hand under water provided from a well

Hand under a faucet with a water stream.

13 million homes in the United States have a private well. This water can be superior to municipal water and is the only choice for many rural households. However, you may experience problems with your water, and fixing those problems is entirely your responsibility.

Here are some of the most common problems:

No Water at All

If you turn on the tap and nothing comes out, your pump is the problem. Although well pumps are designed to last for twenty years or more, they can fail. The first thing to check is whether the circuit breaker for your pump has tripped. The problem could also be with your pressure tank and switch, which can be thrown by excessive use (or by a leak somewhere in your plumbing. Your pressure tank should be two pounds per square inch less than when the switch comes on, which you can check with a tire pressure gauge. Have your pump checked every year.

Discolored Water

Discolored water generally means that some mineral contaminant has found its way into your well water. Red stains mean iron. Black stains often mean manganese. The exact nature of the problem depends on  your area’s underlying geology. You will need to test to see what exactly is contaminating your water and install specialized systems to remove it, such as systems to remove iron, magnesium, or sulfur. This often means a whole house water filter that processes all of the water.


Staining is caused by the same kind of issues as discoloration in the water. Well water systems are particularly prone to having a lot of iron, which causes rusty stains in your sink, tub, shower, etc. The easiest way to deal with iron is to install a water softener. This will deal with most iron stain problems. (Water softeners are safe for use with septic systems). To remove the stains use Bar Keepers Friend or Shaw’s Pads. Iron in the water generally does not cause health problems, but does create those unsightly stains. Mineral in the water can also stain clothes. Note that pink slime on fixtures is not a problem with your water, but is a result of airborne bacteria growing on the damp surface, and needs to be fixed with bleach and drying surfaces frequently.

Scale Buildup

Having a well rather than being on the municipal system does not free you from problems related to hard water. Scale buildup can still occur, damaging your plumbing and fixtures. Again, a water softener is the best way to deal with this.

Corroded Pipes

Contaminations in your well water can cause corrosion in your pipes from the well, which can then cause further discoloration and staining. Using a filter and/or a softener as close to the well pump as possible is the best solution. If you live in an area where mining was common in the past, you may have corrosive water, which can leach copper, lead, or iron from your plumbing. You may have to replace pipes with plastic. An acid-neutralizing filter can also help.

Bacterial Contamination

If you have both a well and a septic system, bacterial cross-contamination can happen. Make sure that your septic system is properly maintained, and never dispose of toxic materials in your tank. Make sure that it is not downhill of any place animals are kept, if it is you can build barriers to ensure no waste. You may need to install a system to chlorinate if contamination is a repeated problem. Shock chlorination can help clean out temporary contamination.

Learn More About Common Water Problems With a Well

If you have a well and have issues with stains, scale build-up, pipe corrosion, etc, a water softener may help. To find out more, contact Advanced Water Softening today.