Why Is My Well Water Brown All Of A Sudden

Last Updated on January 25, 2023 by Mattias

Have you noticed a sudden unexplainable change in the color of your well water supply from clear water to a brownish color? Then, do not worry.

In this article, I will highlight the possible causes of this problem and the perfect ways to solve them.

Why Is My Well Water Brown All Of A Sudden?

Causes And Solutions 

Rust Change your iron pipes
Iron and Manganese Reverse Osmosis System

Water Softener System

Air Injection Oxidization

Greensand Filtration
Broken Water Softener Resin Beads Replacement of resin beads after it has reached its expected lifespan
Poor Well StructureWell Repairs and Treatment
Iron BacteriaUse a Disinfectant 
Hire a Professional to disinfect your well for you
Sediment and Silt Sediment Filtration
Use of an ion exchange water softener system 
TanninsReverse Osmosis System

Water Softener System


One of the possible causes of the sudden water discoloration in your home is rusty pipes. 

When your pipes get rusty, they supply rusty brown water to your home. 

Rusting in pipes is caused by corrosion and is most often experienced in iron pipes.

The rust in water pipes is made up of ferrous iron and oxidized iron, which can cause rusty water and turn water into a reddish-brown color. 

Note that the iron corrosion that causes rusty water doesn’t have a health risk but could give your drinking water an unpleasant and metallic taste.

Also, if you notice a brown color of water when you boil the water but not when you use cold water, you need to check your hot water heater for rust.

Rust in your water heater could also be why you notice brown water when you use your hot tap.


If the cause of your water’s discoloration is rusty pipes, then the best solution is to change them. 

Corrosion mainly affects old pipes, so if you have used your iron pipes for a long time, you should also consider changing them. 

Changing pipes might not be such an easy task for you if you don’t have some plumbing skills or experience, so in this case, you should hire the services of a professional to do it for you. 

Iron And Manganese

Iron and manganese are other common causes of brown discoloration of water.

There are different ways in which iron can get into your well water. 

Rainfall on soil with iron content is one of those ways. 

When rain falls on soil with iron, the iron dissolves into the water and settles down as well water.

Also, if your well casing is built with an iron or steel material, as it continually comes in contact with air, it will erode and fall into the well water supply, causing your water to turn brown.

However, before finding a solution to this problem, you should conduct a complete water test on your water supply. 

The test results from this water testing process will reveal the type of iron present in your water supply and the level of its iron concentration. 

Read also: How To Remove Iron From Well Water


There are four basic methods that you can use to treat iron and manganese.

• Reverse Osmosis System

This system is regarded by many as the most detailed and comprehensive water treatment system used at home. 

With the reserve osmosis system, you are assured that brown and dirty water won’t be supplied to your home, even if your water source is well or city water.

To ensure this, the reserve osmosis system carries your water through different filtration stages and removes almost 100% organic material and dissolved solids. 

However, the reserve osmosis system can only get rid of low iron levels. Forcing it will cause the system’s membrane to become clogged. 

If you want to use it for high levels of iron, you will also have to install a whole-house water filtration system or any other pre-treatment system. 

You would also need a professional to install it in your home for you, as its installation isn’t easy for someone who doesn’t have experience with plumbing. 

• Water Softener System

A water softener system is a great way to improve your home’s overall water quality and remove brown water-causing iron and other hard minerals such as magnesium and calcium from your water supply. 

However, water softeners cannot remove iron in high levels from your water. Doing so will destroy its resin beads in no time.

So, for full efficiency, you can install an iron filter as a pre-treatment and then install a water softener to handle the hard water issues and low iron levels before the water gets to the point of use.

• Air Injection Oxidization

Air injection oxidation is a method that removes iron and manganese from well water by oxidizing them in a water-contained pressure tank and then filtering out the oxidized particles through a media bed.  

The removal of these contaminants will help solve your brown water problem. 

On the other hand, air injection filters also greatly reduce high levels of iron and manganese concentrations. 

• Greensand Filtration

The media of greensand filters are covered with manganese oxide to oxidize the iron and manganese particles in your well water supply, making your well water brown and turning them into solids. 

When turned into solids, they are placed on the surface of the media bed, making them easy to wash away when the filtration system undergoes its backwash.

Read also: Pressure Switch For Well Pump Adjustment 101

Broken Water Softener Resin Beads

Resin beads are part of a water softener system responsible for removing iron minerals and hard water minerals like magnesium and calcium from your water and replacing them with sodium during the ion exchange process to produce soft and clean water for your home. 

However, the resin beads do not function forever. They have an estimated lifespan of 6 to 10 years, depending on how frequently you use your water softener and how often you run its regeneration cycle.

So, if you have used your water treatment system for a long time and notice that your water supply is brown, this could be the cause of the problem.

In addition to the change in color, the breaking down of water-softener resin beads also allows the entrance of these hard water minerals into your water supply, which would cause mineral buildup in your plumbing fixtures, and cause harm to your entire plumbing system.


  • Replacement Of Resin Beads

The best way to avoid all these is to replace your resin beads immediately after you notice any of these effects.

To be on the safe side, you can start checking the state of the resin beads when you have used them up to their estimated lifespan.

Poor Well Structure

The poor structure of your well could also be the reason for the brown well water you are experiencing. 

If your well is built to a shallow groundwater level and has a shallow hole, then surface water is definitely going to get into it. 

Surface water is usually impure and carries organic matter and minerals that can discolor your water and give it a bad taste. 

Also, if your well pump is detached or wrongly fixed, it is most likely to bring up water together with sediment, which will discolor it.  

This could also lead to it bringing up cloudy water into your home.


  • Well Repairs and Treatment 

In such cases, you will have to rearrange your well pump and lift it a little more to reduce the level of sediment that it is sucking up into your water. 

If your case is that of a shallow well, ensure you treat your well from time to time to keep it clean.

Iron Bacteria

This type of iron leaves a slimy substance in your plumbing fixtures.

One of the obvious signs that iron bacteria is the cause of your water’s discoloration is the reddish-brown substance that it leaves in your toilet tank, bathtubs, etc. 


You can use disinfectants on your well to get rid of iron bacteria or hire the services of a professional to disinfect your well for you. 

Sediment and Silt

Another cause of clear water changing to brown water is the presence of sediment and silt.

The presence of these two in your water can cause your water to turn brown, dirty, and even cloudy. 


  • Sediment Filtration

This method is the perfect way to solve this problem.

With a sediment filter installed, you can be assured that you won’t face any sediment or silt issues with your water supply again. 

A reverse Osmosis System is another method you could use if this is the cause of the problem. However, remember that the reverse osmosis system can only handle low sediment levels. 

Forcing it to handle a high sediment level will cause its membrane to clog.


Tannins which can change the color of your water to brown or yellow and give it a bitter taste, get into your well water when rain falls on organic matter and carries them into the aquifer. 

No health concerns are associated with drinking water containing tannins, but it usually has an unappealing taste in large quantities.


  • Reverse Osmosis System

A reverse Osmosis System is a treatment system built with tiny pores to effectively remove tannins and other contaminants that could turn your well water brown. 

Remember that the reverse osmosis system can only handle low levels of tannins, and forcing it to handle high levels of it can cause harm to the treatment system. 

  • Water Softener System

An ion exchange water softener system is another great way of removing tannins from your well water supply. 

The water softener will remove the tannins and replace them with sodium ions through the ion exchange process.

Read also: How Fast Does Well Water Replenish? An Easy Explanation

Why Is My Well Water Brown All Of A Sudden Summary

Completing a water test is the first step to knowing why your water has turned brown. 

This test will also give you clarity on which solution to take.