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Why Is My Well Water Brown All of a Sudden: 5 Reasons and Quick Fixes

why is my well water brown all of a sudden
Written by Jenny Molin
Last Update: November 30, 2022

Has the water in your well turned brown and you don’t know what to do? You’re in the right place.

A friend of mine called last night and asked the very same question you’re asking right now: “why is my well water brown all of a sudden”.

I helped her, and she suggested I should write about it. So, here I am explaining brown well water in simple terms.

There are many reasons and solutions but you need to determine the exact cause to make sure there is no health risk to you and your family.

Here we will see what causes brown well water and what you can do about it.

Why Is My Well Water Brown All of a Sudden?

Here are the reasons you might face issues like brown well water, or contaminated well water.

  • The well itself

The well itself

Check the pump and the well itself. The water level and flow are affected if the pump moves out of place for some reason and hits the well hole.

The brown water problem can be a consequence of a bad water level or the damaged structure of the well.

If you have brown well water right after heavy rainfall, this might be because of the surface water getting into your well. This can be dangerous for children or senior adults.

  • Rusted pipes

Rusted pipes

Rust is one of the most common reasons well water turns brown. It may be because of rusted plumbing fixtures or piping.

Iron begins to oxidize when exposed to water and oxygen. This is common with older wells since they eventually rust.

Check all of the outlets in your house. You can be sure if the brown water comes through only one or two outlets.

  • Ferric iron

Ferric iron

Iron also causes brown well water sometimes.

Iron can get to your wellness in many ways e.g. raindrops can contain iron to some extent while melting snow may be filtered through the soil that has iron in it and get to your well.

Natural iron is a harmless contaminant but it can certainly impact the taste and smell of the water.

  • Tannins


Peaty soil and decaying leaves usually produce tannins: an organic material that seeps through the soil and gets into your well from the aquifer when there’s rain or snow.

Even rainwater contains tannins in some cases and leaves a brownish stain on clothes.

You’ll notice a tangy aftertaste and an earthy smell in the water in case your well is polluted with tannins.

This may not be a serious health concern but nobody in the family will like the unpleasant taste for sure.

  • Silt/Sediment

Silt or Sediment

Brown water can be an indication of the presence of silt or sediment in your well.

If the silt gets into the well water through the pump or the components in the well are damaged, the pump can suck the liquefied solid from rainwater into the well.

Silt poses some degree of health risks and can damage your water pipes.

Although silt is relatively less harmful than some other contaminants, it contains E. Coli bacteria that can make you sick.

How to Test Well Water

  • Get well water testing kits

Get well water testing kits

If you want to test the water yourself, head to your local mall and get the water testing kit you like.

You can of course order online that shouldn’t cost you more than $20.

They normally come with all the usual well water testing facilities and easy-to-test methods with written instructions. Watersafe is one of the best options you can use.

  • Get your well water tested by a laboratory

Get your well water tested by a laboratory

It’d be great if you can get your water tested by an expert in a reputed lab.

It takes the U.S. healthcare system roughly $3.3 billion each year to cure more than 7 million citizens who are affected by waterborne diseases.

However, the lab will thoroughly examine your sample and send you a detailed list; containing the elements found in the water with the percentage rates.

A good lab will also tell you what to do next and how to solve your issue.

This can cost you $50-$500 depending on the type of test you want and where the test will be done.

What to Test for in Well Water?

  • Arsenic

Arsenic is one of the first things you need to look at because of the danger it poses.

This natural groundwater compound is known to cause cancer, cognitive development defects, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many other life-threatening health problems.

If there’s any sign of arsenic in your well, mark it red and do not drink and use the water.

  • Lead

Lead is a heavy metal mostly seen in old-time municipal pipes.

It may get into groundwater from industrial facilities. This harmful cumulative toxin can be accumulated in human bodies over time and wreak havoc.

  • Nitrate

Nitrate is another common impurity found in groundwater.

Mostly harmful to infants and children, it affects blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body.

  • Sulfate

Sulfate is a common impurity seen in wells.

It causes sulfur; a gas that smells like rotten eggs when it makes contact with oxygen. Too much sulfate can be troublesome for your gastrointestinal system.

