Residential well water problem

I have a new home with a residential well. My neighbors water tastes great (about 1000 feet away) and tests very well. my water is super high in iron and manganese 10x recommended levels. My neighbors well is 80 feet deep and is located about 15 feet higher in elevation than mine. My well is 110 feet deep. Looking at well diagrams am I probably pulling from lower ground water separated by a non permeable clay layer? If so should digging a shallower well fix the issue? Or am I probably going to have to purchase an ionization filter?

I’m no well digger (though I do have a well–40 feet deep, and of the old 3 three feet or so across design, not a modern tiny hole) but would the diggers have kept drilling to 110 feet if they had hit water earlier? So wouldn’t your well be that deep because it needed to be that deep?

My understanding is that adequate gallons per minute depends on water consumption.I am also told that well diggers love to drill deeper than they need because you pay by the foot. I was getting 12gpm when they stopped which seems like a lot. They did say they wanted to drill deeper so maybe they were being honest. Could it also be possible the well is in between the unconfined and confined aquifer and needs to be deeper? That may make sense if the well is in shale and clay and the water is filtering through it.

In the area of the old family farms, the original wells are fairly shallow. They’d be hand dug. (The tales of my grandfather digging his well … :eek:)

But later on the drillers just went thru that layer to a much deeper point. An uncle* in the water softener business made fun of them doing that. The deeper water wasn’t as good quality, etc. But the drillers considered it “safer” to go deeper. They like a solid layer above the pump.

It can get somewhat idiosyncratic.

  • And his son, my cousin, was quite successful in the well business. He could look at any piece of land in the region and tell you if they had water and how deep.

I wouldn’t spend the money to drill a shallower well. If you know where the clay layer is you could just install a packer that will seal off the deeper water. Then you can perforate the well into the shallower zone if it isn’t already. From there you’ll be able to pump the nice clean water but if that zone ever goes dry you can remove the packer and pump from the deeper reservoir. Of course, all this work isn’t free but it should be cheaper than drilling a whole new well and you’ll have more flexibility in the future.

The rusty color and perhaps sulfur-y smell come from ferrous amoeba. Here is a link to a .pdf from

I haven’t read as it was still downloading, but I am reasonably sure that it will mention the role of certain amoeba in the production of rust and sulfur in water wells.

I am now retired from plumbing but in these parts it was not at all uncommon to see water wells that were fairly close to each other, one have iron and sulfur problems and the other one didn’t. I should note: Usually well drillers don’t do much with water quality. Water quality issues were usually addressed by a water quality specilist, usually your local Water Softener folks had someone who was such a specialist. Caution: do not believe anyone who says their Softener takes out iron. If your iron problem is even slightly bad, what may happen is that the softener gets plugged up.

How the Plumbers get involved is where the problem hasn’t been addressed, I have taken apart water supply pipes that were full of orange slimy sludge. One time, over a period of about three years, I removed iron build-up from the house supply lines of a private water utility. Sometimes there was no water coming out what so ever due to iron build-up. The utility hadn’t been treating their well.

The easiest thing to do is treat your well with bleach, there are plenty of folks who have put out instructions on the web for how to do that. It can be quite dangerous so I can’t really recommend you, yourself, do this. Either your driller or your water quality specialist will be familiar with different ways to chlorinate your well.


On the ranch where I grew up the water was almost pure. Almost no minerals. On the properties all around us their well water tasted and smelled bad. When My dad was a kid there were artesian wells on the property. Our best guess was that the water table was deep all around the ranch where it then raised to the surface. We knew a family who built a house about 3 miles away and drilled a well to 450 feet and got pure water. The bad thing was the properties on the North side of the ranch water was tainted with arsenic. And after years of unknown use the ground and all the property is now contaminated and red tagged. So it is a matter where the source of the water is.

Groundwater can form mounds like that if there’s a recharge zone above the mound, but local recharge can’t create artesian conditions. The more likely explanation is that your wells were deeper than the neighbors’ wells and you’re pumping from a different formation. You get artesian wells when you punch through a confining layer and penetrate a formation with a head greater than the surface elevation. If there’s water perched on top of that confining layer, then you’re drawing from below it and your neighbors are drawing from above it. The two different reservoirs are going to have different sources, different ages, and different geochemistry.Unless the arsenic on the north side is naturally occurring, I’d guess they’re drawing from an unconfined formation contaminated by past agricultural use (it was a common constituent in pesticides).

Based on the family three miles away, the confining layer is likely somewhere above 450 feet.

As a well driller, this happens to be something know a little about. Unfortunately I don’t have much time to go into detail.

I can speak about the region I work in. Results in other regions can differ greatly.

I’d never consider punching another hole based on a neighbors results. I can drill wells 20ft apart to the same depth and get dramatically different results in terms of yield or quality.

Today I’m working on one of two wells we drilled 2 weeks ago approximately 300ft from one another. Opposite sides of the street. One went down to 305ft and yields 17gpm iron 12mg/l, hardness 12grain arsenic undetectable. The other went to 220ft yields 50gpm+ iron 18mg/l hardness 4grain. Arsenic .016mg/l. Both wells met the general expectation for the neighborhood, lots of water at a shallow depth, loaded with iron. The one with arsenic is the first one I’ve seen above the action threshhold on that road. A 12 grain hardness is an outlier too most are 3-7grains in the area.

The only thing in this thread that made me literally laugh out loud was the suggestion not to use a softner to remove iron. In my area we soften water as the primary means of removing iron and manganese. Our water rarely requires softening for any other reason. I don’t sell water treatment equipment, I have more expertise in water treatment than many treatment companies. If a customer was being sold something other than a softner for iron I’d suggest they talk to a different treatment company.

Are 305 feet and 220 feet considered to be “shallow” in the well biz? As I mentioned earlier, my well is 40 feet (and hand-dug by my great-grandfather, who did well- and grave-digging for a living) and to me 220 feet sounds pretty damn deep.

A filter system is a standard feature in many rural areas. They test the water and provide whatever gadgets are needed to make it good.

A huge improvement over the old days. My paternal grandparents well had so much iron that it was undrinkable. They only used it in the bathroom and the kitchen sink. The sinks, tub, and commode were permanently stained from the iron. They had a cistern for drinking & cooking water.

I have a 475 ft well, and depending on the season water can and is usually excellent but for a few times where it can get sulfur-y rotten egg smell. I actually don’t mind it in some Native American cultures that is considered healing water, and like even that better then the chlorinated water that most municipal wells use. I have a green sand filter, which I really only use when it gets to that condition. As for the reason, I have to assume my well is tapping directly or indirectly into 2 aquifers, or the draw down will pull from a nearby source which does have sulfur in the flow. At different times of the year one flow is diminished enough that the second one is now gets drawn in to the pump.

It depends on where you are. For me less than 300 is shallow. Over 500 is deep.

The average well I work on is 200ft. My averages are brought down because my customer base has retained a lot of the 100ft wells my grandfather oversaw. 100ft in the 1950s found represent a 7 day project. Drilling technology has rapidly progressed over the years. Today we can be down 700ft in a day.

The 100ft wells made sufficient water for years ago when people used less. By modern standards most of them fall short of people’s expectations.

I spec projects to drill to a minimum depth of 300ft unless a yield greater than 20gpm is reached before then. After 300ft I plan to drill till a yield of 5gpm is reached or a depth of 625ft. I generally advocate against depths beyond 625ft for single family homes. There are a number of reasons for that.

Wells for irrigation, apartment buildings or commical properties we drill deeper if need be. 1000ft+ wells are incredible money pits. Just setting pumps at those depths, just wire costs can buy a decent car.