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4 Reasons for Yellow Well Water & How to Get Rid of It

Scott Winfield
Written by Scott Winfield
Last Updated on

If your water supply source is from a well, you may notice occasional yellow color in the water. While its not uncommon for well water to turn yellow, there are some instances where it might be indicative of a more serious problem.

Here’s a tabular view of the common causes & solution:

Yellow Well Water CauseSignSolution
Ferric Iron ContaminationYellow water color, Metallic tasteGet an iron filter system (Best solution: Springwell Iron Filter)
Old, rusty pipesYellow water from a particular faucet, Visible rusty pipes.Replace Pipes
Organic Material in WellsDebris in water at bottom of cup, Unpleasant tasteGet a sediment filter or Tannins removal system with water softener (e.g Springwell Tannins System)
Iron Bacteria ContaminationYellow brown or red coloration, Thick & slimy waterShock well or use chemical injection system (Our recommendation: Springwell Injection System)

In this guide, we’ll share:

  • The most common reasons for yellow well water
  • Step-by-step guide on how to get rid of yellow coloration in your well water.
Common Reasons For Yellow Well Water & How to Get Rid Of It

Why Is My Well Water Yellow All of a Sudden?

If you notice that your well water is suddenly yellow, it’s likely due to iron bacteria contamination, ferric iron, rusty pipes, or sediment in the well.

These contaminants don’t represent significant health risks in the short term, but they’re usually a sign that the well is polluted and drinking contaminated water can have long-term health effects. So, it’s better to take immediate action by first determining the cause/source of yellow water.

The first step is to have your water tested even if the yellowness is caused by surface runoff from rain or melting snow. Surface runoff can pick up harmful bacteria and contaminants, posing a serious health risk both in the short and long term.

Ensuring the safety of well water is the responsibility of the well owner. The best way to do it is to have the well regularly tested to ensure it meets all health and safety standards.

Still, let’s take a closer look at the main culprits:

1. Ferric Iron Contamination Causes Yellow Well Water

Ferric iron is dissolved iron that has been oxidized and turned into a solid. When water containing ferric iron is exposed to oxygen, it will turn yellow or brown.

Ferric Iron Contaminated Water
Ferric Iron Contaminated Water

If you notice that your well water is yellow and has a metallic taste, ferric iron might be the culprit. While it doesn’t pose an imminent health risk, it is unpleasant and causes stains and clogs appliances.

The best way to remove ferric iron from well water is to use a water filter that is specifically designed to remove iron. A good filter we frequently recommend is the Springwell Whole House Iron Filter which removes iron as well as sulfur and manganese.

Also Read for Tap Water: Why is My Tap Water Yellow?

2. Old, Rusty Pipes

The pipes of old wells are mostly made of iron, which tends to rust without proper maintenance. As water flows through these pipes, it picks up small particles of iron and rust which turns the water yellow.

Rusty Pipes
Rusty Pipes

The best way to fix rusty pipes is to replace them with new pipes. Although it can be costly, it’s the ideal solution. Getting a qualified professional to do the job is essential to ensure that it’s done correctly.

3. Organic Material in Well Water

Water seeping through swampy or peaty soils on the way to your well’s aquifer may pick up tannins, natural byproducts of decaying vegetation. They can give water an unpleasant taste, smell and color.

Organic Material

Tannin filters are the most common way to remove them. These filters work by absorbing tannins into a filter media, which can then be flushed out of the system. A good example is the Springwell Tannins System which not only removes organic material causing yellow water but also softens the water as well.

However, such filtration systems require regular cleaning since the tannins will eventually clog the filter.

Tannins in well water can also be removed through oxidation, activated carbon filters, and reverse osmosis (RO). However, it’s best to consult with a water treatment professional to determine the best treatment solution.

Also Read for Toilet Water: Why is My Toilet Water Yellow?

4. Iron Bacteria Contamination

Iron Bacteria
Iron Bacteria

Iron bacteria are microscopic organisms that live in water and soil. They get their energy by oxidizing iron, manganese, and other metals, which can cause staining, clogging, and discoloration of water.

