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

Well Water Problems and Solutions

  1. 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

  • 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

Hard water’s 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.

Solution

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

  1. Acidic Water

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

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

Consequences

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 drinking water. Lead causes serious and irreversible neurological and physical health problems, especially in children.

Solution

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.

  1. Fluoride

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

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

Solution

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

  1. 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.

Symptoms

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

Consequences

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

Solution

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.

  1. Iron and Manganese

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

Symptoms

  • 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

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

Solution

A will reduce iron and manganese before the minerals entry home plumbing.

  1. Turbidity

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

  • Cloudy or dirty water.

Consequences

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

Solution

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.

  1. Fecal Bacteria

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

Symptoms

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

Solution

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.

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.

Pelican Combo System Salt-Free Water Softener Whole-House Water Filter