeth, especially in children.

    Fluoride Solutions

    A point of use reverse osmosis water filter effective reduces fluoride from drinking water.

    Hydrogen Sulfide
    A flammable gas, hydrogen sulfide enters water when organic material decomposes. An infestation of sulfate-reducing bacteria in the well can produce the gas, as can chemical reactions with the anode rods in hot water heaters.

    Hydrogen Sulfide Symptoms

    • Water smells like rotten eggs
    • Stained laundry
    • Stains on bathroom fixtures
    • Discolored silverware, copper, and brass

    Consequences of Hydrogen Sulfide Accumulations
    Hydrogen sulfide is corrosive, so can damage pipes and leach plumbing metals into drinking water. While not usually dangerous in its dissolved form, the flammable gas can accumulate in confined spaces (such as wells) at levels that can be poisonous and pose a fire or explosion risk.

    Hydrogen Sulfide Solutions
    Replacing the anode rod in your hot water heater can help, if substances in the water chemically interact with the rod. Well disinfection can reduce sulfide reducing bacteria. Greensand filters or a system of automatic chlorination and filtration also reduce hydrogen sulfide levels.

    Iron and Manganese
    Found naturally in bedrock, iron and manganese can dissolve into groundwater, especially when disturbed by mining operations.

    Symptoms of Iron and Manganese Problems

    • Black specks or stains
    • Brown, orange, or red stains on sinks and bathtubs
    • Cloudy, sometimes orange water
    • Metallic, bitter taste
    • Oily water surface
    • Staining water appears grey or black.

    Consequences of Iron and Manganese in Well Water

    High levels of iron and manganese leave mineral deposits on appliances and in plumbing. Neither mineral is considered a health issue.

    Iron and Manganese Solutions
    Oxidation filtration will remove iron, but requires chemical treatment to remove manganese. Point of use reverse osmosis filters will remove both iron and manganese from drinking and cooking water.

    High levels of total suspended sediment can enter well water due to runoff, drilling, or any form of earth disturbance. High sediment levels may also indicate the presence of oxidized metals (iron and manganese) in the water, microbial life, or pollutants.

    Symptoms of Turbidity

    • Cloudy or dirty water.

    Consequences of Turbidity

    Turbidity associated with microbial life can result in bacterial, viral, or bacterial infections.

    Turbidity Solutions
    Adding a sediment pre-filter to your water filtration system will reduce turbidity. UV protection may be necessary if the source of turbidity is microbial.

    Fecal Bacteria
    Animal or human waste contains fecal bacteria such as E. coli, which can infiltrate well water through agricultural runoff, cracks in well walls, or overflowing septic tanks and sewage lines.

    Symptoms of Fecal Bacteria Contamination

    • An increase in the household’s rate of gastrointestinal illness
    • Water may or may not have an odor.

    Fecal Bacteria Solutions
    Chlorine shocking the well will kill existing bacteria. As an added layer of protection, a point of entry water filtration system with UV protection prevents bacteria from reproducing, significantly lowering your risk of infection.

    How to Tell if the Well Pump is Bad

    If your well pump fails, your may experience poor water pressure or no water flow at all. The pump may also run constantly. Here’s how to tell if the well pump is bad:

    • Check the breaker for your well pump and pressure on your circuit panel to ensure it is in the on position.
    • Check the pressure gauge. It should read at least 20 psi. If there’s no pressure, the well pump, well, pressure tank, or switch may require servicing.
    • If the well pump runs constantly, a line may be broken in the system.

    Regular Testing Lowers Risk
    Well owners can mitigate their risk of any of these problems with regular well water testing. Detecting problems early in their development allows you to address small well water issues before they get out of hand.