Why Is My Borehole Water Brown? [Explained]


Your borehole water has been running fine. However, a few days ago you notice the water has turned brown. Maybe it’s just dirt and the colour will disappear if you allow the tap to run just a little longer.

But it doesn’t. Every time you turn on the tap, the colour is still there. On some days, it’s reddish-brown. You don’t understand why this is happening. Why is your borehole water brown? What’s making it turn brown?

There are several reasons why your borehole water is brown. When you start seeing dirt in your water or you notice that it’s brown or reddish-brown, it may be a sign that it has been contaminated. Contaminated water can transmit diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio, if not treated immediately.

Reasons Why Your Borehole Water Is Brown

We have pulled together common causes of brown or reddish-brown borehole water below. This will help you identify the source of the problem and solve it quickly.

1. Rust

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If your plumbing system has metal pipes or fixtures, the reddish-brown colour in your water may be due to rust. Rust happens when metals react with oxygen and water. The colour formed from this reaction is reddish-brown —the colour of your water.

2. Iron & Manganese

Iron exists naturally in lakes, rivers and underground water. However, it can be released into the water when metals that contain iron corrode or through refining iron ores. Water containing iron is usually yellow or brown. Sometimes it may be colourless.

While the presence of iron in water is normal, swallowing large amounts of it can damage your blood vessels, liver and kidney; and may even lead to death.

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3. Your Water Well’s Structure

If there is a problem with your well structure, it may affect the water supply and colour. For instance, if the water pump gets wrecked a bit and hits the walls of the well, it may pull up some mud with the water.

How Do You Get Rid Of Brown Water?

Brown well water can cause serious health implications if not treated immediately. Before calling your borehole contractor, try these few things first:

Try flushing your water pipes by turning on the faucets in your home for about 20 minutes.

Or, connect a water hose to an outdoor faucet. If there’s one closest to your water main, use it. Allow it to run for 20 minutes. If you own a garden, you can direct the water there.

After 20 minutes, if the colour of the water doesn’t change repeat the process.

If you do this and there are still no changes? Try the following instead:

Use Ion-Exchange Softeners

While these softeners are famous for removing hardness in water, they do a fantastic job removing the ions of metals like calcium, magnesium and iron, which are responsible for the brown colour in your water.

Ion exchange softeners are often installed at your water’s point of entry so that when you open your faucet, the water flows directly into the exchange tank. In the tank, these hardness ions (calcium, magnesium and iron) that make your water brown are quickly removed and replaced with non-hardness ions (usually sodium).

One of the advantages of using an ion exchange water softener is that it often comes with a sediment prefilter. This filter removes silt from your well water before it enters the exchange tank.

Inject Oxygen Into the Water

Another way you can get rid of the brown colour in your water is to inject oxygen into your pump’s pressure tank (if you have one). Oxygen oxidises the ions of manganese and iron and turns them into solids, which settle down and stick to the surface of the tank’s filter bed.

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Use Greensand Filters

Just like injection filters, greensand filters work like charm. These filters are coated with manganese oxide, which oxides iron and manganese and turns into solids.

The solids sink and settle at the surface of the filter bed until they are backwashed away and replaced with a new, fresh media bed.

Filter the Sediments

You can install a sediment filter at the beginning of your water filter system to get rid of brown water. These filters have tiny pores (usually 1 to 5 microns in size) that can remove water that contains dissolved dirt, sand, dust and rust.

For a better result, combine this option with another filtration method like reverse osmosis.

Use Reverse Osmosis

While the four methods we’ve listed earlier are brilliant ways to get rid of the brown colour in your water, you can’t use them to remove bacteria in water. But you can use reverse osmosis. Purifying water using this technique removes the brown or reddish-brown colour in your water and eliminates any bacteria that may be present in it.

Replace Rusted Pipes

As mentioned before, rust may be one of the reasons why you have brown-coloured water. If that’s the case, it’s a sign you need to replace your pipes immediately. But you’ll need a good plumber to help you do this unless you can do it yourself. Replacing your rusted pipes with new ones may cost you a lot. Usually, it depends on the number of pipes that need to be changed and the plumber.

Other Ways

If you discover that none of the common causes we’ve mentioned above is responsible for your brown borehole water, test the water instead.

  • Testing the water will help you know what the problem is and how to fix it. When testing make sure to check for things like pH, hardness, bacteria, iron bacteria, dissolved materials, coliform.
  • Sometimes it could be that the brown colour in your borehole water is because you haven’t used your water in a long time. Usually, this happens when you switch of your water supply while holidaying somewhere far away. As a result, rust tends to build up in the pipes overtime so that when you turn on the faucet for the first time, what comes out is brown water. In this case, try running your tap for a little longer as this may help clear the rust in the pipes and restore your clean water.
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Can Heavy Rain Cause Brown Water?


If your well is well-built, it’s very unlikely a heavy rain will affect it or the water colour. But sometimes your well may sustain faults and cracks—even without your knowledge. When this happens, you can’t wave off any suspicions, including heavy rain.

Just to be in the clear, check for these things out around your well.

  • Is the well cap still intact? If it’s damaged or missing, rainwater may find its way into your well water, dragging contaminants along. But if it’s still intact, check the sanitary seal for cracks then. Also, check pipes leading to the well and where the cap meets the casing.
  • Look for cracks along the outside of the well casing. Rainwater can pass through there too. If none, check below the wellhead for any cracks. These cracks can also allow rain runoff to enter the well and contaminate your water. Also, check that the grout (sealant) around the well casing is intact. Grout or sealant prevent dirty surface water from entering the well.

Does Boiling Water Remove Iron?

Although boiling water kills viruses, bacteria and protozoa that may be present in your water, it can’t remove iron or rust. This is because viruses, bacteria and protozoa are living organisms and hardly survive at that high temperature, while rust and iron aren’t living organisms.

However, you can remove iron or rust from your water by using water softeners, iron removal filters, oxidising filters, etc.