  • Coliform Bacteria

This is a harmful substance, typically related to warm-blooded animals and human feces. Your well water is dangerous to drink if it contains these harmful organisms.

  • Fluoride

A high amount of fluoride in the well water is damaging to your teeth and bones, particularly for young and old people.

  • Volatile Organic Compounds/VOCs

VOCs affect the natural function of your immune system, increase the risk of cancer, and damage the liver.

  •  Ions

Sodium, chloride, manganese, and iron – all exemplify iron contamination in the well.

These can influence the taste and color of the water. High consumption of these pollutants may put your health at risk.

  • Agricultural Chemicals

Agricultural fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides may enter your drinking water in case you’re living in a heavy-farming rural area.

They affect your overall health and well-being. Make sure to purify the water if they’re found in your well.

How to Fix Brown Well Water?

  • Ion exchange water treatment system for ions

Ion exchange water treatment system for ions

You may want to go for this system if the ion is the problem in your water.

It’s a well-known whole-house water softener- installed where the water enters the heater and other water-based appliances.

The well water passes through the ion exchange tank, the system purifies the water before it gets to your showers and faucets.

  • Air injection oxidizing system for iron and manganese

Air injection oxidizing system for iron and manganese

This water treatment system introduces oxygen into a water-containing pressure tank to oxidize ferric iron and manganese.

The oxidized particles will remain stuck in the system and you’ll get water that’s free from iron and manganese.

  • Greensand Filters for iron and manganese

Greensand Filters for iron and manganese

These filters have a manganese oxide layer on them that oxidizes manganese and iron, then changes them into solids like the air injection oxidizing system.

You can use greensand filters as alternatives for air injection filters.

Choose between the two based on ease of installation and cost-effectiveness.

  • Sediment filtration system

Sediment filtration system

A sediment filter is your best choice for discolored, dirty water.

This treatment is a cure for the sediment problem as it removes dissolved solids such as dirt, rust, sand, and pores between the size of 1-5 microns.

You may use this option with a reverse osmosis system to get superlative results.

  • Reverse Osmosis

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis – is a highly effective water treatment system that eliminates nearly 100% of the organic material from unclean water.

The well water will flow through layers of filtration and the reverse osmosis membrane before coming out through the outlets.

The reverse osmosis membrane eliminates almost everything from sulfur to lead, to pH hardness, and many other dangerous impurities.

  • Pipe Replacement

Sometimes, all you need to do to get rid of the brown water problem is to get rid of the rusty old water lines.

Get your plumbing joints and pipes replaced when you’re aware of the condition they’re in.

But it’s a good idea to call in an experienced plumber and have him go through your private well and plumbing lines really well before you take that step seriously.

Congratulations! now you know the answer to the question, “why is my well water brown all of a sudden”.

You’ve also picked up some knowledge on how to fix brown well water.


Q. How do I get rid of iron bacteria in my well?

Try chemical treatment to get rid of iron bacteria in your well.

You may use disinfectants like chlorine to treat iron and bacteria. Surfactants like phosphates would help.

Acids destroy bacteria and liquefy iron deposits. Make sure you don’t use the well water immediately after the chemical is applied.

Q. Why does well water turn brown after rain?

This is because the surface rainwater enters yours well during and after a hard rain. The contamination turns the water brown.

Q. How often should you shock your well?

Shocking your well every 3-5 years is a good rule of thumb.

Your well may get contaminated with all sorts of pollutants like silt, iron, lead, bacteria, and chemicals that influence the color and taste of the water.

Regular treatment can save you from dangerous water-borne diseases and brown well water. Thanks for reading this far.

If you follow this guide thoroughly, you’ll be able to fix the brown water problem with ease.

About the author

Jenny Molin

Interior Design Artist

Hello, I’m Jenny. I’ve been an interior design artist by profession since my B.S. in Interior Design. I’m a minimalist and prefer to save space when choosing fixtures, sinks and fittings. My style tends to make the most out of the least amount of space. The idea behind every interior design project is unique and it reflects personal style, taste and tradition. I’ve learned more when working than I ever did while I was studying in college. I worked in more than 12 hundred households all across the US and got positive feedback. I’ve been working with FaucetsReviewed as one of the founding members and regularly contributing to the site via testing and reviewing various interior fittings and fixtures.

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