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One of the most common well water problems is sediment. While city water undergoes municipal filtering that removes any larger particles, well water comes straight from an underground aquifer – which is why sediment like sand, rust, dirt and gravel is an issue that many private well owners are familiar with.
When left untreated, sediment can form deposits that affect water pressure and could damage your pipes, heaters, appliances, valves, fixtures and faucets.
Luckily, finding the right solution to address dissolved sediment and remove it from your water is easier than ever these days. In this guide, I’ll be discussing everything you need to know about sediment in well water: how to remove it, how to know you even have it, and if there are any risks of simply ignoring the problem.
💡 What is Sediment?
Sediment, in the most basic terms, is material that is picked up from one location and moved to another. Typically, rocks and minerals are often classed as a source of sediments – but decomposed plants and animals may also form natural sediments.
Sediment is usually bigger in size than most contaminants and may cause water to take on a cloudy appearance, depending on the source. While some sediment will settle at the bottom of a water supply, suspended sediment kinds will float in the body of water.
Some common kinds of sediment are:
- Hardness minerals
🤔 How Does Sediment Get Into Well Water?
Sediment occurs naturally in groundwater as a result of the ongoing process of erosion. The pressure or force of rivers and streams wears away at rocks and soil, resulting in the transportation gravel, rock and solid dirt particles towards the river’s delta.
Water then seeps into the ground when it rains or snows, carrying sediment particles with it. The water may pick up additional sediment as it travels through layers of rocks, soil and decaying plant and animal matter to reach your well’s aquifer.
Though sediments occur naturally in well water systems, there are certain circumstances that could allow an excessive amount of sediments to get into your well. Some things to check for are:
Need to Replace Well Screen or Casing
If you’ve been using your well for many years and you’re only noticing a sediment issue at present, the problem might have come from a recently damaged well screen or worn casing.
Damage or severe wear and tear may cause your well screen or casing to form small gaps or holes that allow sediments and deposits to pass into the well system. It’s recommended that you get your well inspected every 10 years to check that your screen and casing are in good condition. Typically, well screens can last a lot longer than you might expect – on average at least 25 years of time. But if you have an older well, this is a problem worth being aware of, and you should replace the screen if necessary.
In some cases, old iron or copper pipes may corrode under certain water conditions, causing flakes of sediment to break off and enter your water supply.
If your water has a particularly low (less than 7.0) or high (more than 8.5) pH, or a high level of salts or oxygen, your home’s pipes and heaters are more at risk of corrosion. Iron bacteria and sulfate, two common well water contaminants, can also encourage corrosion of your pipes, and abrasive sediments themselves can cause wear and tear that results in increased corrosion.
If you can see that your pipes and water lines are experiencing a serious sediments issue in your home, it’s worth giving a professional a call. Let them cover everything that needs to be covered to determine whether degradation is severe enough to require replacements, either now or later on in time.
Well Pump is Too Large
On occasions, a well pump that’s too big can be related to a sediments problem. Being too big for the well it’s installed in may result in the well pump being too powerful. This might mean that the pump sucks up sand from the aquifer surrounding it.
If you suspect your well pump could be too big, don’t wait for too long – act fast and contact an expert who can install a more suitable pump. The pump’s valves will quickly deteriorate when exposed to a high level of sediments, and sand will rapidly build up at the base of the well.
Well Pump is Set Too Low
If you’re suddenly dealing with a build-up of sand or sediments, it may be an indication of a problem with the location of your pump.
A standard submersible well pump is set at a distance of 10 to 20 feet from the bottom of the well. When this pump is set too low to the ground, it’s more open to drawing in sediments coming from the bottom like grit or sand.
Never had an issue with the placement of your well pump before? Consider the fact that, especially if you have an old well, the well shaft may have accumulated so much sediment that it raises the base of the well, causing the well pump to begin to suck up this sediment.
Last of all, in certain cases, if you have a new well or your well has undergone maintenance that involved drilling, sediment may have entered your well through the drilling process at that time. You should allow for up to a month for settled sediment from drilling to clear from your new well water supply.
📑 What Are the Risks With Sediment in Water from Wells?
Sediment from water doesn’t often pose any health risks, even if it affects the taste or smell of water. It’s usually more of a water quality matter around your home.
From an aesthetic perspective, sediment tends to be pretty abrasive, which means it might start leaving deposits that wear down your plumbing, fixtures, well pump, faucet fittings and appliances if you let it run through your pipes. If sediment is allowed to settle, it could also cause clogging that reduces your water flow and might be expensive to remedy.
Certain types of sediment can be associated with health effects if they attach themselves to pathogens and pollutants that can cause harm, such as bacteria, viruses, lead, arsenic and fertilizers. A single sediment particle might accumulate multiple pathogens, which is why it’s so important to start testing your well yearly for these contaminants if you don’t already, or try to test more frequently if you have a reason to be concerned.
If you’ve noticed wear and tear around your home that you’ve attributed to your well water, the best thing to do is to test for sediment. This can inform you of the exact problem you’re facing and help you to take the best steps to resolve it.
You can buy test kits online that make full a mineral analysis of your water, testing for the likes of pH, hardness, and rust. If your water doesn’t have a clean odor or leaves brown or discolored staining on your surfaces, testing for iron and sulfur will also prove valuable. A laboratory test, however, will allow you to learn more about the water inside your well; however, you must be prepared to wait a longer length of time to get your results back.
