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How to Remove Sediment in Well Water

By: Craig Smith
Last Updated:

If your household water is supplied by a well and you are finding sediment in that water, you have the right to be concerned and want to do something about it. 

Sediment in your tap water not only makes it unappealing to drink but it can lead to a host of other health and plumbing problems too.  

Fortunately, this is a common problem for homeowners with wells such as yourself and there are good ways that have been developed that will eliminate sediment from the well water coming into your home.

I am prepared to discuss with you how sediment ends up in your well water, some ways to test for its presence, and how to remove sediment in well water.

The idea behind giving you this information is simple. I feel that the more that you know about sediment and the many different ways it can affect you, the easier time you will have deciding which sediment filtration system is right for you.

What is Sediment?

Sediment in water does not refer to just one type of material but a conglomerate of substances that often finds their way into wells and then the water that people drink.

Examples of materials found in water that are considered to be sediments include: 

  • Sand
  • Silt
  • Manganese
  • Rust
  • Clay
  • Mud
  • Gravel
  • Algae
  • Tannins

If the presence of algae and tannins on that list surprises you it shouldn’t. Organic matter when decomposed can find its way into your well water just as easily as inorganic materials and cause sediment-related problems for you too.    

Another common misconception about sediment in tap water is that it only sits in solid form on the bottom of a container (referred to as ‘bedded’ sediment).

That’s not entirely true because many times sediment particles are so small that they are not visible but they can still be dispersed throughout your water (referred to as ‘suspended sediment’) and make it appear cloudy and/or discolored. 

Keep in mind that sediment can be present in your well water and show no visible signs. 

Sediment also is found in a variety of size ranges and there is no set definition as to what size a material particle needs to be considered sediment. So, although it’s uncommon to be found in well water, a pea-size piece of gravel can be considered to be sediment.

More typical well water sediment particle sizes range from 0.00195 mm in diameter (example: clay) to around 1.5 mm in size (example: large grains of sand).

How Does Sediment Get into Well Water?

The biggest culprit when it comes to putting sediment into your well water is stormwater runoff and the subsequent geological features erosion that this stormwater runoff causes. 

When sediments are picked up by stormwater runoff and other forms of erosion this is called ‘sediment transportation’ (also termed sediment load).  

You would probably be amazed at how far some of the sediment that’s found in your well water has traveled. Erosion may not be friendly as far as your well water is considered but it has huge benefits for the ecosystem as a whole.

It’s inevitable that some of this eroded sediment ends up in soil and bodies of water and eventually works its way down through the ground layers and it’s not always filtered out before it gets to your well source. 

This is not only how sediment ends up in your well water but many other household water contaminants as well.

This quick educational read that was posted by the USGS (United States Geological Society) talks more about how sediment gets in water and moves about.

Sediment in your well water can come from other sources too. This includes:

  • Low well water level
  • Poorly placed well pumps or ones that are too powerful
  • Cracks in your well’s casing or other damaged or degraded well components
  • Improper well construction
  • Lack of proper sediment filtration equipment on your incoming water line
  • Damaged or non-existent well lining screen
  • Finding sediment in your home’s water is also common if your well is new

What Are the Problems When Sediment Gets into Well Water?

It’s no secret that sediment can impact the looks, taste, odor, and feel of your water. 

Although most of us will politely decline drinking a glass of water that has visible sediment at the bottom of it or is cloudy and discolored, the problems that sediment in water causes go way beyond just its aesthetics. 

Examples of these are:

Manganese Exposure

If the sediment in your well water has any black color to it, this could very likely indicate the presence of manganese. 

According to this chart which was put out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lifetime manganese levels in water that exceed 0.3 parts per million can be harmful to the human body.

Long-term exposure to manganese can result in such adverse health conditions as neurological issues, muscle weakness, and lack of energy. This is even worse for children whose bodies absorb minerals such as manganese much easier than adults.

Plumbing Issues

Sediment can be made up of many particles that can harm your plumbing. Many of these can coat the inside of plumbing pipes with limescale and rust when they build up and can then slow the water flow going through them.

This common tap water impurity can also clog faucet screens and showerheads and the scale formation on plumbing fixtures that it sometimes contributes to can lead to the premature breakdown of these parts.

It’s also true that sediments can have an abrasive effect on plumbing parts and pipes which can wear them down. This may contribute to the leaking and weakness of plumbing features which may result in repairs or replacement needing to be done to them.

Water Heater & Appliance Sediment-Related Problems

There is a reason your plumber wants you to drain your water heater every six months. That’s because sediment tends to get trapped and build up in the bottom of its water storage tank.

This can harm the heating element if you have an electric water heater and the sediment buildup in the bottom of it will also form an added layer of insulation which may increase the energy costs to heat your water. 