Yellow well water isn’t the only sign of iron bacteria contamination. They also turn water orange, red and even brown. You can easily identify their presence in your well by a swampy or oily taste.

Iron bacteria is difficult to remove and often requires a combination of pasteurization, chlorination, and filtration. Therefore, it’s better to call for professional help.

How to Get Rid of Yellow Water in Well

There are several different treatments available depending on the cause of the problem.

However, they all start with a basic tenet: regular testing.

Step 1: Test Your Well Water

Having your well tested or testing it by yourself if you have the means, will help you identify the cause of the problem and determine the best course of action.

Ideally, a well should be tested every spring, once the snow melts, in order to assess the levels of coliform bacteria, total dissolved solids (TDS), other potential contaminants, and pH.

However, that rule is subject to change if a natural disaster occurs in your area, or you smell something funny in your otherwise fine water. Yellow color in water would, of course, mean something funny.

Step 2: Choose a Treatment Solution Based on Your Test Results

After determining the cause of the problem, you can select the most appropriate treatment. These treatments can vary from pipe replacement to iron filter systems.

Use an Iron Filter System:

If ferric iron contamination is the main reason for yellow water, the best solution is to use a water filtration system made specifically to remove iron. The best iron filter is the Springwell Whole House Iron Filter.

Replace Your Old Pipes:

If corroded or rusty pipes are the cause of your yellow water, the only way to fix the problem is to replace the pipes. You need to get a qualified professional to ensure it’s done correctly.

Get Tannin Filters:

Your water tests may reveal the presence of tannins. Using Tannin filters are the best way to remove them. The best tannin filter is the Springwell Tannins System.

When the tannin levels are too high, their removal may also require a more advanced filtration such as RO systems. However, if that’s the case, it’s better to seek professional advice.

Iron Bacteria Removal Process:

Removing iron bacteria can get frustratingly arduous for DIYers. After all, the removal process requires disinfectants, surfactants, acids, chlorine, and pasteurization.

Luckily, most states in America, like Minnesota, run their own well treatment programs and have responsive and easy to contact professional personnel. So, make sure to contact the concerned authorities in your state before executing the iron bacteria removal process.

Use Reverse Osmosis System:

Reverse osmosis is a process that removes contaminants from water by forcing them through a semipermeable membrane. It is an effective way to remove a wide variety of pollutants, including tannins, iron, and bacteria.

Fortunately, we have an article on the most powerful RO systems that can get rid of yellow well water contamination. So, don’t forget to check it out.

Activated Carbon Filtration:

Activated carbon filters are another option for removing tannins, iron, and bacteria from water. These filters work by adsorbing the contaminants onto the surface of the filter media.

The activated carbon filters will need to be replaced regularly, depending on the level of contamination in your water. However, they’re a good alternative to RO systems.

Chlorination Process:

Chlorination is a process that involves adding chlorine to water to kill bacteria and other micro-organisms. This is a standard treatment for iron bacteria.

However, it’s important to note that chlorination can cause problems with the taste and smell of your water. Therefore, it’s best to read our article on how to remove chlorine once it does its job.

UV Disinfection Treatment:

UV disinfection is a process that uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and other microorganisms. This is also an effective way to remove iron bacteria from water.

The UV disinfection should only be done by a qualified professional or be as one stage of a multi-stage well water filtration system.

Step 3: Step 3: Re-test Your Well Water After Treatment

After selecting and implementing treatment, it’s important to run another test. It’ll help you ensure that the treatment has indeed been effective and that your well water is safe to drink.

If chlorination was used during the treatment process, you should also test the water for chlorine levels.

Answering Your Questions…

Having covered all the causes and solutions, now let’s answer some frequently asked questions:

Can I Prevent Yellow Water from Occurring?

Most causes of yellow water are due to natural factors beyond your control. However, there are some which you can control, such as rusted plumbing fixtures.

Checking the condition of your pipes and fixtures regularly can help to prevent yellow water. Moreover, regularly testing your well will decrease the chance of bacteria or tannin accumulation.