✅ How to Remove Sediment From Water
There are two types of filters that have proven highly effective in well water sediment removal: spin-down and cartridge.
Spin Down Filters
A spin-down sediment filter is typically installed as a first-stage filter (sometimes referred to as a pre-filter) before a much bigger filter that removes specific well water contaminants, like iron, manganese and lead, resulting in clean, sediment-free water.
Spin-down filters are commonly found in whole house filtration systems, providing benefits for your full home. Treating your running water as close to your home’s POE has the benefit of ensuring that your entire home’s pipes, plumbing, and appliances benefit from clean water and won’t be damaged by the abrasive nature of sediments.
The unique design of a spin-down filter allows you to see through the clear exterior, meaning you can keep track of sediment build-up inside.
The filter is shaped a little like a large pipette, generally around 5 to 50 microns, and comes with a flush valve, which can be used to flush out the collected sediment, cleaning it without you having to physically remove the filter from its housing to do the job manually.
Spin-down filters are typically very easy to install and require little service or maintenance aside from periodic flushing.
Additionally, when compared to other sediment filter types, these are the least likely to have a noticeable effect on your water flow. You can easily find them in multiple sizes to fit different pipe diameters, and they’re typically capable of handling a water pressure of 20 to 80 GPM.
Cartridge filters are the most popular type of sediment filter to use. Again, they could be installed as pre-filters, but you can also set them up as a standalone filtration solution for sediment removal only. They have their own filter housing and are designed for installation at your main water line, before your hot water heater.
There are two types of cartridge filter design: spun cartridge and pleated cartridge.
Spun cartridge filters, one popular way to remove sediments, are so named for their cylindrical shape. These filters are made from layer upon layer of melted, spun polypropylene. Water that travels into a spun-cartridge filter has to make it through multiple stages of filtration media, which offers a highly thorough filtration and a higher likelihood of trapping sediment across the large surface area.
The outer layer of this type of filter has the highest micron rating and is the most porous, which means its microns are easily the best for trapping the largest particles, like gravel and sand. As water travels further into the filter, it encounters filter media with increasingly lower micron ratings. These smaller microns trap increasingly smaller sediment particles. This makes a spun filter ideal for using to treat sediment of varying sizes, producing the highest-quality batch of clean water.
Again, pleated filters are so named for their design: their filter media is “pleated” or folded, which again helps to thoroughly filter out large particles such as rust, dust and sand. Still, because they only use one type of filter media, which typically has a high micron rating, most people find that pleated filters aren’t quite as effective as spun filters at eliminating small particles, such as removing silt from well water.
Pleated filters tend to be the preferred option for whole-home or under-sink filters and are a great value for money. When a pleated filter is installed as the first stage of a filtration system, it removes harmful bigger sediments, while smaller contaminants filter through. These can then be removed by filter cartridges with a lower micron rating further along the system, resulting in sediment-free water.
None of these filter systems require flushing, which is a plus point if you want to take the easy way out with the solution with less required effort.
👉 For more information on the best sediment filter systems for wells, I’ve shared an article guide on my website that should prove invaluable in your search for a clean water conclusion.
❔ FAQ – How to Remove Sediment in Well Water
Are there any other means of removing sediment from water?
It depends on whether you’re dealing with a specific sediment issue or not. For instance, a water softener system can provide a means of removing hard water calcium and magnesium minerals, a certain type of sediment that can leave “hard” scaling in your home’s pipes and plumbing. Aside from magnesium and calcium, a water softener system might also remove iron and manganese, but not all water softener units are capable of eliminating rust, so be sure to keep that in mind during your search.
What are the signs of sediments in water?
Sediments will affect the efficiency of your home’s appliances, so if your hot water heater isn’t performing as it used to, it could be a sign of sand or sediment problems. Check the lining of your hot water heater tank for wear and tear, or have a professional contractor with plenty of experience look for you and fill in the blanks if you’re unsure. Your cold water lines may have also undergone wear and tear because of sediments in the system that need to be removed.
While you won’t be able to check the water lines themselves, if you notice that the rate of cold water coming out of your faucet is slower than usual, you may be dealing with a sand or sediments issue that’s affecting your water’s flow rate, or force.
How can I flush sediments out of a water heater?
If you need to flush or drain sediments from your water heater, follow these steps:
- Turn off your water heater.
- Turn off your cold water valve to prevent it from getting into the tank.
- Leave any remaining water in the tank to cool. This will take around 30 minutes, or up to 60 minutes – 2 hours for a larger tank.
- Attach a garden hose to the drain valve typically found on the side of the water heater tank.
- Make sure the other end of the garden hose is above a drain or bucket, ready to flush.
- Turn on or open your faucets. Having your faucets turned on helps to prevent a buildup of pressure in your pipes and heating tank.
- Open the drain valve to automatically run sediments and water from the tank through the hose pipe and down your drain opening.
- Once drained, use fresh water for cleaning out the tank.
- When you’re happy with your cleaning outcome, reverse each step mentioned above. Place everything back how it was and prepare your heater tank for use once more.
- Follow the steps at least once a year to get the full benefits of a sediment-free filter.