Discolored or Brown Well Water? Here Are the Potential Culprits

If you have discolored or brown well water, it can be a cause for concern. Not only does it look unappealing, but it could also be an indication of a problem with your well system or a potential health risk. Let’s take a look at the impurities that cause brown well water, how to determine which is the culprit, and how you can resolve the issue.

What Causes Brown Well Water?


The most common cause of brown well water is iron. Iron is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in soil and rocks. When groundwater comes into contact with iron deposits, it dissolves the mineral and carries it along with the water. If that water enters your well system, it will bring the iron with it, contaminating your water. This typically results in brown or reddish-brown water. However, even if you can’t see it in your well water, iron will affect its taste and smell. It will also stain your plumbing fixtures and laundry.


When iron comes in contact with oxygen and water, it oxidizes and turns to rust. In addition to discolored or brown water, rust can leave reddish-brown stains on plumbing fixtures and laundry similar to those left by iron. Rust can also cause your pipes to corrode. If the corrosion builds up it can cause your pipes to crack and break. Bathing in water with a high level of rust can rob your skin and hair of their natural oils, resulting in itchy skin and brittle hair.


Another cause of brown well water is manganese. Manganese is also a naturally occurring mineral found in soil and rocks. It can cause brown or black stains on fixtures and clothing. If your water has iron in it, there is also probably manganese in it. Manganese does naturally occur in the body and trace amounts are essential to good health. However, ingesting it in your drinking water can increase the mineral to an unhealthy level.


Although sediment shouldn’t be entering your well through the pump, components of your well wear down or become damaged over time and allow sediment in.  The buildup of sediment in your well can also lead to discolored or brown well water. Well water laden with sediment can clog your pipes. It can also carry bacteria such as E Coli or fecal coliform. When ingested these bacteria can make you sick.

discolored well water

Determining the Culprit

To determine the culprit behind discolored or brown well water, you should start by testing your water. You can purchase a home test kit or hire a professional to test your water for you.

If the test results show high levels of iron or manganese, then these minerals are likely causing your brown well water. If sediment buildup is the issue, then you may need to have your well professionally cleaned or repaired.

Resolving the Issue

There are several ways to resolve the issue of brown well water:

Install a Filtration System

Installing a filtration system is one of the most effective ways to remove iron and manganese from your well water. There are several types of filtration systems available such as reverse osmosis systems, activated carbon filters, and oxidizing filters.

Use Chemical Treatment

Chemical treatment involves adding chemicals such as chlorine or hydrogen peroxide to your well system to oxidize iron and manganese particles. Once oxidized, these particles can be filtered out using a sediment filter.

Shock Chlorination

Shock chlorination involves adding high levels of chlorine to your well system to kill bacteria that may be causing discoloration in your water. This method should only be used if bacteria is determined to be the cause of discoloration.

Professional Cleaning

If sediment buildup is causing discoloration in your water, then you may need to have your well professionally cleaned. Regular well cleaning can rid your well of bacterial growth, mineral contamination, and sediment. It can also prevent damage to the well screen, water pump, and plumbing. The typical results of well cleaning are improved water flow, removal of iron buildup, and the reduction of bacteria biofilm.

why is my well water brown

Professional Water Testing and Treatment

If you have discolored or brown water or suspect your well is contaminated, you should stop using your water and call a professional as soon as possible. Unsanitary water can cause serious health risks. A1 Well Drilling & Pump Service can help with all of your water treatment needs. We offer a variety of well water testing and treatment services to determine the culprit and provide you with an effective solution. If you are concerned about your well water, give us a call today!


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