Why is my Well Water Yellow After it Rains?

The rain might have picked up some minerals from the soil and put them into your water. This is a common problem in areas with high mineral content underground.

Again, a test is required to estimate the level of minerals that have made their way into your well. After the test, RO, activated carbon filters, or a whole house filtration system might be used to neutralize them.

Yellow well water after rain can also be caused by surface water leaking into your well. Surface water runoff could contain hazardous contaminants such as pesticides, fertilizers, other forms of agricultural or pharmaceutical waste, and, in severe cases, raw sewage, leading to serious illness.

So, it’s essential to call and ask professionals for a test as soon as possible.

How Much Does It Cost To Get Rid of Yellow Water in a Wells?

The cost of treatment will vary depending on the cause. If it’s due to high levels of minerals, the treatment price will be lower than if the main culprit is iron bacteria.

The best way to get an accurate estimate is to consult a water treatment professional. They will be able to assess your specific situation and recommend the appropriate treatment solution.

How Long Does it Take for Yellow Water to Go Away?

Again, it depends on the cause of the problem. If the culprit is minerals, the yellow color should disappear within a few days.

However, if iron bacteria is to blame, it could take several weeks or longer to resolve the problem.

In most cases, however, it’s advised to continue using a water treatment system even after the color has gone away to ensure that the problem doesn’t make an unpleasant comeback.

Is Yellow Well Water Safe to Drink?

Yellow water not caused by surface runoff or iron bacteria is safe to drink. However, we don’t recommend drinking it, at least not before proper testing.

After all, contaminants in your well water can cause various health problems, ranging from minor gastrointestinal issues to severe illnesses. So, it’s better safe than sorry.

Is it Okay to Bathe in Yellow Water From Well?

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, bathing in yellow water from the well doesn’t present a health risk. However, long-term exposure to high mineral content could cause itchiness and dryness of your body.

Especially considering that the unfiltered and unsoftened well water is mostly hard water, it can lead to skin and hair problems. Moreover, it can shorten the lifespan of home and kitchen appliances.

The sediment in it can also damage your plumbing if allowed to build up. So, although it doesn’t present an immediate health risk, it’s best to avoid bathing, dish-washing, or doing laundry with it and get a water softener at the first opportunity.

Why is My Water Yellow in the Morning?

Minerals can build up overnight and cause the water to appear yellow when you first turn on the tap in the morning. A water softener can resolve this problem.

Letting the water flow for a few minutes each morning will also help flush out the minerals and improve the color of your water.


To sum up, yellow water in your well is caused by several culprits such as old and rusty pipes, iron bacteria, and organic materials like tannin. Surface runoff from rain or melting snow, or mineral build-ups overnight may also be to blame.

Each has its own treatment method, but most start with a straightforward step: calling for professional help to have your well tested. After that, a treatment solution will be drawn up and implemented.

These solutions might include straightforward (but potentially costly) actions like changing the pipes or the addition of advanced filtration mechanisms like RO or activated carbon filter systems.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
  1. Thank you for this information; I found this very informative.

    our well water has been very good – that is until we had a 6 hr. outage overnight. By morning we had no pressure in the faucets. When we finally got pressure, the water was a dark orange. My husband changes the house filter regularly, but when he went to check the filter he found it covered in “mud” – probably the iron accumulation. We have had outages before but never lost water pressure, and definitely never had this orange color. Is our well “running dry”? Does our tank need to be purged?

    1. Hi Theresa, sorry to hear about your recent issue. You know, if you’re having a dramatic issue all of a sudden with your water and the filter has gotten impacted with a lot of “mud”, I would contact a professional quickly to make sure there isn’t a serious issue. I’ve seen issues like this that were due to burst pipes or damaged wells. It’s impossible for me to given a well considered answer without being on your property and investigating. But, again, if this is a problem all of a sudden and you described it as not trivial, I would consult your local pro to investigate or feel free to use our search tool here: https://waterdefense.org/local-plumber-search/ Wishing you good luck and let me know how it turns out.

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