Sediment buildup in these appliances can also lead to corrosion and leaking.

Similar negative impacts can occur in other appliances which heat water and/or have water flowing through them such as dishwashers and washing machines.  

Sediment Attracts Pollutants and Pathogens

You may not realize that many undesirable well water pollutants and pathogens find it convenient to attach themselves to the sediment that eventually ends up in your well water. This includes bacteria, viruses, pesticides, fertilizers, lead, dissolved minerals, and arsenic.

How to Test Your Well Water for Sediment?

Some of the plumbing and appliance issues that are mentioned above and water aesthetic problems can be caused by other issues such as those associated with having hard water or high levels of iron or chlorine present in the water coming from your well. 

So how do you know if you have a sediment problem or not? 

The answer here is that you will have to test your water. 

This is something that you can do yourself at home or for more thorough and accurate results you can order a test kit online. This will enable you to send in a water sample for professional analysis.

Some of the test results that you want to pay close attention to include the level of:

  • pH
  • Water Hardness (calcium carbonate)
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Total dissolved solids
  • Turbidity
  • Iron Bacteria
  • Tannins
  • Hydrogen sulfide 

DIY Test Kits

If you are going to test your well water yourself to try and determine if you have sediment present in your well water and what this sediment consists of, then you will need a pretty good home well water test kit to do this. 

I would suggest checking out our recommended options on the best water test kit guide.

It’s simple to use and tests for many of the above-mentioned well water contaminants.  

Lab Analysis

Here is the way I would go when you want to test your well water for sediment and what other harmful impurities may be present in your well water. All you have to do is order the kit, take water samples using the included containers, and then send it in for professional lab analysis.

test-kit

A mail-in test kit such as the Safe Home Ultimate Water Quality Test Kit will accurately test for over 200 well water contaminants including those listed above.

This bulletin that was put out by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) recommends that you test your well water at least once a year for the presence of bacteria and every 3 to 5 years for other contaminants such as sediment.

I feel that if you are testing your well water once a year for bacteria, why not just go ahead and get it tested for sediment and other harmful water impurities at the same time.

This is not that expensive to do and you can never pay too much to be aware of what contaminants are present in your well water that may impact you and your family’s health.

How to Remove Sediment in Your Well Water

So, now that you know how to confirm the presence of sediment in the water from your well that you drink, you are probably wondering what’s the best way to get rid of it?   

There are two main ways that I would go about doing this.

Spin-Down Sediment Filters

These types of sediment filters rely on centrifugal force to remove any sediment that is present in the water that comes from your well. 

As the water ‘spins down’ through them, the centrifugal force casts larger contaminants such as sediment to the outside of them where they are then trapped and removed by a mesh screen.

One of the advantages of using spin-down sediment filters is they do not have any components on them that need to be replaced when they get dirty. You simply have to empty, clean, and then reinstall them. 

They are usually impactful when it comes to removing sediment that is 15 to 100 microns in size.

Cartridge-Style Sediment Filters

Here is another very simple and effective means of filtering out sediment from your incoming tap water. These are installed on your main water line the same as a spin-down filter but work a little bit differently.

They contain a replaceable filter cartridge inside of them. There are several different types of cartridge-style sediment filters and this includes those that use pleated filters, melt-blown filters (also known as spin-down cartridge filters), and string-wound filters.

Melt-blown and string-wound cartridge filters can remove sediment that is as small as 5-microns and pleated filters will remove any sediment that is 20-microns in size or larger.

Both of the above-mentioned types of sediment filters will also lighten the workload and extend the useful life of any other point of entry or point of use filtration devices that you have installed on your

Here are some of the best sediment filters for well water that I highly recommend.

Consider Whole-house Filtration as an Alternative

You can also never go wrong by installing a whole-house filtration system that includes a sediment pre-filter as part of its filter stages. 

That will pretty much guarantee that you will have all of the sediment removed from your well water and a whole lot more. These are what I feel are the best whole house water filters for well water for filling this role.

Some Final Thoughts About Well Water Sediment Removal

Sediment is something that you should neither want to nor have to deal with having in the water that comes into your home from your well. That’s because the filtration devices that will remove it are inexpensive and very effective.

So, get your water tested for the presence of sediments if you see signs that you are having sediment-related problems with your well water. Then match those results to the appropriate sediment filtration device that will take care of your problems.

You can never go wrong by installing a sediment pre-filter even if you are currently showing no signs of having sediment in your well supplied household water.

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AUTHOR
Craig Smith
Craig got his start in water working in the swimming pool and spa industry. Water treatment would grow into his main career but he ended up working in the pool industry for over 26 years where much of his time was spent balancing the water in customer's swimming pools and installing water filtration equipment. Craig offers an abundance of water treatment knowledge after helping homeowners get pure water for 26 years.

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