How Is Sediment Getting Into Your Well Water?

What is sediment? It’s naturally occurring particles in water mostly coming from minerals that have been broken down into very tiny particles as the result of weathering and erosion.

Sediment can be made up of sand, rocks and minerals or even tiny, deteriorated bits of plants. Microorganisms can also make up part of the sediment found in well water. It’s this sediment that can give well water its color or cloudiness, or that may settle to the bottom of a glass.

No one wants to drink a glass of cloudy water with particles settling to the bottom. Private well owners need to be aware of what can cause sediment to appear in their well water and know how to eliminate it.

Dissolved Solids: Another, Less Visible, Type of Sediment

Well water can also have a high content of a more subtle type of sediment referred to as dissolved solids. These are substances that become dissolved in water and so don’t settle to the bottom of the well in usual conditions. But they can change the taste of water and accumulate on plumbing and in pipes, reducing water pressure. Typical dissolved solids include:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Bicarbonates
  • Chlorides
  • Sulfates
  • Organic matter

These substances can occur naturally or be the result of industrial activities, road de-icing or chemicals used in treating wastewater, or can be leached out of plumbing equipment. You may not always be able to see these minerals in a glass of water but you can see the accumulation on your faucets, sinks or cookware.

When your water has visible sediment or dissolved solids, that’s not the pure water you want to provide to your family.

Identifying the Causes of Sediment in Well Water

A well in good condition will provide water with minimal sediment of any kind. While the Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate private wells, they recommend treatment of water when the total dissolved solids (TDS) concentration exceeds 500 mg/L, or 500 parts per million (ppm). If you test your well and find the TDS concentration above this level, or if you have visible sediment in your water, then your well needs to be inspected for problems that allow these contaminants to enter your water supply.

Possible well problems that can add sediment to well water:

  • Casing is cracked or broken
  • Well screen is degraded
  • Well is filling with silt
  • Seals have deteriorated, allowing sediment to enter the well
  • The well is old and sediment has accumulated at the bottom from loose bedrock
  • A new well has not cleared all the residual sediment left over from drilling

Problems Caused by Unwanted Well Water Sediment

Sediments can give water a bad taste, color or odor. Minerals may accumulate on plumbing fixtures, appliances and cookware. But there is another important reason to eliminate sediment from your well water.

Pathogens can attach themselves to sediment and migrate more easily into well water, for example, bacteria, viruses and parasites. Also migrating into water along with sediment are fertilizers, pesticides and dissolved mercury, lead and arsenic.

Well water does need a small quantity of minerals in your water or it will have a flat taste. Finding the right balance of these minerals in your water starts with accurate tests for minerals, sediment or total dissolved solids. Once you have the results of these tests, you can plan the right type of water treatment to correct any problems.

Correcting Your Well Water Quality

Choosing the right type of water filtration or treatment starts with finding out exactly what is in your water. Then you can plan a solution.
If it’s a new well, it may need time to clear the sediment or you may need professional service to blow out large quantities of sediment.

  • If the problem is sediment alone, an inspection will tell you if the casing, screen or seals need repair.
  • If the well is old, it may be able to be rehabilitated by a professional. It depends on the type of ground the well is drilled into and the construction of the well.
  • If no repairs are needed, the sediment can be removed with the right water treatment. A centrifugal sand separator can remove sand and sediment from well water but it must be purged periodically.

Filtering systems such as reverse osmosis systems or a sediment filter can clean up your water and make it taste better, look better and eliminate deposits on your household equipment.

Start with ETR Labs’ Basic Water Test, Premium Water Test or Ultimate Water Test—each of these tests will tell you which substances need to be filtered out and the quantities of each. This is exactly the information you need to create a water system that provides pure, healthy water all year round.